Saturday, February 11, 2006

How convinced--and convincing--are you? (Sunday homily)

Father Tim Schehr,
who teaches at our seminary,
often has a column in the Catholic Telegraph
about the Sunday readings—
and it’s always good.

About our first reading, he says,
It’s a little distasteful,
talking about "scabs and pustules"!
We might wonder,
what this has to do
with our relationship with God?

Leprosy was a threat
to the community’s physical health.
Shift our focus to the spiritual level:
What if we were just as careful about
hazards to the spiritual
well-being of the community?

He points out,
"the Bible includes plenty of examples,"
not of physical epidemics,
but "of spiritual epidemics
threatening their lives."

A "spiritual epidemic"—
isn’t that what sin is?

We all have an influence,
either bad, or good:
If I cheat on my homework or an exam,
will that infection
spread to others at school?

On the other hand…
What happens if a friend says to another,
"Let’s go help at the Bethany Center"?

We really aren’t loners,
even if we think we are.
We influence each other;
and if we pull back,
we’re being selfish
about sharing our good influence.

St. Paul reminds us that the most important way
you and I use that influence
is to bring others to salvation!

Our first task is get to heaven;
Second: bring as many others with us as we can!

And heaven helped—Heaven came to us!
Jesus Christ: He alone makes us clean.

When that leper came to Jesus,
he was being very bold.
The first reading said, stay away.

There are a lot of folks who stay away.
They don’t come to church,
they don’t practice faith:
maybe they were hurt;
maybe they just got out of the habit;
maybe they don’t know how to come back.
Or, maybe no one showed them how
in the first place?

That leper was bold: he came to Jesus.
Can you and I be bold—
and go find those lepers,
and bring them to Jesus?

We often talk about the future,
for the Church, our school, our parish.
We see the empty pews
and we get fatalistic.

Well, what about filling those pews?
Here we are: you and I have "caught" the bug:
We’ve been influenced!
And we’re supposed to spread it!

Every weekend, 1400 people
come to Mass in Piqua.
What if 1400 people in this area
had the Bird Flu?

You and I can do this!
We can spread our Faith!
We have all the tools we need!

What holds us back? Two things…
First: do we really believe it?
Or, are we lukewarm?
Second: do we live it?
Do we "walk the walk"?

And that leads to an obvious insight.
If leprosy is a symbol of sin,
then every one of us
needs to say what the leper said:
"Jesus, if you will, you can make me clean."
That’s what we do when we go to confession.

What did the Lord say?
"Go, show yourself to the priest."
It’s not just about "me and God";
It’s about me, God,
and his Church of which I am part.

Receiving the sacrament of reconciliation—
requires me to admit…
that I did wrong;
and that my sins affect not just me,
but the whole Body of Christ.
When my sins weaken me, they weaken us.

The first reading identifies the problem.
The Gospel shows the remedy:
Jesus! He’s the remedy.
The leper said, if you will it…
And Jesus responds,

Those are awesome words!!

Don’t ever doubt
that Jesus wills to make you clean!
Never doubt that! Never doubt it!

When you go to confession,
it is Jesus who meets you.
And I am as serious as a heart attack here:

That’s what "absolve" means!
There’s no detergent on earth
that can do what Jesus can do!

He said: "I do will it—be made clean"…
And what did we hear?
"the leprosy left him…IMMEDIATELY!"
That’s how fast—that’s how completely—
Jesus washes away our sins
in the sacrament of reconciliation.

And it’s as simple as this:
The more powerfully you experience that,
the more deeply you believe it,
and the more convincingly
you bear witness to it!

That leper—was he convinced?
Was he convincing?
He couldn’t shut up! He had to tell!

I said a moment ago that 1400 people
go to Mass every Sunday in Piqua.
What if there were 1400 lepers
in this town, who said,
"Look! He made me clean!"?


Mark Anthony said...

An excellent homily, Father, as usual. I am struck by your reference to the 1400 who attend Mass in Piqua each week. If only we understood the divine power those 1400 have, as well as the power in all the other Christians of Piqua! The practical changes in the world that could be effected if we "knew our own strength" would be awesome. This reminded me of one of the many remarkable quotes from Deus Caritas Est:

The Church is God's family in the world. In this family no one ought to go without the necessities of life. Yet at the same time caritas-agape extends beyond the frontiers of the church. The parable of the good Samaritan remains as a standard which imposes universal love toward the needy whom we encounter "by chance", whoever they may be. Without in any way detracting from this commandment of universal love, the church also has a specific responsibility: Within the ecclesial family no member should suffer through being in need. The teaching of the Letter to the Galatians is emphatic: "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."
Deus Caritas Est, paragraph 25(b)

Father Martin Fox said...


Thanks for your comments and kind words. I'm going to read the holy father's letter next week, during a vacation.

I take it you are feeling better; I'm glad to hear it.