Saturday, January 26, 2008

Homily for 3rd Sunday in OT

Here in New Orleans, as in many parts of the US and the world, sports plays a big part in our lives. We have a professional football team and basketball team, an arena football team, a minor league baseball team, not to mention all the college and prep teams we love to follow.

In order to play these sports, or even to watch and enjoy them to the fullest, we have to understand the rules of the sport. If we, as players, don't understand the rules of the sport, we find ourselves making mistakes that cause penalties for ourselves or our team.

As spectators, knowing the rules allows us better understanding as to what is going on as we observe the game. We can follow the action more thoroughly and gain greater enjoyment of what is going on.

Even when we amuse ourselves with board games, card games, video games, etc., we are more successful and get more enjoyment from those games when we understand and follow the rules.

Rules are obviously a large part of our lives. We live by rules, at home, at work, and in between. Observance of these rules makes life easier for us, as well as for those around us.

As Catholic Christians we are called to know, understand, and follow the rules and guidelines provided to us and for us by our Church.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, and James and John to be the first of his disciples. He preaches and teaches of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the need for repentance.

But, what is repentance, and why were his disciples in need of it?

Simply put, repentance is acknowledging regret or sorrow for sin, or wrongdoing, and resolving to the best of one's ability to not commit those sins again.

So how were the people to know when they had sinned? They had rules. They had the 10 commandments, given to them, from God, by Moses. They had the "2 greatest commandments", to "Love God, and Love Neighbor". They had the Hebrew Law, given to them by their ancestors to help them better fulfill the call to Love God and to Love Neighbor. It was the failure to observe these rules and laws for which repentance was necessary.

Ultimately, as the followers of, and believers in Jesus, it was any failure to love and care for their neighbor that was cause for repentance.

For us, as Christians, this call to love, and care for, our neighbor is ours by virtue of our baptism. It is not an easy calling, for not everyone is easy to love. Yet we ARE called to love EVERYONE, regardless of their race, sex, nationality, or station in life.

Christ, and our Mother Church provide us with the tools we need to accomplish our calling. Through Christ, and within the Church, we are given the Sacraments. Outward signs that give us the graces we need, the spiritual sustenance, the strength to truly love God and our neighbor, day in and day out.

The problem we encounter, as did the Christians in Corinth, is that our daily lives are filled with "stuff" that threatens to sway us from what we know in our hearts is right. We are constantly bombarded on all fronts with anti-Catholic, anti-Christian attitudes, with immorality posing as normalcy, and countless other impediments to moral and ethical Christian living.

Our duty, as Catholics, is to take up our crosses and stand against the onslaught of our society. Christ, and our Mother Church provide us with life rules that, when followed, help us to stay focused on our mission, our calling, to make achievement of our calling, and resistance to the tempations of our world, easier, more attainable.

Our duty, as Catholics is to prepare ourselves, to "gird ourselves for battle". We do this be being true to our faith. We do this by knowing what our faith is, what it means to be Catholic. We do this by being faithful to our Church's teachings, to make a real effort to understand the depth and reasoning of the teachings, especially those that we may find difficult, due to our lack of understanding, to accept.

And, it is our duty, as Catholics, to be obedient to those teachings, even as we question them, while seeking understanding and ever deepening faith. It is our duty to be a unified community of believers, to be one body, one spirit, grounded in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Lent is now less than two weeks away. Traditionally we make Lenten resolutions, "rules" if you will, that will hopefully enable us to grow spiritually. Normally we do this by denying ourselves of something for the duration of the Lenten season.

Perhaps this Lenten season our resolutions can be of a more positive nature. Perhaps we could resolve to accomplish something postive in our lives. We can resolve to learn more about our Catholic faith perhaps by joining a bible study, or obtaining a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and reading it, with a view to understanding better the faith we live. We can resolve to do something that increases faith, perhaps attending daily Mass, or increasing our daily prayer time. We can resolve to attend the Stations of the Cross during Lent. How about inviting a friend to/back to church?

And, if you still want to give something up for Lent, try observing the “rules” of fasting every Wednesday & Friday during Lent, not just Ash Wednesday and Fridays.

Jesus Christ IS the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. The crucifix is a symbol of UNITY, a symbol if humility, a symbol of COMMITMENT, a symbol of LOVE.

As we work our way through the bacchanalia of Carnival, and begin preparations for a Lenten season, let us remember that humility and obedience are not signs of weakness, but are rather, in the hands of faithful, dedicated Christians, instruments of strength, bringing Faith, Hope and Love to those around us... Our Neighbors. GOD BLESS YOU!!!


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