Sunday, March 01, 2020

Which is worse? Coronavirus or sin? (Sunday homily)

A book I read a few years ago  on confession had this great quote:
 “Sin is turning your face away from God.”

And look at what you see in the readings: 
Adam and Eve turn their faces from God. 

On the other hand, we see Jesus in the Gospel.
He never turns away from the Father in heaven.
And that makes all the difference.

The reason we have these particular readings 
on this first Sunday of Lent is because they explain why we need Lent – 
and for that matter, why we need Good Friday and Easter.

And that’s because we human beings, like Adam and Eve,
turned away from God.
That’s the problem that Jesus came to solve.

He faces the same enemy that ensnared Adam and Eve.
Adam was afraid – that’s why he stood by and let his wife be attacked.
We don’t know if Jesus felt any fear – maybe he did –
But he waded into battle all the same.

How do we find that courage, that endurance?
Again, that’s how Lent helps us, 
by doing what Jesus shows us in the Gospel:
learning to say “no” to the appetites, 
saying “no” to coveting the good things of this world, 
and “no” to our pride – the pride that resists depending on God.

Or, maybe might be that voice in us that minimizes Lent,
in effect saying, “I don’t really need to change.”
Which is really another way of saying, I don’t need God.

You may have wondered why I sprinkled you at the beginning of Mass.
That was actually a disinfectant, what with all the health issues!
No, that’s not true. It was holy water. 
But why holy water on the first Sunday of Lent? 

Lent is about a lot of things, one of which is baptism.
It actually began as a way for people to prepare intensely 
for their own baptisms. 
And for the rest of us, it is a time to remember what our baptism means, 
and to renew our baptism.

So, if all baptism means to someone is a ritual when you’re a baby,
Then Lent, too, won’t make a lot of sense either.

But what we believe as Christians – and we know from our own lives – 
is that every human being has a problem, and that is sin.

Sin isn’t just something we do;
Sin changes us; it twists and distorts us, and finally, wrecks us.

Look at the coronavirus so many people are freaking out about.
And no, I don’t want to get sick, neither do you.
But look: the worst that virus can do is send me to heaven.
Sin – and only sin – can send me to hell.
Lent is when you and I get really serious, not about washing our hands, 
but straightening out our lives.

One thing more about the first reading. 
It ends without showing how God responds to Adam and Eve’s sin.
We all know how we think God will react – 
it’s the same way we imagine God reacting to our own sins and failures.
What we imagine is that God is upset; that God turns from us.

But this is not true. Sin doesn’t change God at all;
It changes us; and as I said at the outset –
It involves us turning our face away from God.
When you and I turn away, we get absorbed with other things.
Work, food, the Internet, sports, a thousand things.
Not that these are bad, but the good things of this world,
And my own pride of life, will not save my soul.

Meanwhile – still not looking at God’s face,
You and I are sure we know what we’d say: God is angry!
If we would only turn back, we would discover, 
God never stopped loving us. Not for a single second.

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