Pastors, Tell Us We’re Sinners
This Lent has been one for the history books. The Lent full of deprivation no one expected or wanted.
Our church doors are closed. Services cancelled. No public worship. For some, gathering to worship has actually been criminalized. Access to the sacraments for many has been cut off. We’re staring down a Holy Week that will be awfully quiet, and an Easter Sunday that could be painfully so. This is unprecedented in our lifetimes. It is astonishing to imagine an Easter morning in which every Christian church in America may be empty.
Yet within all this deprivation and isolation, there is also a grace. God uses all things for good for those who love Him. He takes a terrible mess and reveals something beautiful through it.
Perhaps He is also working through this terrible mess to reveal things that are not beautiful. Things that are rotten, ugly, and deadly. Things that must be cut off like gangrene before the whole body is poisoned to death.
Surely it’s both.
The Grace of Going Without
As a Catholic, I can tell you it is a sorrowful, painful thing to be unable to attend Holy Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist. In the beginning of this quarantine period, I sat at my computer one night and listened to the audio recording of that day’s Mass, and I was just overcome with weeping. I heard my pastor’s voice echoing in our empty church, and all I could do was cry. I suddenly longed for the Mass and hungered for Jesus as I had not before.
I thought about how many times I have gone to Mass only physically, with my mind and heart somewhere else. How often have I inattentively received the Lord, not showing Him the reverence He is due? Too often. How often have I neglected to confess the sins in my life before I received the Lord? I shudder to think. Jesus, forgive me!
I have taken the Eucharist for granted. I’ve not appreciated the gifts of the sacraments and the glory of the Mass. God help me never again to approach the holy altar with only half a heart.
I’ve heard from many other Catholics who are experiencing the same thing. It is a terrible grace indeed, to be made aware of how we have taken the Eucharist for granted. May we all be changed by this temporary deprivation and never again fail to be awed by the miracle and the mystery we take part in at every Mass.
(My Protestant friends in Christ, this isn’t the time for theological debates, so I beg you, please don’t.)
The Deadly Infection
This Lenten trial will be wasted if we don’t begin to cut out the gangrene of sin.
It’s sadly ironic that every parish in America became meticulously concerned about people receiving the Eucharist in a hygienic manner out of alarming concern for the spread of a virus, but there is no sense of alarm or concern over whether those receiving Holy Communion are in a state of grace. There’s no urgency concerning mortal sin, which is deadly to the soul.
So let’s get back to talking about sin. The sins of so many clerics in the Catholic Church are hardly a secret to anyone. There is much for which to repent and atone, and to repair.
The laity, too, are guilty of offending God with our sin and disobedience. We are unwilling to take up our cross and follow Him when faced with the cost in our own lives. We often despise the laws of God and have ears only for soothing talk of His welcome and gentleness. We don’t actually want to leave sin behind and be transformed.
Let’s go back to talking about repentance and conversion. We are obliged to obey the will of God and the commands of God without editing those commands according to our modern preferences. Let our spiritual teachers, priests, and especially our bishops return to preaching the fullness of Truth without amending the message for fear of offending people.
You and I are going to die. What is the state of our souls?
When we emerge from this quarantine and our churches are open again for public worship, I beg the Lord give every pastor, every shepherd, the grace of courage and boldness. Let your preaching be focused on repentance, conversion, and living in obedience to God’s laws. The laws that give life to the soul and joy to the heart!
Anything less than that, dear shepherds, will be a waste of breath and time. Preaching repentance and conversion is not contrary to preaching the love and mercy of God. There is no either/or. It has always been both/and. Or what was Christ’s passion and death for?
We need you to fear the death of the soul more than you fear the death of the body. Otherwise, you cannot shepherd us into eternal life. The corona virus is not our greatest threat. Sin is. Please respond accordingly.
Jennifer Hartline is a senior contributor to The Stream. You can follow her at @jenniehartline.