4th Sunday of Lent - homily
Recently, I got a call to anoint a parishioner. This sacrament is the Anointing of the Sick. It is no longer called “Last Rites” or “Extreme Unction”. And, it is not just for those who are dying; it is for those who are gravely ill or about to undergo an operation. So, I never know exactly what I will encounter when I go to anoint someone. I learned pretty quickly in this situation – in talking with the man and in being with his family – that he was, in fact, dying. So, I asked him, “are you afraid of dying?” Immediately and without any hesitation, he said, “no”. What a response of faith! This was one of the main points I made in the homily at his funeral – that he had such great faith and hope. His faith and hope was that what was on the other side was all good.
We hear about faith in Christ in the famous lines from John’s Gospel, chapter three. “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save it. Whoever believes in the Son will have eternal life” (v. 16-17). One of the aspects of faith in Christ is that it demands a response. Faith in Christ demands a response! Just like love demands a response. If we say that we love someone but never respond to them in any way, then we really don’t love them. It’s like what St. John writes in his first letter: “whoever says that he knows Christ but doesn’t keep the commandments (doesn’t respond to Him) is a liar and truth does not dwell in him” (2:4). If we say that we believe in Him, we need to respond to Him. God has responded to us throughout history – throughout Scripture and Tradition. His response of love and mercy is made in full when He sends His Son to us, that we might believe in Him and have eternal life.
So, we know that we need to respond to God. How do we do it? It’s really the same question that we already know the answer to: how do we respond to someone we love or are in love with? We know how to respond to them. We do something beautiful for them. We do something immediate, something grand, something creative, generous, kind, or thoughtful. We might do it for the sake of love or to win the love of the person. It might be different with God because we don’t need to win His love. We know that He loves us. So, we should do something for Him for the sake of love. He is Love! We should do something beautiful, something immediate, something creative, generous, kind, or thoughtful. As Mother Teresa would say, “do something beautiful for God”.
It really is the same thing as being in a relationship with someone else. We should do things for God as we would do for other people. He is a person and we are in relationship with Him. I will leave it up to all of us to figure out ways to respond to God because I think we all know how to respond to Him in our own ways.
Now, there might be some people who are afraid to respond to God because they haven’t responded to Him in a long time. We are reminded, though, in the second reading that “God is rich in mercy”. He is rich in mercy. He offers His mercy to us as soon as we make the initial response to Him. He is rich in mercy and offers us a bailout. We hear a lot about bailouts these days. Well, in his richness, God offers a bailout, especially to those of us who are spiritually bankrupt. We call this Confession. At St. Andrew’s, we offer many opportunities for “God’s bailout” in Confession. During Lent, we have extraordinary opportunities for it – there are confessions on Tuesdays at 8 pm in the Church, we will have a Penance Service on Monday, March 30 at 7:30 pm, and all of the ordinary times that we offer confessions. We offer it a lot here because God is rich in mercy, and we want to offer people here a chance to receive his rich mercy.
Finally, in a few minutes, we will live out these lines from John’s Gospel. God will send His Son to us in the Eucharist, not to condemn us but to save us. When we come to the Eucharist – the visible sign of God’s love and mercy - when we come to Holy Communion, we make a response in faith, and as Jesus teaches about the Eucharist, we have eternal life.