Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sin & redemption, time & eternity (Sunday homily)

(My homily is a little different today. Comments are always welcome, especially for this one.)

My homily today is going to be kind of heavy. 
And a little longer. But I’ve heard you’re used to that?
It’s about sin and redemption; time and eternity. 
I know what some of you are thinking: oh no! 
Now we won’t make it to Bob Evans ahead of the Protestants!

Why would I want to tear off this big bite?

Well, because that’s what Saint Paul is talking about 
in the second reading.

We heard Saint Paul contrast 
the “sufferings of this present time” 
with “the glory to be revealed”; 
and he also talks about “all creation” suffering, 
and “groaning” to be set free.

One of the things Paul is telling us is that sin isn’t just personal. 
Sin affects all creation. The entire universe!

How this happened we do not know. 
Genesis describes God creating Adam and Eve in Paradise, 
where there is no time; no decay; no weariness; no suffering. 

When Adam and Eve fell from grace, and they leave, 
they enter this world of time, 
which brings with it both growth and decay, 
suffering and triumph, life and death. 

We can challenge the story of Genesis all we want; 
but what Saint Paul says about Creation is demonstrably true: 
it’s embodied in the laws of physics. 
This glorious creation, on its own, is running down toward death!

So what is sin? Sin is rebellion: our will against God’s. 
And once a gap was created between humanity and God -- 
a darkness of distrust -- that brings corruption. 
This is what we call Original Sin, 
that created a rupture in the harmony between man and God.

Do you want an illustration of this? Think of Christmas. 
You have been working hard preparing for Saint Nicholas’ visit, 
and at last the family dives into 
the pile of presents under the tree. 
There’s a moment of pure joy: the tree, the lights, 
your children’s faces, it’s so wonderful, isn’t it?

How long does it last? Before…

“Gimme, gimme!” “That’s mine! Take your hands off!” 
And then, the unkindest words of all: 
“Is that all there is?”

This sin problem of ours, 
which takes pleasure and turns it to lust, or greed or gluttony, 
not only corrupts us, but also our relationships. 

And that leads to injustice and cruelty on a social level. 
In our own history, 
somehow a lot of individual people with bigoted views 
turned into Jim Crow and segregation.

If you’re like me, you read to keep up with 
what’s going on the world. 
Whether it’s world news, or science, or medicine, 
lots of folks are always trying 
to identify the causes for our problems.

Well, Saint Paul just told us: the problem is sin. 

Do you want to change the world? Start by changing you. 
St. Francis, and St. Ignatius of Loyola, among others, got this: 
they realized the power 
of a small number of people who lived truly changed lives.

So our program for changing the world 
begins right here in our tiny corner of it. 
And to the extent each of us seeks our own true conversion: 
through self knowledge, humility, 
and coming to Jesus frequently in confession and the Eucharist? 
That’s a powerful force!

But we don’t stop with personal conversion. 
When sin infects our society with injustice, we also change laws. 
That’s what we did with segregation, 
and it’s what we are still seeking to do in other ways, 
particularly defending human life in the womb.

Let me expand a little more on conversion.
And I want to use the example 
of a movie from a few years ago called Groundhog Day. 
And I use this because it connects to the other idea 
in what we heard from Saint Paul, which is eternity.

In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray 
is an cynical, self-absorbed TV weatherman 
who is somehow trapped living Groundhog Day, 
over, and over and over.

At first, the Bill Murray character 
lives this endless day as a kind of hell. 
He’s trapped and he can’t escape. 

Then it becomes a kind of purgatory. 
It begins to change him. As he changes, 
the day goes from being a nightmare to something truly human; 
he becomes someone he never had been before. 
Someone who gives, and helps, and changes others.

You see? What redeems that endless day isn’t a different day; 
but a different Bill Murray! Conversion. 

When we talk about eternity, 
sooner or later we talk about heaven or hell. 
So here’s a way to understand heaven and hell.

If you and I live this life unhappy with God, 
unhappy with anyone else, unable to find any joy…
then one day we will wake up, and that will be our eternity: hell.

And that will happen if we try to live a life where we are king. 
Remember what the sin of Adam and Eve was: 
“you shall be as god.” 
They wanted a world that revolves around them. 

Isn’t that what we all crave? Isn’t that what greed and lust are? 
And when anything threatens our king-of-the-world routine, 
that’s when wrath comes out. 
Either kids hitting each other with Christmas toys, 
or nations with bombs.

On the other hand, if you and I find joy in this world -- 
above all, in people…

And that joy comes, doesn’t it, not really from taking…but giving!
Look at how all known forms of life operate: 
we are designed to give life. 

It’s woven into everything about us. 
To motivate us, 
it’s coupled with really strong desires and pleasures -- 
which, of course, we manage to mess up! 
Even so, there is no joy so great as the joy of giving life!

Yes, I mean procreation, but not just that.

Long after a father and mother 
have raised their children, what then?
They help others do the same. 
Or they find other ways to share life with friends and neighbors, or even strangers. 
Isn’t that what we do with all the countless charities we have? 

And those of us who never have our own children -- 
such as priests -- isn’t that what we do? 
We give life in other ways.

This fundamental nature of each of us -- 
dying to self, giving of self, for others -- 
is what gives the most powerful satisfaction of all. 

The Gospel tells about the “seed”; 
And we know from another passage 
that our Lord calls himself the grain of wheat 
that dies, to sprout up to new life. 
What did he say? 
“I came that they might have life -- and have it to the full.”

This is what the Cross and Resurrection are; 
what the Holy Mass is; 
what we seek in the sacraments, right?

Isn’t it interesting that it’s also built into our very DNA?

And if, each day, we live that kind of life -- 
in the words attributed to Saint Francis, 
“in giving that we receive; and in dying, 
that we’re born to eternal life” -- 
then one day, we will wake up, not in time, 
but to that endless day: 
an eternity of life and joy: and that is heaven!


Jenny said...

Wow, I needed that!
The great sin of our age, I think, is narcissism. I don't know when it became so endemic, but probably from the post-WWII era on: Joy in winning became hedonistic accruing all the "stuff" rationed or unavailable in prior times. I'm old enough to remember the 50s and 60s well. Your Christmas gifts analogy is very apt; and your Groundhog Day example of redemption is spot on. May the scales fall from my eyes before the day ends...
Thanks, Father.

truthfinder2 said...

Thank you, Father. I would gladly forego dinner (at Bob Evans,or anywhere else) to feast on a homily like this one! ~ Rosemary A.

Trooper York said...

Great Homily Father.

One question Father. How do you feel about the Holy Father's recent statements about"solution to celibacy for priests?"

I understand that people are saying he was "misquoted" and "misunderstood." That seems to be happening a lot with this Pope.

I would agree with that this interview with a 90 year old journalist who relies on his "memory" has to be suspect but why is this happening continually with the Holy Father?

Trooper York said...

I mean we didn't seem to have this problem with John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI or any other Pope that I can remember. I could be wrong but this guy seems very different.

What am I missing?

Trooper York said...

Sorry this is the link to the CBS news article.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I don't worry about those things.

Linda Fiessinger said...

What a great homily. I too believe that sin is ultimately our will placed above His will, but you stated it so well. We as people of God need to show the way by following His will in our lives and caring for others in our everyday moments. I look forward to reading more of your posts.