Sunday, February 23, 2020

Hate or heaven (Sunday homily)

The first thing to say about this Gospel 
is that when our Lord Jesus talks about “offering no resistance,” 
he is not talking about life-and-death situations, 
and he is not talking about whether we protect someone else.

Rather, he is focusing on those situations 
where our own pride is ruffled. 
These are situations where we can make the choice – 
in the words of Bishop Fulton Sheen, 
between winning an argument, or winning a soul.

The second thing to say is that this is about generosity.
It’s one thing to be generous with money, and even with time.
But to be able to forebear bad treatment and unfairness; 
to be able to forgive someone who has wronged you? 

That is an extraordinary generosity. 
We might even call it a divine generosity; and in fact, that is what it is. 
This is exactly the generosity God practices all the time; 
toward every single one of us.

Have you come to that powerful awakening, 
of realizing down to the marrow of your bones 
just how much you have been forgiven?
Maybe it was God who was so incredibly generous toward you; 
or maybe a spouse; or maybe your parents?

I think this hits a lot of us at a certain point, 
where we realize just how ungrateful and sullen and selfish 
we were as kids; and yet our parents believed in us and stuck with us.
Many of us struggle to forgive the wrongs other commit against us.
I suggest revisiting, with some deep reflection, 
those moments when you were on the wrong side; you were guilty; 
you had to be forgiven – and you were.

The more alive that memory is for you – of being forgiven – 
the easier it will be to be generous with mercy toward others.

To put it another way: we can either have hate; or we can have heaven.
If you hold on to one, you must let go of the other.
And to repeat, this is a divine generosity;
Which might lead you to say, then it’s impossible for me, so why try?

From the moment you and I were baptized, 
we began on the journey to becoming divine ourselves.
Does that shock you? Yet that is what we believe as Christians.
To be a Christian is to have the Divine Trinity dwell in us.
To be united to Christ – to be a little Christ – to be part of him.

Is Jesus divine? Is he God? You know that he is!
Are you united to Jesus? Is that not what all our sacraments, all our faith is about? 
What else does it mean to be a Christian, 
what else does the Eucharist – Holy Communion – mean, but to be united to Jesus?

So however shocking or baffling it may be to consider, yes:
You and I are destined to be sharers in God’s life: to be divine.
That’s what heaven is. That’s where we’re headed.
However impossible it may seem, remember, 
that’s God’s specialty, making the impossible happen.

And that journey – to heaven and becoming heavenly – 
is why we have Lent. 
Lent is a spiritual boot-camp; it gives us a full-time course 
in the spiritual tools that we need the whole year long.

Lent is not about us spending only six weeks being truly Christian, 
and then going on vacation for the rest of the year. 
Oh, I don’t doubt there are people who think that will work. 
They are mistaken.

The process of becoming heavenly, of becoming a saint,
involves a lifetime of conversion, day-by-day, habit-by-habit.

So if you haven’t already, start thinking about your plan for Lent.
Some of us probably need to be more ambitious;
And to be honest, others of us maybe are taking on too much 
and driving ourselves and our families crazy.

Try to remember: our job is to cooperate with God; 
God himself is the one who will change us, 
softening our hearts and making us like himself.

Most of us know the tools. 
We can all think of something to give up, 
beyond skipping meat on Fridays and meals at other times.

For prayer, we have daily Mass;
Adoration all day on Thursdays; 
Stations of the Cross and Benediction on Thursday evening. 
Maybe you’ve never made the Rosary a regular thing;
Perhaps you’d like to step up to the Divine Mercy chaplet.
Of course we’ll have lots of times for confession;
And the church – by the way – is open from 5 in the morning till 9:30 pm every single night.

For this Lent, we have some booklets at the exits to help you.
One is a series of Rosary meditations.
The other is about something called “Lectio Divina,” 
which literally means, “divine reading,” and is all about taking Scripture, 
and being patient as you read and reflect on it.
Please help yourself to one or the other booklet.

And remember Lent is about being generous.
Giving money and time is awesome; there many ways to do both.
But maybe take a cue from the Gospel 
and aim to be generous in forbearance. 
Be free-spending with forgiveness.

Hate and vengeance can be hard to let go of;
But we must, if we want heaven.

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