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Many of us mourn the changes, big and small, to our everyday life due to COVID-19. We yearn for a return to “normal” and wonder if that is even possible, much less when. We long for our familiar routines, hugs with friends and family, a return to school, work, and serving, and much more. Many grieve the passing of a loved one. The past few months have altered who we are, both individually and collectively.
In times of change and turmoil, one constant is that God is with us and we are able to share all of these feelings and worries with our loving God. The other constant is our faith community.
While we have had to adapt, The Basilica is the same in many ways. We offer sandwiches, coffee, and a warm greeting to our neighbors in need. We have beautiful liturgies and insightful homilies, with options for in-person and livestream attendance. We share a variety of prayer services online and offer in-person reconciliation. We celebrate music and sacred art in a variety of forms and origins. We commence another year of religious education for our children and youth, plus an updated, flexible RCIA process to accommodate the needs and timing of our candidates. We accompany the unemployed/underemployed, the grieving, and those struggling with the burdens of life. We are offering thought-provoking programming on faithful citizenship, immigration, mental health, and more. We will even offer a drive-up opportunity to get your fall pumpkins, brought directly to your car.
One of my roles during COVID-19 is to manage the brief check-in and health screening process for guests on campus. I’ve been moved by people’s support, patience, and graciousness as we adapt to a new way of coming to The Basilica—thank you. Many have expressed gratitude for the extra steps we take to welcome you back safely.
It’s been an honor to meet more parish members and visitors, and to hear your stories. People have been visibly moved by the experience of physically returning to their beloved Basilica. Pre-registered Mass visitors from out-of-state are awed by seeing our beautiful building for the first time. We even welcomed a koala stuffed animal (wearing its own custom face mask!), carried by a young girl wearing her Sunday best.
As our times of uncertainty linger, we invite you to engage with your spiritual home, with your Basilica. We proudly continue to be a place of worship, a place of refuge, and a place of peace—seeking the well-being of our city and world.
“It shouldn't be that easy.” Those are the very words an individual spoke several years just after I prayed the words of absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “It shouldn't be that easy.”
On the one hand this person was right, of course. From our human perspective, the forgiveness of our sins shouldn't be that easy. We are used to working hard, paying our way, earning our keep. Given this, it only makes sense that we should “do” something to merit the forgiveness of our sins. As humans, we take it for granted that you don't get something for nothing. And isn’t this as it should be? After all, wasn't it St. Paul who said that “those who don't work shouldn't eat?” (2 Thessalonians chapter 3:10) Shouldn't we have to do something in order for God to forgive our sins?
The answer, of course, is yes. But in order to understand what we have to do, we need to look at things from God's perspective, not from our human perspective. From God's perspective, the forgiveness of our sins is dependent on nothing more—but also nothing less—than our sorrow for our sins. If we are truly sorry for our sins, if it is our will and desire that we try to sin no more, then that is all God asks of us. In return, God offers us forgiveness and the grace we need to rise from our sins to try again to live as God's sons and daughters.
Does this mean that once our sins have been forgiven God expects us never to sin again. Of course it doesn’t. God made us and God knows us—personally and intimately. As a result, God also knows that despite our best efforts we will continue to sin and fail. But—and this is the important part—there is no sin too great as to be beyond the power of God's grace. In fact the only barrier to the forgiveness of our sins is the hardness of our hearts, and/or our inability to accept the forgiveness that is offered to us.
When we come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and openly, honestly, and trustingly confess our sins, our sins are really and truly forgiven. It shouldn't be that easy—but because of Jesus Christ, it is.