I think most of us have our hands fully carrying our own sins. I know I do. By carrying our sins, I mean feeling their weigh, understanding the impact our actions have had on others, making amends and doing penance.

It’s true that we all must answer to God for our sinfulness and will receive his mercy, but also his justice. We will have to pay for our transgressions.

What about the sins of others?

It’s no coincidence that we’re entering into Lent just after the newest outbreak of sexual abuse scandal and the revelation of intentional and cover-up and negligence by members of the Church hierarchy. Additionally, we’re in the tail wind of the “Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church.” The juxtaposition of these events is worth noting.

Many have been encouraged by the summit, while many are disappointed at its results. I think it safe to say that all, or at least most of us are disgusted by the crimes committed against our children, seminarians, priests and religious. I know some who are at a complete loss about where to go from here in terms of setting things right and living their faith with the joy we’re called to in Christ. I even know people who are stepping away from the Church because they can’t take it anymore. I wish they wouldn’t, but I’m sympathetic to their decision.

The story of the demon-possessed boy in Mark’s Gospel (see Mark 9:14-29) keeps coming to my mind. The spirit would consume the child, dash him to the ground, cause him to foam at the mouth and grind his teeth, and finally leave him rigid and helpless. Sounds a lot like what’s happened to our Catholic Church, doesn’t it?

The disciples tried to exorcise the demon but were unsuccessful. So, the boy’s father brought him to Jesus in hopes he at last would be able to save his son from the evil one. Jesus expelled the demon and later the disciples asked why Jesus could do it when they could not even though they invoked his name.

Our Lord’s response was, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” In earlier translations of the Bible, however, Jesus is quoted as saying, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” [emphasis mine]. Although many modern English translation omit “and fasting” there’s enough ancient manuscript evidence to support including fasting in the text. Regardless of what words are used to express it, Jesus’ meaning is clear: some cases require a deeper, more powerful form of spiritual warfare.

Fasting is a penitential practice that dates to Old Testament times. It’s found in the Book of Tobit, Daniel and the Psalms. Our Lord himself fasted. This is why the Church places such importance on the practice and why we’re called to fasting during Lent. The Lenten penances of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are meant to lead us into conversion and transformation – exactly what our Church needs right now.

I can imagine offering our Lenten practices for the conversion and transformation of the Church could stir a powerful current that would cleanse and strengthen the Mystical Body of Christ. The Body is suffering because some of its members allowed decay to creep in. We did not commit the crimes of the scandals, but we’ve been affected by them and are weighed down by them. What if, like Jesus did, we decidedly pick up this cross, place it on our backs, and carry it forward for the sake of all?