Fr. Jim’s Jottings
I want to wish you all a Blessed Holy Week as we began with Passion Sunday and the Easter Triduum. To make this time even more special we have the travelling anniversary statue of our Lady of La Salette with us these days. Let pray well and allow the mysteries of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection enliven our lives.
At the Ask Fr. Night in February a question came in about sin and confession and I answered it that night. Carol Schonefeld transcribed my answer and I’m sharing with you as you focus on your personal sinfulness and call to change to holiness.
WHAT IS SIN TODAY – AND WHAT DO WE SAY IN CONFESSION?
There are four topics to consider when examining our conscience in preparation for a good Confession. First GOD; next FAMILY; then OURSELVES; and finally, the WORLD AROUND US.
Most of us were taught about sin as children – what’s Good and what’s Bad (obeying our parents, not using bad words, not having bad thoughts, not stealing things – like a cookie or two). Some had parents who would shout: “God doesn’t like a child who eats cookies before supper.” Of course, He does. God loves us all the time. For many people, those were the sins they learned about and, unfortunately for some, those are the sins they still talk about.
There is an entirely different responsibility we have as adults. If we’re going to continue using “kiddie” sins, then there isn’t much benefit we will get out of going to Confession. But, if we stop and think about the serious things that we do, and the ways we need to grow and change, then that is a really mature way of going to Confession. The Church teaches us that people have very serious responsibilities – and each one of us is different. Let’s look at the people we live with.
We all have different responsibilities to people. Does everyone get the same care and attention? Of course, not. If you have had a sick husband, wife, child or parent that is in need, our responsibility to that person is very different. When my Mom died 17 years ago, I called my Dad every single night. My sister, Becky, lived next door and prepared supper for Dad every evening. She cooked and cared for him. That is how she honored her father. I honored my father with every night phone calls. We would talk about anything and everything. My Dad controlled the conversation. Many nights it was about the Celtics, etc., he was watching. Some nights it was a play by play of the game. Dad loved it. The night before he died, I visited him in the Hospital and he spent 1 ½ hours telling me about the Celtics draft, and how the manager could and should make the team better. That was our last conversation together. Out of respect for my father, I listened. At his funeral I shared that right now my Dad was up in heaven telling Jesus who the Celtics should draft. The night before my Mom died, she was telling me how I should run the Parish. I said, “Sure, Mom, I’ll take that under advisement.” That is how I respected my Mom.
The point is, how well do we respect the people we live with? If you say bad words or swear at people who holler at you, that’s being impolite; but, if you swear at your spouse – if you yell and scream at somebody you love – that really hurts. It’s not only offensive, but very serious and dangerous. Those are the types of sins that must be confessed asked forgiveness from the person you offended. Marriages have broken up over this type of lack of respect, and children who are treated harshly and called names carry these wounds with them into adulthood. How do we treat the people who are important to us?
Our relationship with God is the second major responsibility that we have. What’s my prayer life like? How could it be better? What am I trying to do during Lent? How can I follow God better? How do I convert my life – not like the Ninevites did with sackcloth and ashes, but by being better, being closer to God. How do I “show up” like the Queen of Sheba, to get some wisdom and understanding?
The third is our relationship to Ourselves. How many of you take care of yourself? Do you regularly see your doctor, your dentist, eye doctor? How many get proper exercise? How many get a proper diet? How well do we take care of ourselves? It’s different with kids, but we can’t play computer games all day long and let our bodies fall apart. As a diabetic, do I eat the right foods most of the time? Do I care about what my blood sugar is like? If you have a serious disease, do you take care of yourself? You are wearing masks, and that’s a part of the whole thing.
Our relationship to our World is the fourth one. How am I responsible for the world around me? Do I pick up after myself or do I throw litter all over the place? Do I care for other people? The environment? Do I drive safely? Am I considerate when I go out to places, to people I don’t know?
When we look at our lives we should say, “What am I supposed to be doing? What am I not doing well? Actually, we do many things well. We don’t commit 500 million sins a day, but there are certain things we just don’t do well. Those things are the material for confession. And so, a good confession is to say, “I’m just getting by on my life these days. I just want to get everything over with. I hate Covid-19, I hate masks, and I hate all the things that are happening to me these days.” That’s true for most of us, but also: “I need to be nicer to other people, more considerate. I must let my wife, or husband, know I really love her, or him – that I really care about them. I must talk to my brothers and sisters.
My brother, Mike, lives up in Maine. I used to talk with him about once a month by e-mail. Lately, he has been calling me every single Saturday or Sunday. This Sunday we talked for about 38 minutes. He is my brother – and it’s important if he wants to talk. He is lonely, he doesn’t have a wife or children, or anybody else, and if he just needs somebody to talk to he calls me – that’s fine. He tells me what is happening in his Church and in his life, and that’s great. So, how do I react better, and treat him better?
My Sister, Becky, and I have been great friends always and we talk every Sunday. We have done vacations together for years and am godfather to her two children. We have a great time when we celebrate the holidays or I go up to the family summer home in Biddeford, ME or to the homestead in Fitchburg. MA. You might get to meet her as she be here on April 11 – 16 but staying basically at Disney or Cocoa Beach. It’s a long-distance relationship but when we meet up it seems like just a few days since we last were together.