Sunday, March 02, 2008

4th Sunday of Lent - homily

There was a man who lived in Ireland many years ago by the name of Matt Talbot. Matt went to school as a young boy and then began to work as a teenager for a liquor merchant. It was in this job that he was introduced to alcohol, and he liked it…a lot! He would spend the next several years of his life drinking excessively – about fifteen years as an active alcoholic.

Finally, Matt said to himself, ‘this is crazy. I need to change my life’. He made a pledge to quit drinking for three months, went to Confession to make a general confession, and started to go to daily Mass. He continued with sobriety; the first seven years of sobriety were very difficult for him. It was difficult not going to the places where he hung out with his drinking buddies so much. It was hard settling up with people from whom he had borrowed or even stolen money from in order to drink. He prayed as intensely as he used to drink.

I remember reading the story about when Matt went to Church one day, but the Church was locked. So, he knelt on the sidewalk and prayed. Very cool! Every day, he went to Mass, prayed the rosary, and read Scripture. He worked as a laborer for many years, but eventually his health failed him. He died on his way to Church at the age of 69. Pope Paul VI gave him the title of “venerable” in the early 70s.

I don’t know if Matt Talbot ever asked the questions of ‘why?’ ‘Why am I an alcoholic? Why do I have a drinking problem?’ This is the question the disciples ask Jesus – why is the man blind? Is it because of him or his parents? Jesus says it’s neither; “it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him”. We can see that, with Matt Talbot, it is the works of God made visible through him. We know how potent a force alcohol is in the world. We know many people who are addicted to alcohol; we also know people who, with God’s help, have overcome their addiction to it. We know that it’s not them; it’s the work of God! With whatever addiction people overcome, it is an amazing witness to the works of God.

Each one of us has blindness, weakness, an Achilles heal, sin. We are tempted to ask why. ‘Why is this sin in my life? Why can’t I get over this?’ One wise priest once told us in the seminary that the question is not why, but ‘what can I do about it?’ One thing we can do is take our blindness to God so that his works might be visible through us. This is our mission. Matt Talbot embraced the mission of making the works of God visible through his sobriety. The blind man embraced the mission of making the works of God visible through his sight. For each one of us, our mission is to make the works of God visible through our sin.

One thing we can do is come to the Eucharist. We can come to the One who has power to make the blind see. In a few minutes, Jesus will come to us in Holy Communion the same way he went to the blind man. We bring our blindness, our weakness, our sin to Him today so that His works of God will be visible in our lives.


At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ve always said that I have never learned anything important in an easy way. It may be hard for some to understand, but my addiction has been big blessing in my life. Well- let me qualify that- surrendering to my addiction is a huge blessing (the actual drinking, throwing up, blacking out- NO FUN!).

Why are some given this while others are spared? Maybe it’s to make those people really strong. After going through recovery and bearing witness to so many who had before me, I had this great sense that there are so many great things I can do. Maybe I always had that sense, but the difference after sobriety was that I understood that I couldn’t do it alone. I have literally been on my knees at a closed church door. I can’t tell you that I then understood why I was there, but I was there. I remember begging for help in something I didn’t understand. Help was given to me, and it’s probably the singular reason I’m able to help others with relative ease- that saying: to whom much is given, much is expected. That’s how I feel.

Very few know about this part of my life, and strangely it’s the worst and the best of my life. The worst- succumbing to my lowest point, and the best- absolutely giving in to the fact that I’m weak. What a load off!

I’m fortunate because my greatest weakness was placed before me in a loud and obnoxious way. Some will never have that opportunity.

At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is a "general confession?"

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 9:47PM,

What a well stated comment, kudos to your choices, and more importantly, for sharing them with us. In one way or another, I think we all have an addiction, an evil force/thought/tendency/weakness we struggle with. By spending time in self reflection, I do believe we can stare our “demons” straight in the eyes, acknowledge them, no matter how humbling it may be, and vow to do whatever it takes to drive them away. One of the elements that I believe makes this difficult, especially in a society that embraces the hustle and bustle pace, is making time for sincere self reflection. Admitting our addiction/weakness(es) and the damage it(they) cause to us, family, friends and most important, our God, through our gift of confession, is even more difficult. I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I would love to be perfect. How awesome would that be! However, as any addict knows, healing will not occur until one admits they have a fault, a weakness, an addiction (if that’s what society wants to label it). Only when one finally admits they are powerless over some aspects of life, i.e., that we have inherent flaws, will the healing begin. We do not have all the answers or strength to do it alone.

I would NEVER, EVER wish the confused state an addict finds his or her mind in on any human being. Yet, as you pointed out, “my addiction has been a big blessing in my life.” If one is fortunate enough to recognize and admit they cannot fix everything alone, there is a beautiful sense of hope and peace Christ offers. Anon, you are one of the lucky ones. I too am lucky, for the outcome to staring my weaknesses/addiction straight in the eyes, and admitting to them, has been the gentle embrace and forgiveness from or our ever loving and forgiving Lord. I am even more overwhelmed by the infinity of His love and forgiveness. I pray for all the addicts, let me correct that, I pray for anyone that hasn’t made the time for self reflection, and more importantly, hasn’t admitted and surrendered to their weakness and the havoc they create in their life. They truly don’t know what they are missing.

At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him”

Maybe that's the whole point of any kind of suffering. God gives us the opportunity to let him help us. He is the ultimate solution to all that ails us. I imagine that is why all Fr. Greg's homilys end with bringing us back to the Eucharist.

At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very cool story and explanation of why we have hardships in life!

As you say C.O.O.L. The Eucharist - the centre of our lives. I know its in mine and I try to go to Adoration when I can.


At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those who have no knowledge of them, thought I'd share the 12 steps (paraphrased a bit to keep short). It's a tremendous guide for how to live-

1. Admit that we are powerless (over our addictions- but on the broader scope so much).

2. Understand a Power greater than us can restore us to sanity.

3. Turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.

4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. We’re ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Make amends to such people wherever possible.

10. Continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admit it.

11. Seek, through prayer, to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His Will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Experience spiritual awakening as the result of these steps and practice these principles in our lives.

At 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On general confession:

Below are excerpts from an article written by Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D. The entire content of the article can be found on: I hope this provides the information you are looking for.

The revised rite of the Sacrament of Reconciliation was given to the Church by Pope Paul VI on December 2, 1973. The new rite presents the sacrament in three different ritual forms, three different shapes: (1) Rite for Reconciliation of Individual Penitents, (2) Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution, (3) Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with General Confession and Absolution.

The third form—The Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with General Confession and Absolution—is similar to the preceding form except that the penitent need not mention each serious sin individually and the prayer of absolution is given collectively or "generally" to all those gathered to celebrate the sacrament (general absolution). This rite (the third form) with general absolution is not widely used in the United States.

Rev. Thomas M. Casey, in his article on the same website entitled “Preparing for Confession: Taking Your Spiritual Temperature”offers the following insight on general confession:

“A third form, which is rare, is general absolution. In some instances, usually during wartime or where there are many persons and few priests, individuals are asked to privately express sorrow for their sins and then the priest absolves the entire group at one time.”

At 11:23 AM, Anonymous Tom said...

A "general confession" of the kind Matt Talbot made when he gave up drinking is one in which sins are confessed generally, as opposed to particularly ("I lied all the time," maybe, as opposed to, "I told six lies"), and going back years, as opposed to since your last confession.


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