Sunday, March 03, 2019

'It's game time, let's go! Let's make the best Lent ever!' (Sunday homily)

The first reading said, 
“When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear”;
and that’s a good image for what we want to do with Lent:
We want to get those unsavory parts of our lives up on the surface –
and, of course, get them out.

If you are thinking about Lent as something to be “got through” – 
just grit your teeth and march through to Easter – 
then you’re not going to gain much of anything from Lent.

The whole point of Lent is conversion. We all know that Jesus said: 
“Repent, and believe in the Gospel. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
All Christians know that. 

But what we as Catholics do – that not all Christians do – 
is give ourselves six weeks of focusing on that repentance, 
that turning back to God, that getting ready for the Kingdom.

Now, you and I can shake the sieve,
But truly, the conversion – the change – only happens with God’s help;
With the help of his supernatural grace, that is, his divine life poured into our lives.

So, again, this isn’t just a matter of ritual or rules.
Those exist in service to something far more important, which is – 
To repeat myself – our conversion. Our becoming heavenly.

One day every one of us will leave this life, we know not when.
But when you depart this life, where will you go?
Do you want to go to heaven? Of course you do.
You might kid yourself and think it’s a foregone conclusion – 
but really, what exactly in the words of Jesus lets you think so?

Seriously now – does what Jesus says really make sense, 
if heaven were something we can all count on?
Jesus keeps saying, wake up! Get ready! Change your life!
Why would he do that if we could just cruise on auto-pilot 
straight through the Pearly Gates? 

Here’s a lesson that each of us can – and will learn – during Lent:
Change is hard. Conversion is hard.
If you give up bacon or beer for Lent, 
How long before you’re looking for a loophole?
Will it be a week? Or only a few days? Maybe hours! 
Me too!

One reason to give something up is precisely to humble ourselves, 
and to face the reality of our weakness and our spiritual flabbiness.
And I say it again: me too.

In the second reading, St. Paul talked about resurrection.
When the discipline of Lent becomes a real drag, 
remind yourself of what lies ahead. 
By the calendar, Lent leads to Holy Week and then to Easter:
The way of the Cross to Calvary, to the grave and then to new life.
The way of our life is to purgatory, one way or the other, 
and then to heaven and one day to resurrection.

One day you and I will live again, flesh and blood, new and improved.
What is mortal will clothe itself with immortality.
That’s what Jesus told us to get ready for. 
The classic tools of this conversion are fasting, prayer and giving alms.
We deny ourselves food and other things we love;
We pray with greater intensity;
And we give money or other things away to help others.

No matter who we are, or what our age is, these are things we can do.
You may think that giving money or stuff away is for grownups.
But if you’re a kid, you can do it to.
Talk to mom and dad about how to do this; but just ask yourself:
What do you have that you can share?
What could you give away?
I repeat, again: talk to mom and dad about this.

In today’s bulletin are a couple of handouts.
Our Life Committee has organized some movie nights; 
each film was chosen as a way to grow in faith.
The other handout gives all manner of helps to grow in holiness.

I especially want you to notice some opportunities for prayer:
Daily Mass – Morning Prayer before Mass – Stations of the Cross –
Adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist.

And I want to invite you to come to the sacrament of confession.
Not only is that when we “shake the sieve” of our lives;
It’s also what helps us be transformed from bad trees into good.

Is there anyone here who wonders if you’ll make it to heaven?
Here’s one – me! I am a sinner and I know I have a lot to answer for.
And I know I’m far from alone.

Here’s a promise I would not make if I did not truly believe it.
It is my conviction that if you keep going to confession, 
no matter what else happens, no matter what struggles you have, 
no matter how long it takes and how weak you are,
Keep going to confession, and you WILL GO TO HEAVEN.

Why do I believe that?
Because hell is the place of the proud. Too proud to ask.
Confession, on the other hand, is a lot like purgatory. 
We know just how weak we are and how much we need to change.

When you are in confession, and Jesus tells you, “I forgive you,” 
You and I are the thief on the cross, 
Empty-handed, but filled with absolute peace!
In all the Bible, Jesus gave so many assurances to people,
But only one person heard him say, 
“This day you will be with me in Paradise”?

Please look at this handout, to notice all the times for confession. 
During Lent we’ll start confession a little earlier on Thursdays.
You can also see all the opportunities in nearby parishes.
And lots of confessions during Holy Week, but why wait?

It’s game-time, let’s go! Let’s you and I make this our best Lent ever.
I’m praying that this will be a time of conversion:
For myself, for you, and for our parish.
Will you join me in that prayer, and in making that happen?

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