We are struggling constantly to get rid of sin, Bishop Edward Malesic told those gathered for the 10:45 a.m. Mass on Feb. 21 at St. Monica Church in Garfield Heights. “God wants to wash away everything that is opposed to him. But not even a flood could destroy the inherent sinfulness among us,” he said.
Jesus was immersed into the world of sinners by his baptism. The bishop said Jesus wanted to minister to sinners and although he was born without sin, he came to conquer it.
“Our own spiritual life is a continual battle against temptation. It is a constant effort to avoid sin and to do good,” he said, explaining that sometimes we are weak and the devil gets the better of us. We do not fight sin and temptation alone, Bishop Malesic said, pointing out that we can rely on help from the angels and our faith to receive the Lord’s forgiveness. “The devil always loses when we say, ‘Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner,’” he said.
Our salvation begins with our baptism – the first taste of the kingdom where Satan has no home, Bishop Malesic said. The waters of baptism mark an end to the past and signal a new beginning.
But there are two sides to water: it can terrify and kill when it is stormy and it can soothe and give life when it’s calm. The bishop used the example of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, his former home. He said the river helped generate much-needed power but every year someone was lost in the undertow. The waters of baptism are like that because they destroy sin – particularly original sin – but also give the divine life of God, which has no end.
We are in the season of Lent, which has a forward motion. “Lent moves toward Easter. For those among us who are catechumens and unbaptized, you are proceeding to the waters of baptism that will drown our sinful past and give you a new life and a future filled with hope. For those of us who are already baptized, Lent is a time to move to Easter remembering how blessed we are to have God living within us because of our baptism, like a well that springs to eternal life. Lent is a time of preparation to be renewed so that by Easter we can recommit ourselves to Christ himself,” the bishop said.
He also talked about repenting, which means more than sitting in shame and sorrow for our sins. Repent means to change direction, to plot a new course. It includes a change of heart and a decision that anchors us to Christ, Bishop Malesic said.
“Let’s let Jesus enter into our desert to do battle against temptation with us. He is the victor over sin and death. And let’s have a change of heart so that we begin to take ourselves out of the center of the universe and put Jesus back in the center. Let’s make Jesus the center of our heart, the center of our worship, the center of our work, the center of our play, the center of the world and absolutely the center of this parish and your families. If we do that, Lent will bring a springtime of life. That is what we long for after all – the kingdom of God where the devil is defeated, temptation is ended, Jesus is victorious and the desert begins to bloom again,” the bishop said.
A parish should be a place for worship, service and evangelization – a place where we find the anchor of our lives, the center and anchor of our universe, Jesus, who is our physician and healer. “We need to do a better job of spreading the news,” Bishop Malesic told the congregation.
He said he likes to focus on the positive. “I went to church today. I received Jesus today. Jesus is in the tabernacle. I heard the word of God today and it strengthened me for the rest of the week,” the bishop said.
“People hunger for the God that saves,” he added.
The bishop also thanked concelebrants Father Tom Haren, St. Monica’s pastor, and Father Ted Marszal, senior parochial vicar. “I see Father Ted’s picture every day,” he said, noting Father Marszal twice served at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and spent a number of years in diocesan administrative positions. He also acknowledged Deacon Stan Drozell and seminarian Joe Menkhaus, a St. Monica parishioner, who assisted at Mass.