Father Dave Pivonka leads a mission on “Spiritual Freedom: God’s Life Changing Gift” April 29 in St. Raphael Church, Hamilton.  Rose O’Connor photo
Father Dave Pivonka leads a mission on “Spiritual Freedom: God’s Life Changing Gift” April 29 in St. Raphael Church, Hamilton.  Rose O’Connor photo

By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent

Sin is much more than an infraction, like breaking a law.

Sin, according to Father Dave Pivonka, T.O.R., is about breaking a relationship.

“Sin is deeply personal,” said the nationally renowned author and speaker who led a cohort parish mission during which he guided participants on what it means to be free of sin and experience the never-ending love and mercy of God.

The three-day parish mission, held April 29, 30 and May 1 in St. Raphael Church, Hamilton, and sponsored by the Lumen Christi Cohort, drew standing-room-only crowds from those parishes of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, both Hamilton; St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square; St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Yardville, and St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown. The faithful reflected on the theme of “Spiritual Freedom: God’s Life Changing Gift.”

Father Pivonka asked his audience to reflect on the questions, “What does it look like for us to be free?” “How is it that we are free?” and “What does it mean to be free?”

“True freedom is a wonderful gift from God,” said Father Pivonka, who is a member of the Sacred Heart Province of the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular and director of Franciscan Pathways, an evangelistic outreach of his religious community.

“It is a cherished part of your country’s history. But when freedom is separated from truth, individuals lose their very moral direction and the fabric of society is unraveled,” he said. “God created us to be free. And we have freedom because he loves us.”

Father Pivonka, the face of the popular “Wild Goose” video series, asked the audience to consider how the Scriptures can be summed up into three words – “God is love.”

“The Lord’s love is different,” he said. “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more or less. There is no degree to God’s love and that the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

Thinking back on occasions when he ministered to individuals who may have doubted God’s love in their lives, Father Pivonka said he emphasized for those persons to not let things or past events define them. He reiterated his message again: “You are sons and daughters of God.”

“That’s what defines you. What defines me is the Lord’s love for me. His goodness, his mercy, his compassion – that’s what makes me who I am,” he said, then reiterated how only sin can separate one from feeling and knowing the love of God.

“The sin is not going to keep us away from the Lord unless we allow that to happen,” he said. “There’s some things that I don’t know a lot about, but one thing I do know is that heaven is full of sinners. What keeps us out of heaven is our inability to recognize that and our ability to ask the Lord’s mercy.”

During his three-day visit to the Lumen Christi Cohort, Father Pivonka also took part in a LifeTeen Mass, taking time to meet with young people. There were also opportunities for the faithful to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

“Spiritual freedom is something I felt like I needed to hear about,” said Diane Hurley of St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, one of the faithful from beyond the cohort who attended the series.

Her friend Pat Livecchi from St. Gregory the Great Parish, agreed, saying that she was heartened to be reminded of how “God is love.

“I am going to mediate on that,” Livecchi said.