Sunday, April 02, 2017

'Untie him and let him go' (Sunday homily)

When Lazarus came out of the tomb, Jesus said: 
“untie him and let him go.” 

In those days, when someone died, 
the body was wrapped in strips of cloth. 
The power of Jesus’ word – 
the same word that spoke the worlds into existence – 
had called him from death back to life. 
And yet, those funeral cloths still bound him, 
and they had to be taken away.

In the book we’ve been reading together, 
The Seven Secrets of Confession, 
we come to “secret” number seven, 
and our author makes a very similar point: 
when you and I receive the Sacrament of Confession, 
Jesus speaks directly to us. He revives us.

And yet, in order for us to live new lives,
there are still things binding us, holding us back. 
In his book, he calls them “chains,” 
but Jesus has the same word for us: 
“untie him and let him go!”

So what are these chains? Mr. Flynn mentions three:

One is “lack of faith.” Look deep inside: 
do you truly believe that resurrection power 
is at work in the sacrament of reconciliation? 
Is this just a ritual, or do I believe real power is working here? 
If you’ll forgive me, it reminds me of the old spiritual: 
“There is power, power, wonder-working power, 
in the Blood of the Lamb”! 

When we prepare to confess our sins, 
The words of that song would be good to repeat to ourselves, 
because let’s be honest: many times, 
we go to this sacrament hoping for forgiveness, 
while expecting little to change. 
Don’t sell short the wonder-working power of His Blood!

A second chain that binds us is “idolatry.” 
That is to say, in order to see real conversion and change, 
it’s not enough to say “I’m sorry for my sins.” 

If you or I are wrestling with a sinful habit, 
it may be something we need fully to dethrone and renounce.
It isn’t enough just to take it from the top shelf, 
and move it somewhere else; it has to be cast away, forever. 

To give a concrete example: for some of us, alcohol is too important. 
We can make excuses, deny, minimize, point at others, 
have resentment – but none of this really changes the truth.
For some of us, the only answer is to renounce it and remove it. 
And the same point could be made 
about lots of sinful habits and attachments we cling to.

The third chain – and often hardest to let go of – is unforgiveness. 
Our author reminds us of the sobering words of the Catechism: 
God’s “outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts 
as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us.”

Look: forgiving someone isn’t saying what he or she did wasn’t wrong. 
It doesn’t mean what happened was OK. 

No, what forgiveness means is simply this: 
you are giving that person to God. Let God take care of it. 
Most of us have learned this lesson in life: 
that there is no perfect justice in this world. 
True justice waits for God. So those who have wronged you, 
give them to God. Let go and let God. 
And if it helps, realize how much you, yourself, 
will benefit from that letting go of a chain that binds you.

Mr. Flynn gives some excellent practical advice 
about how we really can change our negative feelings and words
into blessings and peace. 
But because I’m trying to be brief today, 
I’ll just point you to his advice, on page 152.

This is the last Sunday we’ll look together 
at the sacrament of God’s restoration – 
that is, the Sacrament of Confession. 

Next Sunday begins Holy Week, and our focus will be 
on Jesus’ journey from the hosannas of Palm Sunday, 
to his suffering, his death and his resurrection. 
Try if at all possible to take time during Holy Week 
To enter into these mysteries. 

The more real these are for us, the clearer and more surely 
comes the answer to the questions that haunt us:
How can God love me? Does he really forgive me? Can I really change?

Do you want Jesus to call you to life? Come to confession!
In addition to our usual times this coming week, 
during Holy Week, we will have confessions 
on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. 
Jesus wants to untie you and let you go free.

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