Call to Repentance

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/03/06 at 12:00 AM

 The season of Lent is often viewed with some amount of drear and dread because of the obligations it places upon us to fast and do penance.

 Moreover, from Lent’s opening call on Ash Wednesday to remember that we are dust and unto dust we shall return, until the somber celebration of our Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, Holy Mother Church focuses our attention on our need to repent.
 The readings and prayers of Lent exhort us to examine ourselves, to recall our sins, to do the painful work of making reparation for those sins, and to discipline ourselves through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
 Indeed, Lent makes us uncomfortable. It forces some amount of unpleasantness upon us. It requires that we delve into our personal darkness – our sins and faults that we’d just as soon forget – and to deal with them.
 While this is not an easy or pleasant task, it is a task that is very necessary if we wish to go to Heaven. To be sure, all that is dark and sinful within us must be brought to the light if we dare hope to be saved.
 But amidst the darkness and suffering that we often associate with Lent, there is actually much light and joy to be found. And it is this light and joy that we celebrate on this day, which we call Laetare Sunday. The word laetare means “rejoice.”
 And we rejoice, in part, because we are now halfway through Lent – and thus we use the color rose to symbolize our lightening of penance today.
 But we also rejoice because our readings today remind us that while it is true that we are all sinners, God is rich in mercy! We rejoice because God desires to save us from our sins, despite how terribly sinful we often are!
 Today we rejoice that even in the darkness of the gravest of mortal sins, God desires to give us light! Our readings bear witness to this wonderful truth.
 In our first reading from 2nd Chronicles, we read how the terrible sins of the Israelites brought about their exile to Babylon in the 6th century BC. This reading reminds us that sin has consequences, both in this life and in the life to come.
 Like a good Father, our Lord tried to correct His chosen people through the prophets, but they turned a deaf ear to them. And so our Lord allowed the Jews to reap the terrible consequences of their sinfulness, in hopes of bringing about their repentance.
 But while our Lord knew that punishment was necessary, He did not allow His own to suffer forever. Thus, the Israelite’s Chaldean captors were overthrown by Cyrus the Great, who then granted the Jews permission to return home and rebuild the Temple.
 What we learn for this story is that while our Lord allows us to suffer the consequences of our sins in this life as a means of correcting us, He deeply desires to save us from the consequences of our sins in the next life. Thus He calls to us constantly to repent!
 God hates sin, for sin is the perfect antithesis to Him. Yet as much as our Lord hates sin, He loves to show us His mercy, and He does so willingly!
 Indeed, our Catholic faith teaches that no one is ever beyond God’s mercy! While all of us are capable of committing terrible sins, there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot overcome. There is no sin our Lord will not forgive if we are but sorry for it.
 In the Gospel today Jesus explains that it is precisely because of God’s desire to show us His mercy that He came to earth.
 Jesus tells us today in the Gospel of how some people prefer darkness to light because of their evil works.
 Because of this desire for darkness on the part of so many people, because of our constant falling into sin, because of the weakness of human flesh that is unable to withstand the wickedness and snares of the devil, the Father sent Jesus to save us.
 Even though we have selfishly rebelled against the One Who created us, Who sustains us in being, and Who died for us, our Lord never loses His hope for us. He never ceases trying to save us from our sins.
 Not only does our Lord forgive us our sins when we are truly sorry for them, but through the Sacraments He gives us His grace that strengthens us against future sins so that we may learn to choose Him and His will over the path of darkness set out before us by the devil.
 While sin often promises us pleasure of some sort, it is in choosing the light of God’s grace and mercy, it is in being forgiven of our sins in Confession that we find true joy.
 However, my brothers and sisters, if you want to experience the joy that endures, it is not enough simply to repent and receive God’s mercy. If we want joy that endures, then we must share the gift of God’s mercy with others.
 We do this through our acts of charity: giving food and drink to the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, sheltering the homeless, and burying the dead.
 But just as important as these corporal works of mercy are what we call the spiritual works of mercy: counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, comforting the afflicted, praying for the living and dead, bearing wrongs patiently, and perhaps most importantly: forgiving offenses.
 If we wish to live in the joy that God’s mercy provides, then these works of mercy must be habits for us, for showing mercy in these ways ensures that God’s mercy takes deep root within our souls.
 Performing these works of mercy with love for God and gratitude to Him for His mercy helps us, little by little, to become more like Him.
 Brothers and sisters, we are called today to rejoice in the great gift of salvation that comes to us through God’s grace and mercy. However, if we hope to enjoy this gift for all eternity, we must live in the light of Truth: repenting of our sins and asking for God’s mercy. We must also be willing to share that mercy with others.
 As we move into the second half of Lent, let us all examine our souls well. Let us not fear to delve into our own personal darkness and sin, but with confidence in God’s mercy, let us confess our sins and make reparation for them.
 Moreover, let us renew our pledge to share God’s love and mercy with others through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
 While the Lenten works of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving may bring about some discomfort and pain in our lives, let us always remember that it is far better to suffer for our sins in this life rather than in the next.
18 March 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

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