Sunday, February 26, 2017

Deeper into the Mystery this Lent (Sunday homily)

In the 2nd Reading we hear about “the Mysteries of God.” 
For Paul, mystery didn’t mean something opaque 
or unable to be penetrated; but rather, 
something that we can explore endlessly. 
Mystery wasn’t something hidden, 
but something we were invited into by God. 
That’s the whole point of God’s Plan, to bring us into his life.

We often talk of mystery in our faith. If you listen, 
you’ll hear the word a lot during the prayers of Mass. 
What does this mean? 

Think of someone flying over the surface of the ocean – 
from above, you’d see the water and the waves. 
But once you go below the surface, what you see? A whole new world – 
coral reefs in brilliant colors, 
fish and clams and other fascinating creatures. 
But you never see any of this unless you enter in. 
This is what we mean when we refer to “mystery”

Lent starts this Wednesday – the point of Lent 
is to help us enter into the mystery of our own human nature, 
damaged by sin, as well as the mystery of God’s plan of salvation, 
which culminated in Jesus Christ being born, living, teaching, healing – 
and then going to the Cross. 
Like that world below the surface of the water, 
we can miss it if we don’t take time and effort to enter in.

Lent gives us tools to do this. 
We deny ourselves things and we step up our prayer, 
in order to leave behind what is familiar and go deeper – 
to challenge ourselves.

Reminder: during Lent, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday 
are days of fasting, meaning just one full meal, 
although you can have just a little something to tide yourself over 
at the other times. 
This applies to everyone 18 to 59. 
Also, be sensible: if your health situation 
makes fasting risky or harmful, you are not obliged to fast.

And remember that Ash Wednesday and every Friday 
are days of abstaining from meat, 
and this applies to everyone over 14 years of age.

So now is a good time to think about, and make our plans for Lent, 
so we can enter into these mysteries – again, the mystery of my sinful, fallen self, 
and the mystery of how Jesus Christ is saving me and changing me so I can be a saint.

Let me highlight some things we’ll be doing during Lent that might help.

First, the books at the exits of church, Seven Secrets of Confession. 
These have been paid for – they are free to you, please take one. 
I thought about not doing this, given the tightness of the budget, 
but if folks kick in a few extra bucks in the collection, 
we can cover the cost of this. But be sure to take one if you want one.

Each Sunday in Lent, my homily will tie into a chapter from this book. 
That way, we’ll go through the whole book.

When we talk about the mystery of our faith, 
The sacrament of confession is right in the middle of it. 
What do we always say about why Jesus came and died for us? 
To save us from our sins, right? But did you ever stop and ask, 
OK, exactly how does that apply to me? 

The answer is the absolution we receive in confession. 
On the Cross, Jesus said, “It is finished!” 
But where do I go to claim my part of this?
Well, yes, first in baptism, but after that, what do I do when I sin again? 
I get that forgiveness in confession.

I’m going to go so far and say this – 
and this may sound pretty aggressive, but it’s absolutely true:

If you’re not going to confession, 
you’re fundamentally missing out on what our Catholic Faith is about. 
It’s about Jesus forgiving us and changing us. 

Yes, the Eucharist is at the center, 
but in order to receive eternal life from the Eucharist, 
we must first receive forgiveness in confession. 
Confession is the door that leads to the Holy of Holies.

Second, I’m going to have a special event 
for the women and girls of the parish, of all ages! 
on Saturday, March 11. Mass – adoration + confessions –
 a talk on prayer – I’m calling this 
“A woman’s prayer is the heart of the church,” so that’ll be the topic. 
After that, we’ll have brunch and we’ll finish by Noon.

Now, men, here’s what I’m asking from you. 
I’ve already recruited some men to do the meal. 
The rest of you, I’m asking you to step up that day,

and take care of chores, take care of the kids, take care of whatever needs to be taken care of, 
so that the women – of all ages! – can attend this. 

Third, I’m going to give a series of talks every Tuesday at 7 pm –
 just one hour – on “How to defend the Faith.” 
We’ll talk about marriage and divorce and same-sex issues; 
assisted suicide; devotion to Mary; and the Eucharist. 
There are two Tuesdays when we’ll have confessions, 
but the other four, we’ll have these talks. 

If you look in today’s bulletin, you’ll see a handout that looks like this. 
It gives lots of opportunities to grow in Lent. And of course, there are more besides these.

Whether you or I go deeper into the mystery of our Faith 
is a decision we have to make. It won’t just happen. Go deeper! 
Find Jesus and know Jesus better, and let him change you, this Lent!

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