The first evil act, the first sin of humans is called ‘original sin’. This evil act, this sin was committed by our first parents, Adam and Eve. Out of love God created our first parents and gave them all they needed to live a full and happy life. One favor asked of them by God was not to eat of the fruit from the tree of the ‘knowledge of good and evil’. With this instruction, clearly given to them, our first parents, Adam and Eve disrespected God and disobeyed his order, his instruction to them. The consequence of their action saw the justice of God granted to them by losing their right to live forever in paradise.
The instruction that was given to Adam and Eve was not heeded too seriously. The instruction, as we would say in Belize, ‘entered one ear and came through the other ear’. They did not hold themselves accountable to God after being given everything they needed. Thinking that there must be more somewhere and becoming greedy, they chose to do their own thing; they chose to live their way and to defy God.
Does this scenario look and sound familiar to you? God has given us all that we need in order for us to live a good and happy life here on earth. He gave us our gifts, our talents, our intelligence in order that we may use them to make a living for ourselves, and in order that we may “carry out the mission to which he has called us, for the good of our brothers and sisters” (Pope Francis: Gaudete et Exsultate).
But we want more! We are not happy with what we have. We think, like our first parents, that there must be more somewhere in a spot God has hidden from us. We get greedy, and so we go searching and chasing after every empty promise the world offers. And hence the many sad faces, faces that are unable or refuse to smile; faces of discontent and unfulfilled dreams. Says one, “How can I be happy when I do not have everything I need?” If we are looking over there and being jealous of what others have, we will never indeed be happy. If we look at just what we want and not what we need, we will never indeed be happy people because our wants as people will always far out-number the things we really need to survive in this life. Take note, God has given each one of us all that we need, not all that we want, to do his work well on this earth.
We sin when we disrespect God’s love and generosity to us. We sin when we underestimate God’s power to provide for us; his power to care for us; his power to assist us to build our house. We sin when we choose to serve both God and the world. We sin when we choose to build our house on sand.
Many Catholic Christians today do not believe in sin. What sin? Would be the response. For every act we may call a sin, we have the perfect explanation why that act can never be called or named a sin. We observe just about every other day the mortal sin of murder, where our young men in Belize city and elsewhere call taking the life of another brother, true justice. Would this be God’s justice or one’s personal justice? As is commonly said this is, ‘taking justice into one’s own hand’.
The call to us Catholic Christians during this Season of Lent is to “turn away from sin and be true to the gospel.” Sin keeps us at a distance from God, who loves us. We Catholic Christians are children of God, of goodness and of love. We belong to God. We are his. We are his beloved. We are not to be distanced from him. We are not to abandon ourselves from him. Our relationship with him ought to be like branches on the vine.
The call to us this Church in Belize is to acknowledge that we have sinned, that I have sinned and we need to return to Him, to the Lord God who is goodness and love. He beckons to us every minute of the day saying, “come back to me.”
Let us not lie to ourselves! Let us be true to ourselves and accept that we do have lots of room in our heart and in our lives to be a better son, a better daughter of the Lord God. It is lonely living in the darkness of sin. Says Pope Francis, “Once we accept him, and stop trying to live our lives without him, the anguish of loneliness will disappear” (Gaudete et Exsultate p.35). It is no kind of life living outside of the Light. It is no kind of life living detached from the Vine.
I urge all of you my children to open your lives to this new experience that Lent 2019 has to offer us. This experience is not just about coming to receive ashes and be over with it; but it includes the sacrifice of fasting and praying; it includes the sacrifice of abstaining from eating meat on Fridays of Lent; it includes praying the Stations of the Cross while reflecting on the humble, selfless sacrifice Jesus made for you and for me.
Topping all of this is Jesus’ merciful love for us. He is patient with us. He waits every moment of the day for us to acknowledge that we cannot live without him; that we are nothing without him and that He is the only one who can make us truly feel like ourselves again; who can truly make us whole again.
We are never truly happy except with the Lord. We may fool ourselves that the world can truly make us happy. The fake smile the world puts on our face loses its beauty after a while; but the smile and joy that a life in Jesus put on our face can never lose its beauty, its luster or its permanence.
Let me see more of you in Church during this Lenten Season. Take advantage to go to Confession as a family. Do not miss the opportunity to live everyday your name – Christian. You, we are followers of Christ. We are meant to be here on this earth, our common home. We are meant to be a holy family in him who is Lord and God. He who is our only savior.
Let us carry our cross each day, not with a sour face, but with a face full of joy because every sacrifice we make for him, for his church will never go without its reward. Remember that the joy of Easter comes after a well-lived Lenten Season.
A blessed and grace-filled Lenten season 2019 to you!
Your brother in Christ,
+ Most Rev. Lawrence S. Nicasio