Sunday, April 21, 2013

Accused Boston bombers: what if someone had told them about Jesus Christ? (Sunday homily)

In my homily today, I’m going to try to answer two questions: 
what do we mean by “salvation,” 
and why are we supposed to tell everyone about it?

It says in the first reading that Paul and Barnabas 
brought them the word of salvation.

What is that salvation?

Sometimes we talk about our sins being taken away; 
or we talk about heaven being opened to us; 
or, we talk about the life of the Holy Spirit being poured into us.

Salvation is all of that and more.

But it might help if we talk about what we’re saved from.
And that’s the sin-problem that all humanity has.

Of all the things we believe as Christians, 
people can challenge all of them--except one.
It takes no faith all to agree that humanity has a problem.

A sin problem. The problem of evil.
We saw it on display in Boston last week; 
we see it in all the wars going on. 

Or in the horrors of an abortion chamber in Philadelphia,
that the media is barely reporting about.

But if the problem of evil 
were merely a matter of a couple of misfits in Boston, 
or an abortionist here or there, 
or a dictator in some foreign country,
We could easily deal with evil.

But the great Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, 
The “line dividing good and evil”
isn’t between nations, or groups of people--
It “cuts through the heart of every human being; 
And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

One way or the other, each of us has a part of the problem.
Because our sin-problem is ultimately a self-problem, a pride-problem.
The words first whispered to Eve in the Garden 
echo a thousand ways, every day, in ourselves: “you shall be as God.”

Now, God could have responded by saying, 
“Too bad my experiment failed!”
Or he could have fixed us without telling us, 
the way you might wipe a computer clean 
and start over with new software.

But in choosing to save us, God chose a way that invites a choice from us.

Man’s sin-problem put the cross at the center of our world;
God let us put him on that cross;
And when we realized what we’d done, 
all that was left was either to turn away,
Or to kneel and let him love us.

When we do that, we receive the life of the Spirit 
as an alternative to a life of self-worship--
which is how we got in our mess in the first place.

So that’s the answer to my first question.
That’s what salvation is: God’s life in us--the Holy Spirit--
so that we can have life, forever, in God.

In the Gospel, our Lord said, no one takes us from his hand;
But that doesn’t keep us from jumping out.
Baptism puts us there; and when we’ve lost our way, 
the sacrament of confession puts us back.

Now, why do we tell others about it?
Or am I assuming something: 
Do we tell others about this salvation?

Paul and Barnabas went far and wide sharing this message--
and they paid a terrible price for it.

If the people they came for would have done about as well 
whether the Apostles had made the trip or not, 
Then how foolish Paul and Barnabas were!

Fast-forward to last week, in Boston. 
Those two young men who are suspected of setting off that bomb--
who seem to have lost their way and listened to evil counsel;
I wonder if anyone told them about Jesus Christ?
What if they listened?

The amazing thing is, no one had to go around the world, 
to the Caucasus Mountains, to share the hope of Christ.
Those men came here, where the vast majority are Christians;
To a city with hundreds of thousands of Catholics.
The older one, who died, looked around and said, 
no one has any values anymore.

Does it matter if we share our faith?
Does it matter if our lives are convincing witnesses?
What do you think?

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Thank you, Father. I understand what you are saying. Evil is within me, no matter how "nice" I might feel or seem to others.

Your blog is very touching, and has inspired me to change in innumerable small ways for the better. I am glad to be able to read it.