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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Facing the Sins of Our Lives

The message which emerges from our Gospel is sometimes quite unsettling. Take for instance Mark 7:1-8;14-15;21-23. Preachers might even be afraid to bring further attention to it because of the possible angry reactions it might evoke. None of us, myself included, like to be reminded of how imperfect, weak, and sinful we are. We create all kinds of barriers in our lives to protect ourselves from this realization. We try earnestly to project images of wholesomeness and sanctity, even when we realize that we have a long way to go.

We need to be careful not to become a people of pretense, but rather a people of true purity and holiness. This is not some goal reserved to those of past history or to those outside our materialism in poorer nations as in Eastern Europe or Latin America. We here in the capitol of one of the richest, most technological, and powerful nations in the world, we too need to place our trust completely in God, despite the distractions. Christ condemns the Pharisees by using the words of the prophet Isaiah against them, “This people pays me lip service, but their heart is far from me.” Our hearts need to belong to God. It is the only response from us that makes sense. After all, Christ in the Mass comes to live in our hearts by way of the sacrament of his very self, the Eucharist. How contradictory is this miraculous gift to the kind of sad things by which many people are enslaved.

The Lord gives us a long grocery list of the type of wicked designs which emerge from the core of the heart, things which would never allow room for Christ’s presence to reside there. In our prayer and in the sacraments, especially reconciliation, we need to root out these foreign loyalties so that there will be room for Christ to live in us. But to do this, we must also be sensitive to that which does not belong to God.

We need to be on the alert lest we deaden ourselves to the tragic infestation of sin. Throughout this great land, people of all ages flaunt a lifestyle of fornication that Christ noted as the first wicked design to condemn on his list. Perhaps this shows us how serious it is? Elsewhere in Scripture, it is said that no fornicator can have any part of the Kingdom of God. The Church could no more retract this teaching than it could reject Christ’s divinity or his resurrection. People, especially the young, give away their very persons before they even know what they are relinquishing. Our identity is a precious gift. Christ would have any who would share it in the most intimate way, to do so within the secure confines of a holy marriage — a life open to fidelity and receptive to new life.

Also on the list is adultery. If marriage is that special covenant by which the deep relationship of Christ is revealed in regard to his bride the Church, then this is a most serious transgression indeed. It is idolatry. Instead of loving Christ in your spouse, you have turned elsewhere. It undoes everything the Christian is about.

The other sins Christ mentions are also things which should send off warning lights in our lives.

Theft — how many ways, both petty and major, have we stolen during our lives? How often have we taken more than what was our due? How often have we even robbed others of their good name and dignity?

Murder — how many have never lifted a hand to prevent a young woman from destroying her unborn child? How many of us in our words and actions have killed the spirit of such women by not forgiving them afterwards? How many times have we killed others by taking away their hopes and dreams, making them a walking dead?

Greed and Envy — why must we always keep up with the Joneses and decide to insure our lifestyle even at the cost of having children? How often have we made material things into our goal instead of Christ and salvation?

Maliciousness — why is it that sometimes we look back on our behavior and try to justify our meanness?

Deceit — from the white lie and minor alteration to the black and complete dishonesty, how can we justify this as a people who follow a Savior called, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life?”

Sensuality — while not denying our sexuality, why is it so often used as bait for sinful pleasure instead of as an integral part of us? Why do we allow the passions such a free reign in our life, forgetting to mortify ourselves?

Blasphemy — how can it be that our faith and God can be insulted and so many of us fail to be agitated? Why is it that blasphemous movies can be made which distort the image of Christ as a wimpish fool and mock the priesthood and so few seem concerned?

Arrogance and Obtuse/Insensitive Spirit — why is it today that the Word of God and Tradition as interpreted by the teachers in the Church can all be ridiculed with impunity?

How is it that we can show disrespect to sacred images, articles, places, and persons? Why is it that so many of our brothers and sisters can make time for television, movies, dances, sports and other such things, and find no time for God or the Mass? Why is it that we can become callous and cold, even to the needs of others?

If these things convict us of sin, then we must be willing to recognize it and to ask for God’s pardon. He loves us all more than we will ever know. With the gift of his pardon, we will also receive his grace to avoid sin and to become more like that figure in the psalm “Who walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his heart and slanders not with his tongue. Who harms not his fellow man, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor; . . .” (see Psalm 15:2-3; 3-4; 4-5).

I know a young girl who has just returned to college. To use an old term, she really is a “nice girl.” Some of her friends, especially a few boys she really likes have mocked her values and have alienated themselves from her because of what she believes. She went to church Sunday and they made fun of her. She is decent and they harass her. She called home to her folks and asked, “Mom, why are they doing this to me?” She asked this in tears because she had thought these people were her friends.

We need to pray for such young people who struggle courageously to maintain their faith and values. We know how deeply it can sometimes hurt. It would be good for us in word and example to continue our prophetic witness of Christ’s kingdom breaking into the world; and to pray for ourselves and such young people who need our love and encouragement.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

2 Responses

  1. Dear Fr Joe,

    Yet another report by a judge in Ireland and yet still more evidence of cover up and failure to implement Child Protection by Bishops and those in position of trust. It goes right to the beating heart in Rome itself.

    The Church resists, kicking and screaming, being dragged into accountability for some terrible sins and still it refuses to expose the evil hidden within its depths.

    Satan seems to have overcome his fear of Holy Water and is drinking his fill; many priests will be going to Hell and those words are accredited to someone who was conceived without sin if we are to believe the report.

    When will it ever end?

    My faith is sorely tested and I struggle to see any light in the darkness of this world, everywhere I look I see vested members of Christ’s Church following Judas rather than The Saviour of the World.
    My Parish Priest, who is a good man, is being moved to France for a year and we dread the replacement, but then there may well not be one at all. Is God abandoning His Church or are we moving further away from Him by our sins? Our Bishop refuses to tell us what he has planned, I fear that he is not such a good man. It is just so sad when we can no longer love a Bishop. What is wrong with us?

    With loving concern, Paul

    FATHER JOE: The Church is more than any individual bishop, priest or layman. We have always suffered from sin but ours is an age of disclosure and scandal. My heart goes out to all those who have been hurt by misconduct and broken trust. It is a real tragedy and I am certain it represents a terrible wound to the sacred heart. The whole business strains our Christianity, especially the summons to love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us. Peace.

  2. Downside was a slightly posher school that mine being run by Benedictines who were ordained priests whereas my school was run by the Irish Christian Brothers who were more men of the pick and shovel. The abuse, however, was much the same and still the repercussions are felt even to this day See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-13846080 which came to my attention just tonight. Every time something hits the news my wounding is exposed and opened up yet again.

    This wounding is a wounding to the soul, so very deep and eternally painful. I am getting rather tired of the black sheep dog now, I keep getting stuff in my inbox and although it is sad for this priest and The Church, it is pretty small beer for me and so many of us who have genuinely been abused by men (and some women) who claimed to be members of my Church and yet were compelled to act in line with Satan’s plan for it’s destruction.

    With love, Paul

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