by Eileen Wittig
ATCHISON — Every sin is really about the first sin — a sin against trust, said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann to students at Benedictine College here. If we trust God and cooperate with his will, all will be well.
Archbishop Naumann shared this message when he traveled to Benedictine on March 2 to meet students and lead them in a “Trust One Greater” Holy Hour. He holds these events throughout the archdiocese to connect with young people, lead them in eucharistic adoration and answer their questions.
The night in Atchison began with the procession of the Eucharist into the chapel, followed by the reading of the day’s Gospel — Jesus reminding the disciples not to worry, but to trust him, remembering that God takes care of all his creatures, from the flowers to the birds to mankind.
After the Gospel, Archbishop Naumann delivered a homily on the reading.
“God takes care of the birds of the air; how much more so will he provide for us?” Archbishop Naumann asked.
“The first sin was a sin against trust. Adam and Eve didn’t believe God had their best interests at heart. Every sin, I believe,” continued the archbishop, “is like the first sin — we don’t trust God. We say that we need this pleasure, this thing, this person, and that God doesn’t understand.
“In this jubilee Year of Mercy, we are called to trust in God. No matter what we’re struggling with, God will take care of us.
“Perhaps you’ve come tonight with some wounds or some anger for people.
“The Holy Father has asked us to focus on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy during this year. Two of the spiritual works of mercy are to forgive injuries and to bear wrongs patiently. We must pray for the grace to let go of our anger and resentment.”
To illustrate his point, Archbishop Naumann told the story of Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculée Ilibagiza.
“A few years ago, Benedictine College was blessed to have Immaculée Ilibagiza speak on campus,” said the archbishop. “She said that her only way of survival was prayer. She would pray with a rosary her father had given her, and she would have these voices in her heart.
“The first voice would tell her, ‘You’re no better than the murderers. You’d do the same thing they’re doing if you had the chance.’”
She knew it was true, recounted the archbishop, and she started having a hard time with the forgiveness part of the Lord’s Prayer. To take care of that, when she would get to that part of the prayer, she would skip it.
But after a few days of this, she heard a new voice. It said to her, “Immaculée, Jesus gave you this prayer. He doesn’t need you to rewrite it.”
She changed her prayer and began to ask God for the grace to forgive the people who were murdering her family and friends, if he wanted her to forgive them.
“She knew she could not do it without God,” said Archbishop Naumann. “God gave her so much grace for forgiveness that she now goes around the world preaching mercy.”
Just as Immaculée needed God’s grace to forgive, said the archbishop, so do we. “Maybe in our prayer in this jubilee year and tonight,” he said, “we will realize we need to ask forgiveness from someone in our lives.”
God offers us mercy, but we cannot receive it if we do not seek it and offer it to others.
Archbishop Naumann also reminded those present that asking forgiveness is not the only point of prayer.
“Make sure to give thanks — for health, life, talents, abilities, family, friends, relationships,” he said. “All these are from God. The natural disposition of the Christian is gratitude.”
“We must trust God,” he said in closing. “I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a kneeler for tonight. But God takes care of all things.
“We are worried with the imperfections of the world. Don’t. Cooperate with his grace, and all will be well. All will be well.”