1st Sunday of Lent - homily
Recently, a father of eight children told a story involving one of his sons. It happened at the dinner one night when the boy was around 4 or 5. The son had only eaten a small portion of his dinner. There was a lot of food left on his plate, but he asked to have dessert! The father said no way. The son said he was done eating dinner; the father said that he needed to eat more of his dinner. They went back and forth for a while. There was some complaining and some crying (that was just the Dad).
Finally, the father said, “look, you can’t do anything else until you eat more of your dinner. I think you need to go to your room and think about this. When you’re ready to have more of it, your dinner will be here. We will take this into tomorrow if we have to”. The son went up to his room. The father could hear that his son was upset and crying. After some time, he heard the boy call out to him, “Daddy…”. “Yes”, the father said…“can we start over?”
We’ve probably all been a part of that experience either as a child or as a parent. We all definitely have that experience with Almighty God, our Daddy in Heaven. We know that we can always say, “Daddy, can we start over?”, and He will start over with us. No matter how much food we have on our plate, no matter how messy our plate has become, no matter if we’ve complained or argued with God, no matter how long it has been that we’ve been in relationship with God…we can always start over with Him.
We know this because we know through our faith who God is. When we come here each week, we hear from Scripture that God is merciful, compassionate, and caring toward us. We hear stories like the one from our first reading (Gn 9:8-15). In this story, God takes the initiative in starting over with us. He wipes the slate clean with all of his creatures after the Flood. And, He makes a covenant with Noah and all creatures on Earth. God has been in covenant – in deep relationship, like a marriage covenant – with us from the beginning. He began a covenant with us through Noah, continued it through Abraham and Moses, and fulfilled it with a new covenant in his Son, Jesus Christ.
We know that we can always start over with God. But, there are people who don’t come here anymore and who don’t believe that they can start over with God, for whatever reason. They might think that there is too much food on their plate, that they’ve made too much of a mess, that it’s been too long since they’ve been in friendship with God or the Church…that they can’t say, “Daddy, can we start over?”
We know people like this in our families, among our friends, and among our co-workers. We can help them to know that He will start over with them. We can invite them back to Him. We can invite them back to Church. We can give them an envelope that invites them back. We have these envelopes in the vestibule of Church that contain written invitations from the Archbishop. We can simply give these invitations to them (and then run away if we want, as the Archbishop has said!). If they ask us how to come back, then we can give specific suggestions: “come to Mass with me… come to Confession with me…come pray with me…give Fr. Mike a call…give Fr. Greg a call”.
We have probably thought for a long time that we should do this with these people. Well, as our Lord says in the Gospel, now is the time! Now is the time to invite them. This Lent is the time. And, what time does Jesus say it is? “Now is the time of fulfillment”. Jesus is our fulfillment. He is our satisfaction. We find our happiness and fulfillment in Christ, especially at Mass. We are fulfilled by the Eucharist - the Bread of Life satisfies us. We are fulfilled by the Word of God. We are fulfilled by prayer. We are fulfilled by going to Confession. We are fulfilled by coming here as a family in worship. And, we want those who have been away from us here to experience this. We want them to be fulfilled by Christ.
So, let us take courage, not be afraid, and invite them back to the Lord and back to the Church. Through our invitation and God’s Grace, may they say sometime soon, “Daddy (in Heaven), can we start over?”