Religious Freedom from Sin
June 28, 2020 COVID-19 Faith Reflection—Religious Freedom from Sin
Great news! The young men and women of Nativity received the Sacrament of Confirmation last Friday. They were sealed with the Holy Spirit. In preparation, we held a special penance liturgy. Fr. Augustine, Fr Bob, and I heard their confessions and absolved them of their sins.
When we confess our sins, we often confess impatience, gossip, and other personal faults we strive to correct. For Saint Paul, though, Sin is the enemy with a capital S. Pay attention to the second reading during Sunday Mass this summer. In the Book of Romans, St. Paul uses the word “sin” sixty times. Sin “came into the world” (5:12), sin “increased” (5:20), sin “exercised dominion” (5:21) , sin “produced” (7:8), sin “revived” (7:9), and sin “dwells” (7:17, 20). Without a doubt, Sin is the enemy.
The battle between the Jedi and the Evil Empire never gets old because it is our own battle. “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkein and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series tap the same deep reality. We know that humanity is in a life-and-death battle.
Sin is the power that enslaves humanity. Addiction to drink, pornography, drugs, shopping, or gambling are examples of the enslaving power of Sin. Pope St. John Paul II named a “culture of death” that is much greater than individual actions. The culture of death makes our society indifferent to millions of abortions and to massive overconsumption while many go without.
The US bishops released the 2019 annual report on allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The clergy sexual abuse scandals have revealed not only bad apples in the clergy but also shortcomings in clergy formation and negligence if not cover-up by the hierarchy. Thanks to changes made in 2002, the majority of new allegations took place over 45 years ago, giving confidence that our children are safer than before. But it is taking years to root out the Sin in the system.
Injustice is another example of the social power of Sin. The U.S. bishops have pointed out numerous times that racism remains a problem in the criminal justice system. The evidence has long been clear that people of color are “often treated more harshly than other citizens in their encounters with the criminal justice system” such that “the racism and discrimination that continue to haunt our nation are reflected in similar ways in the criminal justice system.”
Who will save us from Sin? Who can make captive our captivity? Saint Paul answers his own question. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25). Christ’s death and resurrection has won the victory over Sin. “Death no longer has power over him” (Romans 6:9). He has broken Sin and Death.
Through our baptism into the death of Christ Jesus, we share in his victory over Sin. While there remains suffering, the final victory is ours. This confidence gives us a whole new outlook on life.
In the movie
, three boys on a dare creep into a haunted house. Legend had it that a witch lived in the haunted house and, that if you looked into the witch’s cloudy blind eye, you would see your own death. Suddenly the witch appeared in the doorway. And sure enough, the three boys saw in the witch’s cloudy blind eye their own death.
Two of the boys were terrified. They saw how they would die. The third boy, though, was delighted. “So that’s how it ends!” he exclaimed. For the rest of the movie, he was confident in the face of distress. No crisis could shake his soul. He had seen his future, and he knew even when in trouble, “This is not how it ends.”
St. Paul tells us that there is plenty of trouble ahead. “Sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). But this is not how it ends. “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Romans 6:8). Free from sin, free for him, this is God’s will for us.
In your travels for the 4th of July, explore Mass at a different church. Check out
to find a church. I recommend calling the church to confirm any recent changes in Mass times.
Several have asked how much longer we will have communion at the end of Mass. I get it. It’s awkward and less-than-reverent to receive the Body of Christ and then head out the door to the parking lot.
Then there’s facemasks at Mass. They make singing difficult. They are uncomfortable in the Florida summer. Using our best judgment and the advice of public health officials, facemasks and minimal movement are ways to mitigate the risk of spreading the coronavirus. They help keep one another safe, especially our many elderly and high-risk parishioners. These measures help us move as quickly as possible to communion during Mass without facemasks. Like you, I am looking forward to that day.
Racism is a hot topic that generally generates more heat than light. We can find wisdom in the Church. What do the bishops teach about racism? What should we do? The US bishops have a pastoral letter against racism called “Open Wide Our Hearts.” We are forming study groups in mid-July that would help us reflect together on society’s realities and our personal experiences in light of church teaching.
Nativity Longwood .
on Sunday, June 28 at 3:00PM