26 Feb SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting this homily on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you, I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.
God bless you.
The key question prompted by the Scriptures this Sunday is: “Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus Christ? Fan? Or Follower?” Only Followers can be Holy as God is Holy.
Fans know the faith, earnestly study what it means to truly be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Get to Mass on Sunday… maybe even every day. Can quote Scripture, chapter and verse. But their day to day lives after they leave the Church do not witness to the love Jesus calls us to in the Gospel today.
Followers/disciples fully strive to live out the bold, abundant, Christ-like self-sacrificial love we’re called to live by today’s Scriptures.
Fans are on the sidelines, cheering. Followers are in game. Witnessing by their lives that they know the love of Jesus Christ and are doing their very best to act on it. And…a very important end…when they fail, they repent of it and begin again.
Fans never see the need to repent…Because they don’t see that they have failed. They’ve done the absolute minimum…why repent? But interestingly they, in light of wrong…their own or someone else’s, they do stop cheering. Mere outward observance of the law does not produce love. Imagine a married man and woman that merely kept the ten commandments in their marriage, saying: “Our marriage is wonderful. We don’t steal from each other. We don’t lie to each other. We don’t cheat on each other. And…We haven’t killed each other…yet!” Not exactly an ideal marriage. Spouses are not simply to avoid hurting one another. Our God, our Father, wants more…He wants our hearts…he wants them to grow in self sacrificial love.
And that is what God desires for each of us, his disciples. The Scriptures are very paradoxical and very challenging this weekend. We are called to the holiness of God. That is the extraordinary claim made in both the First Reading and Gospel this Sunday. Yet how is it possible that we can be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect?
Jesus explains that we must be imitators of God as His beloved children (Ephesians 5:1–2). Beloved children imitate their Father…just as Jesus did. Today’s Scriptures call us to love as God does, without limit—with a love that does not distinguish between friend and foe, overcoming evil with good . (see Romans 12:21).
True followers of Jesus need to cultivate the inner attitudes and dispositions that transform the heart and build up love, such as what he teaches in the Beatitudes just a few verses prior to today’s: the inner attitude of humility, patience, gentleness, the desire to right wrongs, peacefulness, purity and mercy that Jesus teaches in the Beatitudes…and when we fail to repent and begin again.
The love to which Jesus calls us is beyond the capacity of our fallen human nature, but the gift of the Holy Spirit that we receive through faith, our prayer life and the sacraments make it possible. Jesus summons us to a heavenly way of life; be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. That’s the goal to which we are all to aim. Basically, he is saying, don’t be a fan…be a follower…aim for the perfection that is like the Father’s perfection. Make perfection your goal. As the first reading stated it: “Be holy, For I, your God am Holy.”
And when you fail? Repent! And begin again!
As you know Lent begins this Wednesday.
In the gospel that you will hear this Ash Wednesday, the Lord warns us that if we are going to pray , to fast , and to give alms like the Pharisees, it would be better to forget the whole endeavour. Basically, the Pharisees were fans on the sidelines. The gospel of Ash Wednesday exhorts us to be followers. Get into the game! Give your heart to the Lord.
That is exactly what Lent is…a season to work on becoming a more committed follower. Lent is to be a season of transformation, of joyful purification; its fundamental attitude is one of self-forgetfulness…“Let your right hand not know what your left hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:3) It is a season to create an interior emptiness: “Lose your life for my sake and you will gain it.” (Matthew 10:39). Lent asks of us nothing less than receiving in an open and fruitful heart the grace of reconciliation with God.
In his second letter to the Corinthians St. Paul calls us not just to be fans, but followers of Christ…He says “we are ambassadors for Christ…we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake the Father made Christ Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the holiness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:20 -21)
This Lent I encourage you to take up St. Paul’s challenge seriously, enter into the joyful purification of Lent…become the holiness of God.
This weekend’s bulletin is packed with many ideas how you can do just that…Many online programs, many programs on Formed.org….chose one of them and follow it throughout Lent…
Hopefully you prayerfully reviewed the suggestions regarding prayer, fasting and almsgiving that were in last weekend’s bulletin…They are in the bulletin again…just in case you didn’t… choose three or so from each category: 3 from prayer , 3 from fasting, 3 from almsgiving and joyfully enter into the purification that will provide you. All your hearts to be transformed.
There is a new Examination of Conscience at each of the entrances to the Church. Take it with you, prayerfully prepare and start Lent off with a good confession…it doesn’t matter if it has been a long time… recently someone said it has been 60 years since their last confession…did I scold?…did I condemn?…No!…my breath was taken away and holding back tears, I said “Praise God” and “Welcome home!” Confessions will be heard all day on Ash Wednesday…before each Mass and from 8:30 am to 12 noon and from 1 pm to the 7 pm Mass.
The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is known as Shrove Tuesday. To be shriven is to be absolved…It is a day to make a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs from which I need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth I especially need to ask God’s help in dealing with…and to taken it to confession and be absolved…be shriven. Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Tuesday…a day we indulge in those things we will be fasting from throughout Lent.
Also start Lent off well by coming and humbly receiving the blessed Ashes. Masses will be held at 7:45 am, 12 noon and 7 pm…all here in the cathedral. As the ashes are placed on your forehead you will be exhorted to “Turn away from sin and follow the gospel”…That is what Lent is all about. Joyful purification and transformation of the heart.
There are copies of The Word Among Us and the Magnificat Companion to Lent at each of the doors. For only a toonie you will have the daily Scriptures readings, with daily meditations and other great articles to feed your prayer as well.
Allow the great traditions of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to transform you this Lent.
The season of Lent overflows with powerful graces for those who prepare and are ready to receive all the Lord has to give them.
This Lent: Don’t merely stand on the sidelines, cheering! Get fully into the game!
You may already be a full follower of the Lord. Praise God. However, if the Lord doesn’t have your heart in every part of your life…Take Lent 2020 very seriously…Fans, become Followers when they undertake Lent seriously.