Sunday, March 31, 2013


"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."
(1 Peter 2:4-9)  The smell of lilies, candle wax, an incense replaces all of the drab Lenten trappings. This really is a day of transformation and celebration.  Forgetting the folks who come out once or twice a year, it is overwhelming to see people who come into the Church, experience the most joyful celebration of the year.  And even more so, as a priest, knowing some of the confessions over the last few weeks were honest, sincere, decisions for conversion; what a wonderful celebration this must be for them today.

Last night listening to the Genesis reading I was struck again and again by the authors descriptions, that God found this very good.  It cannot be emphasized enough that God sees creation as good and lovable.  Sin and Evil warp that goodness, but cannot destroy it.  God continues to love and care for us.  God's mercy reached into human history countless times to draw us out of darkness.  The Passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ continues to be God's great 'Amen' response to creation.  Sin and evil removes us from God, God does not push us away. 

Those who experience that first resurrection are commanded and empowered to go out to their brothers and sisters and declare the 'Good News'  There is not doubt, two thousand years ago, and today, that proclaiming and sharing faith is risky business.  St. John begins his Gospel with the truth that Jesus came to reveal his light to the nations, yet men and women seemed to prefer the darkness over the light of truth. 

What the resurrection pronounces must be shared with the world.  Our faith calls for our own personal conversion and discipleship and for the transformation of the world.  Violence, oppression, greed, and war, are not options in the Kingdom of God.  We live as a chosen people living the Gospel of life.

We are loved and renewed by a God who leaves a hundred dollars untended, to search for a penny.  Who walks away from ninety-nine sheep to search for a lost one.  Through the Paschal Mystery we share in a divine dignity and holiness the cannot be touched.  We respond to that truth with love, care, and respect.  We are God's son and daughters in whom the Father is well pleased.  There is nothing greater than that.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Faithful watching

Today is a day of watching and waiting.  Traditionally the Catholic community is called to fast today, and to keep this day in solemn prayer.  In ancient times the catechumens would begin to gather in the church, and later the cathedral, to spend the night in prayer and vigil.  The baptized community would pray with and for the faithful.  To be sure in our culture we have a hard time of waiting; but this is exactly what today is all about.

Again, is used to be, that many of the liturgical prayers were that of exorcism.  Now this is not about heads spinning and pea green soup, but it does have to do with evil and the power of Satan.  A better part of our liturgical prayer had been to drive out evil as well as to protect us from the effects of evil.  The baptismal font itself was blessed and exorcised three times. In addition, the catechumens would pronounce their faith three times, facing the west (where the sun had set) and renouncing evil, and facing east (the rising of the sun) and professing faith in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  So this watching and waiting had, and continues to have, somewhat of a penitential tinge to it, in addition to a joyful hope and expectation.

In both the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer for today we acknowledge our sins and brokenness while at the same time proclaiming a full spirited trust in God's love and mercy.  St. Paul's letter to the Hebrews offers us a theology and reflection of Jesus' role as the high priest.  Jesus we are told becomes the altar, lamb, and priest of the sacrifice.  The Paschal celebration is in every sense the center of our faith and Church life. 

I am sure that some folks hate the fact that everything is sung, there is incense, and lots of processions, this is the least that we can do considering what we are celebrating.  More so these three days are meant to dissect the faith that we celebrate each of the days of our life.  So as the preface reminds us, it is truly right and good to take time and effort with each of these celebrations.  While the idea of pondering and reflecting might be anathema to us, it is essential if we are to understand the hows and whys of what we do at Mass, and the rest of the week too.

So this is preparation day.  Sure get the sweet potatoes and ham ready, but take some time to pray and consider what this celebration is all about.  It's hard to proclaim 'Alleluia' if we do not understand what we are doing.  Because our understanding is the first step in imitating the mysteries we celebrate.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Really Good Friday

In John's Passion account, Jesus is very much in charge of the proceedings.  While We have Herod and Pilate, Jesus is really acting as judge of those who are judging him.  The disciples flee out of fear.  The officials who come to take Jesus away, seek the light of the world with artificial light, and Pilate moves nervously in and out of the Praetorian. 

The phrase that continues to present itself is that of 'truth.'  What is truth Pilate asks.  John's Gospel, and our celebration of the Triduum answer that quite well.  Early in his Gospel John tells us that the Father loved the world so much, that he sent his Son into our lives so that we could be freed from Sin and Death so as to experience new life.   Then a few chapters later John's Jesus reminds us that there is not a greater love than one can have for another, other than the laying down ones life for another. 

The truth that Jesus is talking about here seems to express itself in love.  To be sure the love of the Father in Heaven is known by us, greatly theoligized, and and even detailed in art.  Henri Nouwen had a great book reflecting on the Rembrandt painting of the Prodigal Son.  Nouwen mentions that Rembrandt used an elderly, nearly blind man, to depict the father.  Rembrandt wanted to make it clear that the love expressed on the son's return was more of a matter of touch, and embrace, than that of sight.

In the Gospels most of the healing stories have Jesus touching the various afflicted persons. Eyes, leprous skin, and hands are all touched. Just as Jesus' body is used to bring salvation to the whole human family; that healing affects our entire person.  St. Paul wants us to be clear that Jesus the high priest does not accidentally stumble into bringing us salvation through his suffering and death, but chooses to love us all the more because of who we are in relationship to  God.

The Paschal Mystery remains for us the center of our faith and proclamation.  Like a little child God is overjoyed with the kinship  we enjoy with him.  John's theology reminds us that God came into our likeness, so that in conversion and discipleship we might enjoy the holiness of God.  Again this is not simply God being 'nice' to us.  God in Jesus Christ overwhelms us with his passion and peace.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

'Blessed are you Lord God of all Creation ...'

Today priests and laity will gather at the Cathedral, with Bishop Malloy presiding, for the Chrism Mass.    The Priests of the Diocese will renew their ordination promises, and the Bishop will bless the three oils which we use for the sacraments in the parishes.  I like the fact that the laity can get a sense of how large and diverse our Diocese really is.  It is also a wonderful celebration of priesthood.

Then tonight we will gather here at St. Mary's to celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  At St. Mary this is a tri-lingual liturgy.  The ethnic nature of our parish is melded into a community because of the community which we celebrate.  Again we celebrate the unity we have, in the Eucharist, in the midst of our diversity.  Not everyone is comfortable with this.  But the actions here tonight of the presentation of the oils, the footwashing, and especially the Eucharist, speak of a commonality which is beyond our own expectations.

In the Gospels, in Mark particular, the Disciples have a difficult time grasping the concept of Discipleship.  They are looking at a grand Kingdom, with themselves sort of in the center.  At the Last Supper Jesus shows a different kind of Kingdom in which he washes feet, and gives his body and blood.  Jesus shows his disciples, and us too, that real leadership comes through service. 

Today the Church leads by the way it serves.  The communities that are the most vibrant, and the most charismatic, are the ones which have a strong leadership tradition.  The celebration of the mysteries of our faith invite us to look away from our navels, and out into the world.  Perhaps this is why leaders like Pope Francis, or Mother Teresa, or Dorothy Day, are so popular and attractive to us.

What a wonderful way to begin the Triduum, to consider Christ's one perfect sacrifice, and our participation in these sacred mysteries. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Passion, Death, and Resurrection

It goes without saying that the passion narratives expound on the fact that sin and evil are very real in the world and in our human family.  The figures in these texts are not unlike our dealings with the broken children of God whom we deal with on a daily basis. self-righteousness, deceit, dishonesty, and self-interests destroy relationships with God and others.

Jesus, set in the middle of this brokenness continues to move towards the goal that is set for him.  Throughout the Gospels Jesus is insistent that the Kingdom of God is to be nurtured and nourished.  To do so though means that we commit ourselves to what is true and good; not allowing ourselves to be dissuaded  by the temptation of authority of greatness.  Jesus shows us what it means to be a suffering servant by boldly accepting the cross and continuing the mission that has been entrusted to him.

This Holy Week is an opportunity to consider our place in the passion story.  Are the apostles overwhelmed by fear, the crowds which evolve with the mob, or the faithful women at the foot of the cross.  This week gives us a chance to re-kindle our identity and conviction to Christ Jesus.  I am always saddened by the fact that many catholics do not take this week more seriously.  Okay maybe they cannot go to Mass, but to spend some time in prayer and reflection.

To be sure this time is filled with long liturgies.  But sometimes simply to sit, reflect, and to consider the journey towards Jerusalem we are all called to walk.  The Paschal Mystery invites us to stand openly before God with all of our faults and foibles hanging out.  How can we embrace the cross and set things right with God and others?  Like the apostles we can say, "Let us go up to Jerusalem with him to die."  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Jesus as Icon

St Gregory Nanzianzen, was Bishop of Constantinople around about the fourth century, and a prominent theologian.  He wrote extensively on Christology and the Trinity.  In the Office of Readings today we have part of one of his homilies whereas he slowly takes apart Holy Week, and more importantly the Paschal Mystery.  Reflecting upon his writings I begin to think it is never enough simply to state that Jesus true God, and true Man.  What we celebrate is a powerful affirmation of God's love for us, to be sure, but a challenge as to how we might respond.

A few weeks ago we moved our tabernacle in our church to the center of the sanctuary.  (Not pictured here)  One of the many reasons was that people would come into the church and walk right past the tabernacle.  But, some of these same folks would piously genuflect in front of the altar.  The reflection would be that many today do not understand what is sacred and what is not.  Jesus, the sacraments, and the Gospels seems to meld into a theology that God is nice, and Jesus did good things for people.  We miss a relationship.

Perhaps the reason why we have such an infatuation with actors and actresses is that they are beyond us.  We gush over them in movies, and admire their lavish lifestyles.  Seemingly unlike ourselves, they move from one relationship to another without so much a tear being shed.

When I was growing up we had the 'Good News' bible which tries to put the language in relate-able terms.  The book only lasted through the 70s., but the idea is not that far fetched.  The texts of the sacred scripture, ancient as they are, reveal the faith experiences of men and women like us who were broken because of Sin and Evil.  They encountered loneliness, abuse, and oppression, sometimes because they tried to do what was right.  In the Creighton University reflection today, the author muses about the life and death of Bishop Oscar Romero.  A prophetic man who called out those who inflicted evil, and was killed because of it.

St. Gregory points out today that Jesus is the image of the Father's love for us.  Such love is a great cause of joy and celebration.  Like the psalmists we can proclaim that God's love endures forever.  But God also calls us into a relationship.  The works of Jesus are not just 'nice' things because he likes us, but an example of how we ought to live.  In John's Gospel Jesus time and again says he is doing the will of the Father.  Our faith is something that we take responsibility for. 

There is more to Jesus for us than the images we see, or the stories we hear.  This is an awesome week to really reflect on what we believe, and to get real about our faith.  Last night at the soup and speaker a woman had mentioned that the crucifixion scene in the one man play we had last week, was very powerful and meaning for her.  We need more of those experiences whereas we can stop and think about what we pray and believe.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Jesus Priest and Altar

I have begun reading a book by Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth.  A little light reading for Holy Week.  Benedict goes into great detail about the controversy that causes the conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities, in John's Gospel.  This is no small matter for the religious leaders of the time. Jesus has just desecrated the temple, and is challenging the temple worship.  For the Pharisees the temple is the center of their religion, and is symbolic of the law and the covenant tradition. 

As Jesus comes on the scene he is presenting himself as the new 'temple.'  We will hear this again in Hebrews as Jesus is described as the altar, priest, and lamb of sacrifice.  Throughout John's Gospel Jesus attempts to convey that true worship is accomplished when it occurs in spirit and in truth.  Jesus wants his followers to move out of a mentality that God is found in a place, as much as God is found in those who are faithful.

So we have Jesus reiterating from time to time that he does only the things, the actions, preaching, and teaching, as is directed from the Father in heaven.  Faithful followers worship in spirit and truth, and follow the direction of the Father.  More so, it is by sincere worship, that which includes interior conversion, that one might come to know the Father and have union with him.

As we continue to re-do our sanctuary, I was reading the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) about altars.  I want a stone altar.  Anyway I am inspired by how the text describes the altar s the place where the the Eucharist happens, but  also it is where the people of God gather around.  This table affects the lives of the faithful on so many levels.  It becomes a powerful sign and symbol of the thanksgiving, or the Eucharist, which is celebrated.

In this rather long pericope from St. John, we are called to understand God's love and revelation in a whole new way.  Our Mass is not disconnected with who we are, or the vision of the world around us.  An ornate or plain able, bread and wine, people and prayer, become a springboard out into the world around us.  While we gather around our Church table, we also gather around our family table.

Tonight at soup and speaker, a little boy of about three or four kept staring at me.  He would wave on occasion, calling out, "Hi God."  When he walked near me he would touch my shoulder.  In his mind he is eating with the divine.  St. Paul  wants us to know that we possess something sacred through Jesus Christ.  It is not only found in the Church, but in all faithful people.  It would be neat if all children of God could recognize the sacredness that we possess, even outside the temple.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Truth will set you Free

Today one of the major news organizations had a fluffy piece online about the Pope's wardrobe.  Many of the comments offered the question as to the newsworthiness of the article (agreed) with many others defaming the Catholic Church.  In many ways the popular culture does not know what to make of the Pope, the Church, or it's spirituality.  Certainly it would seem logical that if a groups policies or practices was not liked by some, that the organization would change to make things agreeable for everyone.  So many treat the Pope like a celebrity, and the Church like a multinational corporation.  Neither comparison even comes close.

The daily reading today follow Jesus before his ascent into Jerusalem and the passion and crucifixion.  There is a dialogue which occurs here between the religious leaders Jesus.  Jesus challenges their hostility with their lack of understanding and faith in God.  While they decry Jesus' assessment of the situation, Jesus counters with if they had faith, they would not be trying to kill him.  Their violent tendencies comes from a lack of faith.  Jesus invites them to 'come up higher' so as to know and appreciate the truth.

When we can come to understand what Jesus is about, and live by his teaching, we can come to know truth, and understand the role of the Church.  We are less concerned about the vestments that the Pope wears, and are more concerned with servant leadership, stewardship, compassion, and peace.  Saint Hugo of Saint Victor considers that our vison of faith should be so through the prism of truth.  As such we discover the positive virtues of patience, kindness, compassion, love, thanksgiving, and care.  To be sure this is the mission and ministry of Jesus, and certainly is of the Church.

Truth allows us to own the godliness that is properly ours and the good we have inherited through Jesus Christ.  His words are to be possessed and pondered, not refuted.  May the good God has begun in us be brought to completion. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The one without sin throw the first stone

The woman caught in adultery is a powerful story of the love and mercy of Jesus, and our communion with God.  During Lent we have been singing the Kyrie.  It is a beautiful beginning to celebrate the Paschal Mystery which brings us salvation and peace.  I would love to be able to spend more time with this chant, perhaps even spending some time kneeling before the Eucharist and the cross.

To be sure the woman who kneels before Jesus does not know what to expect. She recognizes her sin, she does not need the Pharisees to pronounce it to everyone in ear shot.  Maybe she is repeating 'Lord have Mercy, Christ have Mercy,' over and over again.  What she does not expect is for Jesus to offer her forgiveness and reconciliation.

Maybe this is why we are reluctant to be honest about our sins and sinfulness.  We do not know what might happen next.  I have always fantasised about yelling, "You did what," from the reconciliation room, I have always seen the close connection between the sacrament of reconciliation and that of healing.  Again and again Jesus restores peoples to God and their communities through his love and compassion.  The expression of Kyrie helps us to appreciate our own brokenness and the need for God's grace and forgiveness. 

In the Mercy Me song, I can Only Imagine, the author ponders what our response might be as we stand before Jesus in the Kingdom.  Kyrie seems like a probable response as we consider how we have responded to God's invitations to love, and our treatment of one another.  Even more so, we come to realize how destructive we can become, to ourselves and others, when reconciliation and forgiveness are absent.

Jesus does not see a sinner dragged before him, but a woman, a child of God, who has sinned, and is fearful, ashamed, and very alone.  Throughout Jesus' ministry as he encounters men and women in need, he does not seen the affliction as much as he sees the effects of sin on a humanity.  Remember Jesus looks up and sees that "they are like sheep without a shepherd.  He knows our wounded and afflicted hearts. 

Kyrie teaches us that we can always be forgiven when we fall or wander far from godliness.  Even when we bump heads God will always take us back.  This faith and confidence allows us to approach our Lord again and again, so that we can live as children of the light.  When we feel all shame-faced, confused, and find ourselves rolling in the dirt, Jesus will take us and restore us to salvation.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, has become the Holy Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.  It is absolutely awe-inspiring that he has taken the name, Francis.  St. Francis, besides being a popular saint for his love of animals and all of creation, was a man of great humility, prayerfulness and piety.  Even at that time men and women centered their lives on obtaining and having stuff.  St. Francis brought true reform to religious life of the time.

More than ever today our Church needs to counter-cultural in its teaching and proclamation of the Gospel.  While some might scoff at the papacy, we are a Church that has deep roots in the sacred scripture, and in human history.  The Pope really is that 'Holy Father' who is to guide the Church with a shepherds care.

Commentators and news-people always have a difficult time understanding and reporting on the Pope, and the Church itself, because its work involves the spiritual realm.  Yet much of what it needs to do challenges the basics of the world today.  Church teachings challenge the comfortableness of those who are in power and in the political sphere.  The Church as an advocate for the poor and anawim make many people very uncomfortable.

Some folks I am sure thought that Francis would change the Church by Thursday morning, throwing out moral teachings and tradition.  Pope Francis will continue to make the radical good news available to the whole world.  As a Church we pray for and with the Holy Father, and the Body of Christ, the Church.  We ask that God continue to pour out his Spirit on t he Church, so that it will by a sign and symbol of God's presence to the world.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son story has to be one of my favorites from Luke's Gospel, and during the season of Lent.  The two parts that stand out for myself, are the dire desperation of the son, as he longs for the food which the hogs are eating, and the intense unconditional love of the father.  This is sort of like one of those good confession moments, when we realize the depth of our sin, we are always surprised by the unwavering love of God the Father.  The story makes clear that God has, and will continue to, give us his unconditional 'Yes'  This strong affirmation of us, as children of God, hopefully can draw out an unconditional 'Yes' on our part as well.  God loves us more than we can imagine.

Lent is the time to ponder the new life that God wants to give us.  St. Paul will reiterate that through Jesus Christ we have become a new creation.  We are called to make a faithful response to the Father's love.  Such a response is the difference between the Kingdom, or condemnation.  Those who make faithful responses can lead peoples out of the desert, bring healing, instill peace, and create a place where communion and revelation of goodness and truth are made known.  This sort of response requires a mature faith.  We have to have a spirituality that is deeper than a finger bowl. 

The younger son struggled with sin and evil, and discovered the love of his father when he returns home.  The older son followed rules and regulations, and most likely never took a risk in his faith, and perhaps never really experienced a love relationship with his father - only a 'legal' one.  Our challenge is to struggle with the messiness of life and to search the heart of God. The best way to know this sort of love is to continue to contemplate, reflect, pray, to the one who gives us life.  More so, we come to know love when we act in love and mercy, and have the same passion for life, as the Father in heaven has for us.

It is all to easy to get used to being with hogs, or sitting by a well with an empty bucket, or even being bound up, in a tomb.  These experiences can begin to seem normal.  Jesus Christ offers us that these are not normal, nor desired by God the Father who runs down the road to greet us.  Hogs are great over coals, with tangy barbecue sauce, but not good dinner companions.  Jesus shows us a way of piety and righteousness that leads us to the Father's house. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Then I will be your God ... you shall be my people."

Moving towards the end of Lent we are witnessing more tension between Jesus and the authorities, as well as seeing an increased emphasis on conversion and discipleship.  In today's Gospel Jesus expels a demon, yet is challenged on his authority to do so.  The entire mission of Jesus has been to cast out evil, and to reveal God's plan of salvation and peace.  This is about the time when we yearn to eat that chocolate, have a beer, or engage in any one of dozens of things we may have given up for Lent.  Perhaps this is why the prophetic words we find in sacred scripture are all the more blunt during these last few weeks.

In the early Church the catechumens stood in a dark Church, with Baptized Christians - soon to be their brothers and sisters in Christ - and listened and watched as the bishop pour blessed oil on the font, and rubbed it into the stone.  He then prayed a prayer of exorcism over the font and the water.  The soon to be Christians then pronounced their baptismal promises three times, turning towards the west they renounced Sin and Satan, and to the east, proclaimed their faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This commitment against Sin and Evil was very important part of the life of the Christian.  The neophyte was to be a child of the light.

Maybe we have lost that sense of Sin and sinfulness in our lives today.  If we were to talk about casting out demons we might smile and even snicker a bit.  But today we as a people of God, and as a Church really need to be diligent in its stand against evil, and yearning for the truth and goodness.  One of my seventh graders this morning asked about the time frame of eating meat on a Friday.  "What happens is I begin eating a hamburger at 11:56 p.m. ..."  Our whole thrust has to be about an interior conversion.  We have live lives of integrity and faith.  This is much more important that how straight we kneel, or folding our hands at the proper angle to the vertical of our spine.

I reminded the seventh graders today (as I have for the last few years) matters of justice, peace, respect for life, and human dignity, are the foundation of the scriptural teachings.  In our Church today too, our commitment to faith is really about making the Word of God, and our profession of faith, something that is real.  We are not contemplating a theology but a relationship which we have with the living God, and our brothers and sisters.  We must be perfected as our Father in heaven is perfect.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

We Want A Modern Pope?

Over the last several days there have been articles and news reports contending that catholics want a 'modern' Pope.  The language used of course is that we as a Church need to move into the 21st century.  To be sure the structure of the Vatican is a tad antiquated, in addition to the fact that using modern technology the Cardinals could have elected a new Pope using Skype, texts, and email.  But this is not exactly what is implied in the news accounts.

The desire is that the Church, like our society today, would be open to the possibility of abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage as an alternate life-style choice, and married clergy.  If we would simply follow along with whatever seems to be popular, right, or good, then we would become more relevant.  Folks like to point out that Jesus loved and accepted everyone, therefore so should the Church.

And yet what is so often forgotten is that the Gospels do spell out a moral lifestyle, which includes embracing the cross, and avoiding  sexual promiscuity,  greed, selfishness, and self-righteousness.  Jesus offers the woman caught in adultery forgiveness, and tells her to avoid this particular sin.  The story of Zacchaeus is a wonderful example of conversion and discipleship.  Jesus kindness and compassion does not advocate dishonesty and injustice, but moves him to change his lifestyle.  More so the Gospel Jesus offers a litany of if part of your body is your downfall, then one should remove it. 

Throughout the centuries the Church has stood with the poor and the anawim.  The radical nature of the Church has challenged the likes of kings and queens to change their policies and politics to allow justice and peace to flourish.  The Thomas Mores, Francis of Assisi's, Dorothy Days, and Oscar Romero's, of the Church not only advocated a counter-culture, but did not back down to popular pressure which recommended going along with the flow of society.

Lumen Gentium, of the Second Vatican Council, reminds us, "This was to be the new People of God.  For, those who believe in Christ, who are reborn ... are finally established as 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation... .'"  This image creates for us a vision that the Church is supposed to be the unfolding and revelation of the Kingdom of God.  The Paschal Mystery challenges us to proclaim good news to the world.  We are not passing out smiling Jesus pictures to everyone, but standing on a conviction to what is true, right, and good.  Our faith is not about being nice or making us feel good about ourselves.  It is about creating a space of justice and peace, standing strong for the weak and vulnerable, and leading people away from oppression and Sin.

More so the Church is to be prophetic in the world today.  Why can't we believe like everyone else?  Because we are not like everyone else.  The Pope is the voice and face of the Gospel.  Standing on the foundation of the Apostles and the holy men and women through the centuries, the Church continues to carry out the mission and ministry of Christ.  In the end one wonders who is really of out of step.  Is it a Church that protects life and liberty, or a society that can look the other way in the face of mass starvation and violence? 

Perhaps we do need a modern man who can challenge the modern Sin and Evil which seeks to harm us.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Repent and Believe in the Gospel

Sometimes when I ask the young people about Sin and confession, they usually sheepishly admit having been away for a real long time.  Some counter with if Jesus loves everyone, why do we have to go to confession.  To which I respond that it is for the same reason spouses and friends have to ask for forgiveness, and forgive each other.  Then of course there is the "I haven't killed anyone."  Murder seems to be the standard by which we determine if we should go to confession.

For the prodigal son, he had realized how much his father really loved him, and how 'dead' his life had become since he distanced himself from his community.  It was with a contrite and repentant heart that he returns to his home; overwhelmed by the compassion and love that he experiences as he comes back.  But on his return he understands how much he is worth to his father.

Perhaps this is why the entire ministry of Jesus centers on the Paschal Mystery, in which we encounter reconciliation and forgiveness of Sin.  Jesus tels his disciples to go out to baptize and gives them the authority to forgive sins.  In the Gospel stories we see a parade of people, the Samaritan woman, the woman who anoints Jesus' feet, who have experienced forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ, and now have the joy of living a new life.  Sin had hobbled them to behaviour and actions which were not life-giving, and had distanced them from the Father's love.  Now through reconciliation they had communion with God and the community.

The priest stands in the confessional as a mediator of God's people.  He does not judge the sins he hears, but rather reassures the penitent of God's love and the forgiveness of sins.  In the early Church the faith community prayed over the people involved in doing penance.   While the intention of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is decidedly not spiritual direction, for my part I end up doing a thirty second spiritual direction.  But how powerful that i to hear a voice saying, "And  I forgive you your sins, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit... ." 

Our faith challenge is to reject simplistic solutions (cut the tree down) and to cultivate our spiritual life so as to stand strong against Sin and Evil.  And the closer we are drawn to God the Father, and the life of his Son, the easier it is to move from Sin and sinfulness.  The parable today really shows us a different way to respond to the challenges of this life and the promises of the Kingdom.