It is Holy Week and we ponder the many gifts we have received from the Cross that Christ carried for us. The Cross was terrible and difficult but the gain was enormous. So too for the crosses we carry. Think of one thing in your life that you truly value and ponder the sacrifices that were neecessary so that you could enjoy it. Maybe it is your children; think of all the scarifices you made so that they could come to where they are today. Maybe it is your career, think of all the years of college and training that went into this blessing. Whatever it is, nothing of value comes without the cross. Where would you be today without your crosses?
This is the wisdom of the cross. Difficult and painful though it may be it always brings blessings if we carry it with faith. The following video is a little “homespun” but it illustrates well the wisdom of the cross.
Among those who have fallen away from the practice of the faith are some who feel in some way that the Church has rejected them or disapproves of something they have done or are doing. Of those who feel this way are some who have struggled with abortion, one of the great moral issues of our day. Without doubt or compromise the Church prophetically announces that abortion is a great evil since it is the taking of innocent human life. And yet we in the Church also announce God’s mercy and compassion for all who have struggled with abortion (or any sin) and fallen. As Pope John Paul wrote in 1995 to those who have had or participated in abortion: The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. (Evangelium Vitae, 99).
If you are a woman, or a man, who, in the aftermath of abortion, has struggled with guilt or shame. If you have a fear of rejection and so have stayed away from the Church please understand this: God has never failed to love you and neither have we. Despite the Church’s prophetic stand against abortion, we are just as adamant about mercy and forgiveness. It is the heart of the Church’s ministry to celebrate God’s healing and forgiveness. It has been my privilege as a priest to reconcile many women and men who have, at some point in the past, chosen abortion. God is rich in mercy and it is a great joy to announce, celebrate and confer that mercy.
Please know that there are priests and laity who stand ready to assist you in you in the possible and likely struggles that ensue after an abortion. Understanding, mercy and healing are offered in the Church, not only at the parish level and in confession but also through a ministry known as Project Rachel. It is a healing ministry to women and some men as well who deal with the many hurts that often emerge after an abortion. Sometimes these feelings occur immediately after the abortion, sometimes years later. Project Rachel Ministry makes referrals for one-on-one meetings with a priest especially sensitive to the needs of someone healing from abortion decisions, and also makes referrals to professional counselors, offers days of prayer and healing, and a support group. The next day of prayer and healing in English is Saturday, June 27, and the next day of prayer and healing in Spanish is Saturday, May 30. Know that you are not alone and there is healing for your soul. Project Rachel takes its name from a passage in scripture in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 31:15 In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping! Rachel mourns her children,she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. Thus says the LORD: Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward…There is hope for your future.
Here is the essential thought to end this post with: If you have had an abortion, the Lord loves you and so do we in the Church. If you wish to seek counseling and help, there are many ready to help you from the parish priest to trained experts and kindred souls in Project Rachel. Don’t stay away because you think you’re rejected. You are loved and your presence and gifts in the Church are needed.
Locally in Washington the phone number for Project Rachel is 301-982-2008 or 202-269-4673. The Website is here Project Rachel
The following video depicts the journeys of a few women. This is their own testimony. It may not be your exact experience, but just so you know that others have made the journey too.
In the Gospel for today’s Mass (B Cycle) we hear Jesus at prayer as he ponders the difficult and painful days just ahead of him. It is now the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified, that is to say, be crucified. Jesus saw it as his glory, that he give his life for us and show the world that he loves the Father. And yet he knows he is heading for a painful time.
There are some difficult truths evident in this Gospel that, if we can accept them will set us free. One of the sources of stress for us in life is that we often have unrealistic expectations of what this life should be. A more ancient description of life describes it as a “valley of tears” and teaches us to long for heaven. Today however, with a higher standard of living, most of us have come to expect that life should be comfortable and happy. When it is not we get resentful and anxious. But the truth is that we are not in paradise and sorrows and difficulties are a frequent part of life. Simply accepting this fact is a great source of peace.
In the homily today I explored, “Five Hard Truths that Will Set You Free.” The five truths are not original to me. I first heard them from the Franciscan Theologian Richard Rohr. Here they are:
Life is hard
Your life is not about you
You are not in control
You are not that important
You are going to die.
I took these principles and related them to Jesus’ words in the Gospel today. As I have said, they are hard sayings but, if you are willing to accept them they are a source of peace since they help us gain a more humble perspective on life. That done, our egos are less wounded by the disappointments and sorrows of life.
At the end of the Homily I reference an old Gospel Hymn “Beams of Heaven.” If you’d like to hear it, then it is here below in the video. The refrain is: I do not know how long ’twill be, nor what the future holds for me. But this I know, If Jesus leads me, I shall get home some day!
One of the most powerful questions that people wrestle with is the problem of evil. Why are there natural disasters, disease and death? Why does God stand by when moral evil is committed? The struggle with this problem has made some give up on God. In the following video, Fr. Robert Barron presents the problem and wrestles with it. Please be aware, Fr. Barron does not “resolve” the problem of evil. No one ever has. But he sets out well the limits of the discussion and the limits of our vision and thereby helps us to remain humble before so great a question.