God wants very much that we come to share the divine life of the Trinity. St. Paul states boldly: “You are in the spirit if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.” But not all choose to be in the spirit, or in the divine life with God.
A couple of weeks ago, it was reported in the press that Pope Francis excommunicated the mafia, its leaders and those who support their activities.
Pope Francis took one more step in his public opposition to the mafia, speaking before tens of thouands of people in Calabria, Italy, the homeland of the mafia. This past January in Calabria Cocò, a child of three years, was assasinated and burned alongside his grandfather in an macabre scene resulting from a “settling of accounts” by the mafia.
The Pope said that the mafia is “the adoration of evil, the disdain of the common good. It must be confronted and separated from society. It claims our children and young people. And the Church must help. Pope Frances said, “The mafiosos are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated.”
Recall that only God is eternal, and that there can only be eternal life with God. Apart from God there can be no eternal life.
The Pope didn’t initiate their excommunication. They chose their excommunication. The Pope merely declared that which he found to be true, “The mafiosos are not in communion with God”.
This action by the Pope takes its fundamental position from the Gospel last Sunday, when Jesus told Simon,
“You are Peter (or “Rock”), and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Matthew teaches that Jesus gave to the Church authority over evil and forgiveness of sin. The mafiosos are bound by the words of Pope Francis; they are not in Communion with God. St. Paul declared,
“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
There is evil all around us.
Once in a while a person presents himself to me saying that they observed evil spirits around our Church. It is as if they wished to scare me or shock me. I respond to them, “Of course they are here, they hate us! They are here to try to make us fall into their power. But I don’t have any fear of these evil spirits and neither should you.”
And I tell you, don’t pay attention to them. Those spirits are real, and they are here. But, what can they do to a person who doesn’t miss Mass, who receives Holy Communion frequently and confesses regularly as taught by the Church? We are safe. We follow the promise of Jesus, that if you eat His Body and drink His Blood you have eternal life in you. That is precisely why the evil spirits struggle so hard to destroy us, and our faith. However, those spirits are incapable of doing anything to us. That is why Jesus tells his disciples and us, over and over again,
“Do not be afraid.”
Do not be afraid, unless we cease to practice our faith and move away from God. That is when we become vulnerable.
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel,
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
This is not hard. How do we come to him? Don’t miss Mass. Receive Holy Communion every chance you get. Go to frequent Confession. We all fall off the bicycle once in a while. That is why Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Confession.
I want to speak with you about Confession. Just as with the mafia and Pope Francis, it is relatively easy for a priest to see a great difference between the person who goes to Confession frequently and the the person who rarely goes to Confession. What is the difference between these two groups of people?
People who don’t go to frequent Confession, less than once per year as the Church teaches, lose their sensitivity to sin. They lose their sense of sin. These people don’t really know themselves very well. And, they make a lot of excuses for their behavior. They lose their control over evil, because they can’t see or sense it. That is what happened to the mafiosos.
Allow me to engage your imagination to see what I mean. Let’s imagine that you stop bathing for more than a year. Every day you get out of bed, but you do not bathe at all. Every day you put on yesterday’s clothes, even the same underwear and socks.
At first it may be difficult. After a few days you become more and more accustomed to the smells, but, gradually you become used to it. You lose your sensitivity to the smells and filth. At some point you stop changing your bedsheets. Also, you lose your ability to recognize or detect other people who are dirty, unbathed. You lose the ability to know yourself because you can’t really sense yourself. You lose your moral compass.
It is the same with sin and evil. If you do not examine yourself regularly, or see yourself clearly, and Confess your sins, you lose perspective and sensitivity to sin and evil. You drift away from yourself and God, because you lost your moral compass.
People who Confess regularly, who don’t miss Mass and receive Holy Communion regularly know themselves much better than those who don’t. They have a better sense of sin. They learn better self control. It is easy to see.
They are not better than anyone else, or “perfect”. They are saved. They may be struggling, but they live with less fear and superstition. They learn, with practice, to know their sins, they ask for forgiveness.
Earlier in the Spring, Pope Francis was seen walking through the Basilica of St. Peter. In the Basilica, there are dozens of Confessionals, with signs in many languages announcing that Confession is available in those languages. Pope Francis was photographed kneeling at one of these Confessionals making his Confession to the priest there. That is his example. He knows sin. He knows his sin. He excommunicated the mafia.