Sunday, March 22, 2009

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.


At 1:06 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

John Stainer's lovely anthem using today's Gospel text, performed by St Paul's Cathedral Choir.

At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a poem I thought of in hearing this Gospel, The Hound of Heaven. I don’t know exactly why- maybe it was the lector’s stressing of the words that God “sent” his Son. Those who loved the darkness were sent light- and light can’t be ignored. Some may close their eyes to try to avoid it, but at the very least, it will cast a shadow. It will reach us all in some way.

In hearing this week’s Gospel, I found myself thinking about the number of times (and ways) God has pursued me. I was asked if some of the changes I see in my life (mostly in the way I tend to think) are a measure of Grace. I think I said something like, “I don’t know- maybe.” But thought of this poem stayed with me and I reread last night. I can see how Grace has followed me. I can see how many times I’ve fled and was pursued. Lately, many things stay with me (a prick at my conscience) that would never have captured my attention before, and I think that is when the “hound” is catching up. I know several who are also “on the run,” but I believe in what this Gospel says. He sent His Son for us. For those who believe (maybe even those who simply want to believe), God will hunt you!

At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to say something about youth group- I knew this Sunday might be a bit hectic w/all the goings on of everyone, so I went to Sat. Mass. I asked my daughter to come with me. She declined; she was going to youth group (jr, youth group)on Sunday and afterwards would (dah!) go to Mass with her friends.

We often attend the 6:00 (teen) Mass and she sees those kids (the teens) sitting together. To her, it was "cool" to go to Mass, as they do, with her friends. To me- it was VERY cool! We all know (hopefully) that we have our family with whom we can share our faith, but to have an extended group of peers is truly a blessing.

At 1:31 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

In reading the criticism of the Pope’s comments regarding the use of condoms and the spread of HIV, I was struck by the outrage to his message rather than a focus on the meaning of what he was saying. His words:

“If the soul is lacking… the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanisation of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another.”

Much research has been done to determine the most effective way of reducing the spread of HIV. In the African countries, in particular, the spread of the disease has decreased most effectively where the promotion of having single sex partners has been the primary focus. In countries where faithfulness grows, so does fidelity- that is what will halt the AIDS epidemic.

Another point- look at our nation where the highest percentages of citizens with AIDS live- they are urban areas that have HUGE programs that distribute MILLIONS of free condoms. Am I missing something in my understanding of what works and what doesn’t?

At 3:09 PM, Blogger fran said...

I just shake my head, every time I hear something or read an article which states emphatically that abstinence is not the answer to teen pregnancy or HIV/AIDS transmission.

In an editorial, in Friday's WPost, the writer begins by saying that Pope Benedict is wrong (yeah, right, the pope wrong on a moral issue..) in his recent commentary on condoms, while in Africa. He goes on to say this:

"Are condoms foolproof protection against infection by HIV, which causes AIDS? No." He then writes that misuse and breakage are common problems. Is this contradictory or what? Truly amazing.

Also, in that same Thursday edition of the paper, there was a front page article on the teen birthrate increasing for the second consecutive year. The article stated that "The reasons for the increase remain unclear, although experts speculated that it could be a result of growing complacency about AIDS and teen pregnancy, among other factors." It continued, saying that this increase "raised concerns across the ideological spectrum and fueled an intense debate over federal funding for sex-education programs that focus on encouraging abstinence until marriage."

Okay, let me get this straight. The teen pregnancy rate is on the rise and there is debate about cutting funding ( note: Pres. Obama will be making a decision over the course of the next few weeks on whether he will continue or cut this funding. ) for an important program which would help this problem?? Clearly a case of the blind leading the lame.

At 5:05 PM, Anonymous mindy said...


I receive these "quote of the day" things from time to time (how, I don't know- don't remember registering for anything," but today the quote from from Thomas More-

"I die the King's good servant, but God's first."

Our Christian politicians would do well to remember this!

At 8:03 PM, Anonymous YG*junkie said...

Hey FG
Do you think you could post your reflection from last night's Adoration at YG? It was awesome :)

At 11:02 PM, Blogger fran said...

Thanks Mindy!

I also wanted to say thank you to CynthiaBC for the link to the beautifully sung gospel text.

And thanks to the Anon, who mentioned "The Hound of Heaven" - I have heard that poem mentioned elsewhere before, but never looked into it. I read it tonight and "get" the gist of it, but I sure could benefit from the CliffNotes!

At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two questions-

1. How does one distinguish between swallowing their pride and setting aside their dignity? Or- is there even a difference?

2. What is more correct, to be loyal to another person or to be loyal to a value?

These were ?’s posed to me (directed at me) for which I have no clear answer, so I stumbled in my response. I’m not even sure what I said.

At 8:26 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

“How does one distinguish between swallowing their pride and setting aside their dignity? Or- is there even a difference?”

There IS a difference between swallowing one’s pride and setting aside one’s dignity. Both “pride” and “dignity” refer to a sense of self-importance, but the two words have very different connotations. Pride can prevent one from acknowledging one’s faults, accepting assistance or from seeing value in others. Dignity is an inherent worth that one has, just by one’s very existence.

There may be any number of times and reasons one may have to swallow one’s pride, but it is exceedingly rare that one should surrender one’s dignity. Sometimes pride-swallowing is forced: accepting groceries from a food bank; filing for unemployment benefits; asking a nurse for a bedpan. Other times pride-swallowing is a choice: continuing an inconvenient pregnancy; seeking help for substance abuse; reconciling with one’s spouse; or even stepping into the confessional. Those who serve pride-swallowers well do not lose sight of the fact that swallowing pride is not giving up dignity, and treat their charges with respect and compassion.

No examples of surrendering dignity come to my mind, other than Christ’s Passion. He was stripped, beaten within an inch of His life, paraded through the streets, and nailed to a cross. I can’t wrap my mind around how much He must have suffered. [I suppose the Mel Gibson movie would have given me a good idea, however I had my husband skip over the beating scene on the DVD, and I covered my eyes during the cross-nailing.] I am in awe of what Christ went through to save us.

At 12:24 PM, Blogger fran said...

I concur with all that you have said about pride vs. dignity. I believe that pride is, in a sense, dignity in overdrive.

I wanted to add that although Jesus' appearance was not dignified, his dignity, within the horror inflicted upon him, remained intact.

"Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth." Is 53:7

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“I wanted to add that although Jesus' appearance was not dignified, his dignity, within the horror inflicted upon him, remained intact.”

I tend to think the kind of person I am is a reflection of what happens in my life. I can see times when I’ve endured something “undignified” and therefore thought I was w/o dignity. Those are many times when I too felt shame, so I think I was confused about whether or not I was swallowing my pride or giving away my dignity. So, Fran, your comment makes a lot of sense to me.


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