Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Homily Fifth Sunday of Lent 25 March 2007

There is another version of today’s Gospel story…
which is not very well known.
The woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus.
Jesus says to the scribes and Pharisees and to the crowd:
"Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."
The stones of the scribes and Pharisees begin to drop… one by one…to the ground.
Jesus is bent down writing on the ground…
Then suddenly…from over his shoulder…
a stone flies by and grazes the woman.
Jesus stands up…whirls around…and in amazement He shouts…
"Mother! Stop it!"

[Pause for Laughter]

Jesus, the Son of God, became a man like us in every way…
except that He never knew sin.
Mary, His Mother, was immaculately conceived…
and so was freed from the reality and the effects of Original Sin.

For the rest of us…sin is something we all have to face in this life.

Take a moment to look around the church at one another…
You are looking at a room full of sinners…
including the one who preaches to you tonight/this morning.
I am a sinner.
None of us is without sin.
None of us is immune from the effects of Original Sin…
what Church Tradition calls "concupiscence…"
that tendency we all feel within us
to do things we know we should not do…
things which displease God…
things which separate us from the Church.

Sin separates us from authentic communion with God and the Church.
When we disobey God’s Commandments,
or the teachings revealed by God through the ministry of the Church…
we turn from God
and break the relationship that was begun in Baptism.

It is easy to talk ourselves into believing that we are mostly good people…
and to think that we don’t really commit any serious sins.
As long as we haven’t committed murder…
or robbed an armored car…
or committed adultery like the woman in today’s Gospel…
As long as we haven’t done anything that serious…
we think we’re doing well in living our Christian vocation.

But what about every time we drop the "G-D Bomb"?
What about the glances we take at another who is not our spouse.
Have we been totally pure and honest in our relationships?
What about the Sundays and Holy Days we missed Mass without a serious reason?
Missing Mass unnecessarily on the Lord’s Day and Holy Days is a mortal sin.
What about the unpleasant things we say about someone behind their back?
For the young people…
what about the disrespect you show toward your parents?
or toward your teachers?

If we are really honest with ourselves, and with the Lord…
we have to admit that we all stumble and fall in our journey of faith.
Sure, we try hard to be good.
But we’re certainly not always successful.

When we have fallen…
we Christians get back up
and once again entrust ourselves to the mercy of God, our loving Father!

The singular joy of being Christian
is that we have absolute faith in the mercy of God.
The forgiveness of sins won for us by Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary
is available to us in the Sacrament of Penance.

It is in this great Sacrament that Christ has chosen to bestow His forgiving grace…
through the ministry of the priests of the Church.

The Sacrament of Penance is a marvelous gift from God…
the splendor of which is beyond what human words can describe.
No matter how often we offend the Lord…
He draws near to us with compassion and love…
not to condemn but to forgive and to bring us back into the fold.

An illustration of the mystery of the Lord’s boundless mercy and forgiveness
is found in the Diary of Saint Faustina,
a polish nun who lived in the early 20th century.
The Lord appeared to her in a vision,
and told her to go to the priests of her town
and ask them to build a shrine there.
One of the priests asked for a sign from the Lord, to be sure it was really Him.
He said: "Go ask Jesus what I confessed in my last confession."
When the Lord appeared to her again…
she presented the priest’s question.
Jesus responded: "His sins have been forgiven. I do not remember."

All we have to do is ask…
and a fountain of incredible love and mercy is opened to us…
and our sins are totally washed away!

There is nothing to fear in the Sacrament of Penance.
As the Lord does not condemn,
so the priests of the Church stand ready as God’s instruments of mercy,
not of judgment.

Though we are only required to go to confession once a year,
it is good for our souls to experience God’s mercy often…
ideally once a month.
Frequent confession is life saving medicine for wounded souls.
Just as we have to take care of our bodies to prevent illness…
so it is critical that we take care of the spiritual well-being of our souls.
The Sacrament of Penance brings God’s mercy into the hearts of His people.
It heals wounds and brings relief to suffering souls.

One of our professors told the story of a priest in a concentration camp.
The soldiers…in order to squash the spirit of rebellion…
prepared to decimate the camp…
that is, to line up the prisoners…select every tenth one…
and send those selected to be executed.
They lined up those about to die along the side, while the others watched.
The captured priest was among the crowd forced to look on.
A few of the prisoners about to die looked the priest in the eye,
indicated that they desired absolution.
He discretely made the sign of the cross and said the prayer to himself.
Though they could only show their contrition and not verbalize their sins…
the Sacrament was celebrated, and God’s forgiveness came to them.
The mercy of God even reached into that horror and evil.

God’s mercy through the ministry of the Church can bring powerful healing…
if only we place ourselves at the feet of Christ and ask forgiveness.

When I was home a couple weekends ago,
the Deacon from parish preached the Homily.
He described Lent as a "second chance" that the Lord gives us…
a special time to wake up and realize where we need conversion in our lives.
How many more chances will we get?
How many more Lents will we have?
It is best if we grab hold of the remaining days of this Lent…
and not put off any more the deep conversion to which the Lord calls us.

Confession is a moment to be freed of the burden of sin,
to unload whatever burdens your heart,

Run to Jesus…
fall down before Him…
and encounter the fountain of mercy
that is available to us in the Sacrament of Penance!
Be not afraid!
Let the Lord love you…
Allow the unending torrent of his love to cleanse you and bring you peace!

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