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Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Catholic Church Always Leaves The Door Open - Should We?


Homily on Luke 15: 1-10


In this Gospel reading we hear of Jesus dining with the sinners and tax collectors.

And the Pharisee’s are scandalized by this, why?

Even their title, Pharisee, (Par-oosh—eea) means in Hebrew to be set apart.

This was the wisdom of the day that came from the Mosaic Law.

You separated yourself from the sinner; you shunned the sinner, for two reasons.

1.      If you didn’t, he may never fully realize the extent of how wrong his sin is and keep doing it.

2.      If you didn’t shun the sinner, his bad influences might start to affect you.

And to a degree, we still do this.

Saint Paul warns us in his letter to the Corinthians to be careful about the company we keep, and not to surround ourselves with friends who will discourage us from the spiritual life.  

In the early Church there was a renegade bishop who was putting forth false teachings even after repeated warnings from the apostles.

In one of Saint John’s letters he tells the people not to have anything to do with him, and that John has “given him over to Satan,” in other words, Excommunicated him.

But the difference between the Pharisee’s and Jesus, the difference between the Pharisee’s and the apostles, is that Jesus and the apostles always gave people the chance to repent.

The Pharisee’s didn’t.

In this gospel today, Jesus doesn’t deny that these people are sinners.

He indirectly calls them “lost” by means of the “one sheep,” and the “one silver coin.”

Jesus isn’t doing a warm fuzzy here.

He’s not denying the existence or the seriousness of sin.

But he is giving the sinner the invitation to repent.

I’ve always loved the sacrament of reconciliation, but I especially love the sacrament in regard to those who have seriously fallen away from the church.

I can recall not too many years ago having an in-depth conversation with one of my brothers (I have 5 of them).

I remember explaining what confession was and how it was a gift from God, and what it actually does within our soul.

I was surprised that although he had been a catholic his whole life, he actually knew very little about the sacrament.

Then I remember just how little I knew about my faith prior to my conversion of heart.

Just calling oneself a catholic doesn’t mean that you understand your faith.

I remember using the visualization of a chalice with him.

I explained that our sins are like rocks placed into the chalice.

And as the blood of Christ (Grace) is poured into the chalice, it cannot penetrate the sin, but rather rolls around it, and the chalice can never be completely full due to the rocks, due to our sins.

But by confession, by removing the rocks, by removing our sins, the blood of Christ, his grace, cannot only completely fill the chalice, but there is nothing to limit the amount that is being offered.

I can remember talking to my brother for about 45 minutes on confession and how a complete, well prepared, and truly contrite confession can change your life forever.

He got it……

For the first time in his life, he understood.

And then, the next day he called his local priest, made an appointment, and then gave a “true” confession, his first in 25 years, and probably his first “true” confession ever.

I can recall his telephone call to me the next day.

He stated that after he honestly confessed his sins, all of them, even the really embarrassing ones, and received absolution, he felt the weight of the world lifted off of his soul.  

He stated that he felt the rocks crumble, and that he was filled with such overwhelming peace, he felt pure, and empowered to turn away from all those things that had separated him from living a truly good life, a real Christian Life!

He stated that for the first time he felt something special when he prayed.

He stated that now, when he read scripture, it spoke to him louder than ever before.

It was now personal, he could feel God.

He stated that he had been awakened and was esthetic with joy.

He was having a Conversion right before me, a conversion of the heart.

It was by removing the rocks and allowing God’s grace to penetrate within him, that his spirit had been renewed, that spirit that had fallen asleep.

Forgiveness is a wonderful thing.

But before one can be forgiven, they must identify their own wrong doings and want to be forgiven.

At times we must be that beacon of truth; we must speak the truth to those around us.

Yes, we all have a duty to hold the sinner accountable.

We all have a duty not to be permissive in our speech or behavior towards certain beliefs or activities.

But we always have to leave a door open for the sinner to return through.

And I have to say that is why I love being Catholic, and that is why I don’t think I could ever be anything but a Catholic.

I remember a comedian who once said: “I’m a Catholic, but I haven’t been to Mass for seven years.

I don’t give the Church my money.

I never go to confession.

I love being a Catholic because……. they never kick you out.”

Now while he was making a joke, there is some truth in what he said.

The Catholic Church always leaves the door open for repentance.

Every sacrament is an invitation to grow in holiness.

Every sacrament is an invitation to grow in the image and likeness of God.

Every sacrament is an invitation to change our lives.

Not unlike Our Holy Mother Church, we are to:

Always speak the truth,

Hold firm to our beliefs, our truly catholic beliefs as supported by Rome,

At times even call a spade a spade when it is done for the good of one’s soul,  

And surround ourselves with people who will help us grow spiritually.

We might even need to temporarily sever relationships when one is acting contrary to the faith and refuses to repent.

But, the door to reconciliation always remains open for the one who truly desires forgiveness.

This is our Faith.

This is our church.

This is…… the Good news!

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