Thursday, October 11, 2007

Homily: 24th Sunday of the Year

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalms 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
First Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-32 or 15:1-10

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen!

1. There is a story about a little boy that I know. Being the good, warm hearted boy that he was, Tommy decided to do a good deed.

2. Lying in bed early one Sunday morning he decided to make his mom and dad breakfast, and he immediately set out for the kitchen. He had seen his mom make pancakes a hundred times so he knew exactly how to make them. First, he needed a big bowl, so he opened the cupboard and peered into the darkness inside…he finally caught sight of the big bowl way in the back. He reached in, grabbed it, and yanked. It made the biggest racket he had ever heard when all those pots and pans came tumbling out…they were strewn all over the floor.

3. Next, he pulled a chair over to the counter, crawled up on it, opened the cupboard and pulled down the big canister of flour, spilling it all over himself, all over the countertop, all over the floor, and even all over the dog. Needless to say, the little guy was getting a little frustrated, but he really wanted to do this nice thing for his parents so he kept plugging along. Suddenly, he saw his puppy licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push him away and in the process knocked the eggs onto the floor. He tried to clean up this huge mess as fast as he could, but he slipped on the eggs and got his pajamas all dirty. He was nothing but a big bundle of mess, covered from head to toe in flour and eggs.

4. Just then he noticed his dad standing in the doorway and the tears began to well up in his eyes. All he wanted to do was a good deed for his mom and dad, but all he ended up doing was making a really big mess…he thought he was in for a talking to…and maybe a little spanking, but his father just stood there and watched him. Then, walking right through the mess, his dad, with tears in his own eyes picked Tommy up in his strong yet gentle arms and hugged him, getting his own pajamas dirty in the process.

5. In today’s readings we hear a lot about people who have made messes; people who have turned aside from the way that God had pointed out, people who worshiped idols, people who were blasphemers and arrogant, people who left home and squandered their inheritance on a life of dissipation. People like us. We are all sinners…you and me. There is no way to avoid that fact – even St. Paul in the second reading admits that he was a sinner. In his own words, he was “the foremost” of all sinners.

6. St. Paul had a very healthy sense of his own sin. On one hand he knew he was a great sinner, but on the other hand he also knew that he was redeemed by the blood of the Lamb – Jesus Christ. He knew that like the prodigal son, he could run back to his Father at any time, and he would welcome him back with open arms, and a fabulous feast. He knew that even though he was weak and foolish, his Father would lift him out of his mess and embrace him in his most loving and merciful arms.

7. We, like St. Paul in the first reading, and the prodigal son in the gospel have made messes in our life – some big, some small, but messes nevertheless. But I don’t care what mess – what sin we are involved in, God wants to enter that mess and lift us out. Whether it’s an addiction to pornography, a past abortion, contraception, marriage problems, a living together before marriage, drinking, drugs, murder, or theft, God wants to forgive us. He wants to enter our messes and rescue us from them. He wants to wipe away our tears. He wants to forgive us. But my friends, are we humble enough, are we childlikee enough, to let him love us?

8. Letting God love us, letting him forgive us…that is what the Sacrament of Penance is all about. It’s not about beating ourselves up. It’s not about telling our sins to a priest just for the sake of telling them. In fact it’s really not even the priest that we are confessing our sins to. We are really confessing them to Jesus, Who is present to us through a mere instrument; the instrument of His priest. It is Jesus himself who is sitting in the confessional through the mysterious ministry of the priest. This is the very reason why my personal preference as a priest is to hear confessions behind the screen. It helps us to remember that it’s not Fr. Christensen, or Fr. Tony, or Fr. Tom to whom we are confessing, it is Jesus, and the fact that you don’t have to look at us will hopefully help to remind you that it is Jesus, not Fr. Christensen or any other priest who you are confessing your sins to, it is Jesus Himself.

9. Still, even though we know it is Jesus to whom we are confessing it can be hard. I know that sometimes we may feel like little Tommy – waiting for the wrath of our Father – a talking to, or a spanking. But we know from scripture and from our own experience that Our Father is not going to turn his back to us, but rather he will run to meet us like the father of the prodigal son. He’s not going to be angered at our sinfulness; rather he will rejoice that this child of His who was dead through sin is once again alive.

10. My friends, today we gather around this altar to enter into greatest act of love our God could ever offer to us, the very death and resurrection of his own Son Jesus Christ. Today we will truly and really be present as he freely gives his life so that we might live. So let us resolve right here and now to allow God to love us, to let him enter our messes through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I promise you, that if you allow yourself to be honest, if you really open up your messes to the Lord in the Sacrament you will not regret it, for in that moment He will look at you, and with tears in His eyes He will walk right through the midst of your mess, He will lift you up and hold you in His strong yet gentle hands, and love you with all His Merciful Heart. And then, my friends, the celebration in heaven will begin.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation, have mercy on us.
Mary, refuge of sinners, pray for us.
St. Rose, pray for us. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If memory serves me right, a new priest at a parish long ago, gave this irresistable invitation:
"Christ awaits us in the sacrament of Confession. Let's encounter Him together"