March 2, 2021
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today I received my second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. I have been watching the tallies about death, infections and vaccinations, and – for all practical purposes – this information has outdone the stock market for gaining attention. I think reporting on the virus has occupied much of our news for the last year because not everyone has stock, but everyone is susceptible to the coronavirus.
Many may wonder when we will return to the pre-pandemic era. Some who are pessimistic offer that we may never return to those pre-COVID days, while others who are more optimistic claim that we will return to a normal state by this fall. No one can know for certain, but, with variants of the disease now multiplying, it is certain that we must continue our vigilance. We will continue to protect ourselves with masks, sanitizers and maintaining safe social distances. We will do what is necessary to protect ourselves from COVID-19.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a vaccine against sin? After all, a virus attacks the body, but sin attacks the soul. St. Matthew explains:
What I say to you in darkness speak to the light, what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. (Mt 10: 27-28)
Saint Luke also echoes this sentiment in his Gospel, saying:
There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops. I tell you; my friends do not be afraid of those who kill the body. But after that can do no more. I shall show you to whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you be afraid of that one. (Lk 12: 2-5)
These statements offer support for those who face persecution. While we may know what the Church teaches, we oftentimes lack the courage to voice our objections when society confronts us with contradictions. Because of the fear of human consequences, our silence condemns us. We will be called upon to express our faith in our communities, which will more and more marginalize us as a Church. However, we will be held accountable for what we do and not do.
In our modern age, we do not talk about sin. For some, it is almost an embarrassment to discuss or we may even fail to recognize sin as a possibility. Those in the secular media who feel competent to talk about spirituality sometimes express their views that everyone is going to heaven. To them, we just live and die, and then the gates of heaven are opened to us. I am sorry to burst their bubble, but we are responsible for our lives and our actions toward our brothers and sisters.
Why did Jesus come? He came as our Savior and Redeemer. To save us from what? To redeem us from what? Sin, of course. This is the great expression of the love God has for us, to sacrifice His Son for us. We cannot earn salvation – and we certainly do not deserve it – but, if sin does not exist, then Jesus’ death was a senseless act.
We do not have a vaccine for sin, but we do have a treatment for sin. During this time of our Lenten journey, we seek personal spiritual growth through fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the heart of Lent is always recognizing our sinfulness before God with a desire to amend our lives. Reconciliation (Confession) reminds us of our need to adjust and amend our lives. This sacrament is the treatment for sinfulness while simultaneously strengthening us to seek God’s help through His grace. Ironically, unless we recognize sin and the need for forgiveness, we fail to fear the Lord. To fear Him is to have profound respect for His presence. Let us recognize our sin and the salvation He offers to us as He commands us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee