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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Dying to self - Homily (5th Sunday of Lent – Year B)

Homily (5th Sunday of Lent – Year B) – Deacon Pat Kearns
There once was a man who had achieved much in his life. He lived in a comfortable home and was surrounded by all the things he had accumulated over the years. He had little want in his life, he had everything he needed and more. Yet, there was something missing, and he had begun to realize it. He had heard about this God-man named Jesus and felt drawn to meet him. After inquiring about him, he finally met some people who knew of him, and he had asked for an introduction. It wasn’t long and the man finally had his encounter with Jesus. Jesus welcomed him with a loving embrace and sensed that the man was desiring more in his life. The man asked, “Jesus, I long to feel peace and love in my life. What am I to do to feel complete and fulfilled?” Without hesitation, Jesus replied, “You are to purge your life of the all the things of this world, seek out and pick up your cross, and come and follow me.” The man listened intently to the commanding words. However, the words were not the words he was expecting to hear. The message was clear and simple, yet he felt somewhat confused and worried. He knew that Jesus would not give false or misleading advice, but he needed to understand what he was being told much more deeply. He was being asked to do something so radical, and so courageous, that it was frightening. He needed time to think. He didn’t want to act impulsively. This was too big of a decision to not think it through carefully. So, he separated from Jesus and returned home, and settled back into his comfortable life and familiar surroundings. He listened to the words of Jesus in his mind and pondered them over and over again. It didn’t take long and he knew that Jesus was right in saying that in order to find true meaning in his life, to feel fulfilled, and to find peace, love, and happiness, he would need to separate himself from the things of this world, and grow ever closer to God, but he hesitated to act. He began to think about how hard he had worked to acquire all the possessions he had. He thought about how important those things were to him, and what life would be like without them. He thought about how comfortable his life was, and how he had settled in his ways. He thought about the things in life that brought him pleasure, even if it was temporary and superficial pleasure. It didn’t take long and his inspiration to grow closer to Christ began to soften and fade. The more he thought about the comforts of his life, the more absurd giving it all up sounded. That initial inspiration towards holiness soon evaporated and he was once again immersed in his world of self-pleasure, self-centeredness, and self-delight. The opportunity to respond to God’s grace and to a life with Christ began to disappear from his thoughts. He had come so close to embarking on a journey with Christ, a journey that would have ensured everlasting life, a life filled with such purpose, such love, such peacefulness, yet, using his free will, and the powers of rationalization, he abandoned such a radical move. He had purposefully separated himself from Christ, and the chance to live a profoundly Christian life. He chose to return to his secular life. He had the opportunity to die to himself and become reborn, experiencing the fruitfulness of such a life, sharing the fruit, the growth of such love, forgiveness, purity, and honesty with others, yet, he threw it all away and now is heading toward a life without Christ. A life void of deep meaning, void of sincere and everlasting relationships, a life that doesn’t perpetuate life, and a life that adds no flavor to the lives of others. He had his opportunity but chose to throw it away. He will one day be judged for that act, and the repercussions might just be something unthinkable. He had chosen to separate himself from Christ, even when personally called to join Him, and now may live all of eternity in the absence of God.

All of eternity in the absence of God.

My dear friends, this man that I just spoke of is actually many of us here in this church today. We are all sinners. We have all had an encounter with Christ, and have been repeatedly asked to remove the obstacles that are in our lives and get in the way of our relationship with Him, and have been asked to join Him. Yet, even though temporarily inspired at times, many of us quickly turn away from Him and resume all of the secular activities of our lives, focusing on ourselves and losing sight of Him. We have all been drawn to Christ. We have heard his voice. We have been told what we must do if we truly desire to follow Him.
  • We are to die to ourselves, our own self-interests, our own self-desires, and live the life of Christ. 
  • We are to know and live the commandments. 
  • We are to know and the live the beatitudes.
  • We are to pick up our crosses and see Christ in all those around us and to share the good news of love, life, sacrifice, and salvation, to all those that we meet.
Failing to do so is making a choice. Let us ask ourselves, can we truly live with the choices that we are making?

This time of Lent is a time to open our eyes to the reality of how we have been living our lives. To stop making rationalizations and excuses, and to decide if I am willing to make those radical choices, and to be courageous enough to do what Christ is asking of me. We must never forget that there will be a day when we will see everything as it truly is, and how our decisions have shaped our lives and the lives of others. Are going to be happy with what we see?

Most certainly, we need to humbly ask ourselves these questions:
  • Have I been the man or woman that God created me to be?
  • Have I been the friend that I was called to be?
  • Have I been the brother or sister that God and others needed me to be?
  •  Have I been the husband or wife that God longed for me to be?
  •  Have I been the Father or Mother that the children desired me to be?
For many of us, the answers will be no. We have failed ourselves and others incredibly. We have caused damage that is unbelievable. By not acting, we have allowed evil to flourish in the world around us. Yet, there is still time to act if we begin today. Let us begin today to stop making excuses and to embrace the opportunity to follow Christ. The hour has come to die to ourselves, and to live in Christ. Being Catholic is about being humble, asking for forgiveness with a sorrowful and contrite heart, and using the Sacraments given to us by Christ himself to heal, inspire, and nourish us. We are to be continually improving our prayer life, and our relationship with Christ. We are to be reacting to the prompts of the Holy Spirit and growing in union with our Lord. We are to become holy and to be a radical presence in this world. Christ did not fit into this world, and neither should we.  We are of this world, but we belong to another kingdom, the kingdom of God. Let us begin today, to live as we were created to live, as children of God. Remembering that dying to self, means, living in Christ. Let us authentically, and radically, live in Christ, beginning now.

As Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, “You must never be afraid to be a sign of contradiction to the world.”

Jesus has called you. He has shown you the way. Now it’s your turn, the choice is yours.

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