Last week I was able to move in the Residence on Virginia Road (Yay!). One of the issues that I immediately had to deal with was the smell. The house has carpet in the basement, is close to the water and has been closed up for the past few weeks—not a good combination. In addition to the dehumidifiers, the windows were open to let in fresh air and then a good cleaning of the house took place. There are still some issues that will need to be dealt with concerning the house and work to be done, but I am moved in and able to begin the tedious task of unpacking.
Isn’t this a good example of our lives as Christians? There are times that we close up, to God, others and even ourselves. When we do so, we are in need of a good airing out and a good cleaning. That is what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is all about, isn’t it? It provides us the opportunity to remove the things that stink in our lives and to be refreshed and rejuvenated.
Like the house, even after the sacrament, there are still issues in our lives that we need to work on, but we are works in progress, loved by the Lord despite our weaknesses and failures. That is why he forgives so readily and easily. Pope Francis said it in such a simple and beautiful way: “God never tires of forgiving us, but we sometimes tire of asking Him to forgive us.”
This past week the Holy Father gathered with youth and young adults from all over the world for World Youth Day. It is encouraging to see so many gathered with the Pope to celebrate our faith. I have had the privilege as a priest of attending national conferences and working with national organizations. It has allowed me to see just how alive our Church is. We are all saddened because we know there should be more young people and young families joining us each Sunday. While there are indeed lots of problems and issues that need to be addressed, there are signs of great hope.
There are large sections of our country where the Church is growing by leaps and bounds. Even in my work at a public university, there are great signs of hope, of renewed interest in faith. I can tell you that there are no magic bullets. One program, one idea will not lead to a turn around. In building up our family of faith, we cannot do so from a place of lament. We do so from joy: a joy that comes from the knowledge of the Lord’s love, mercy and kindness for each of us. When we take the time to share the joy that comes from our faith in God, we encourage others to find out more about the source of our joy.