St John's Q&A

Sunday, March 22, 2009

4th Sunday of Lent - homily

Recently, I got a call to anoint a parishioner. This sacrament is the Anointing of the Sick. It is no longer called “Last Rites” or “Extreme Unction”. And, it is not just for those who are dying; it is for those who are gravely ill or about to undergo an operation. So, I never know exactly what I will encounter when I go to anoint someone. I learned pretty quickly in this situation – in talking with the man and in being with his family – that he was, in fact, dying. So, I asked him, “are you afraid of dying?” Immediately and without any hesitation, he said, “no”. What a response of faith! This was one of the main points I made in the homily at his funeral – that he had such great faith and hope. His faith and hope was that what was on the other side was all good.

We hear about faith in Christ in the famous lines from John’s Gospel, chapter three. “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save it. Whoever believes in the Son will have eternal life” (v. 16-17). One of the aspects of faith in Christ is that it demands a response. Faith in Christ demands a response! Just like love demands a response. If we say that we love someone but never respond to them in any way, then we really don’t love them. It’s like what St. John writes in his first letter: “whoever says that he knows Christ but doesn’t keep the commandments (doesn’t respond to Him) is a liar and truth does not dwell in him” (2:4). If we say that we believe in Him, we need to respond to Him. God has responded to us throughout history – throughout Scripture and Tradition. His response of love and mercy is made in full when He sends His Son to us, that we might believe in Him and have eternal life.

So, we know that we need to respond to God. How do we do it? It’s really the same question that we already know the answer to: how do we respond to someone we love or are in love with? We know how to respond to them. We do something beautiful for them. We do something immediate, something grand, something creative, generous, kind, or thoughtful. We might do it for the sake of love or to win the love of the person. It might be different with God because we don’t need to win His love. We know that He loves us. So, we should do something for Him for the sake of love. He is Love! We should do something beautiful, something immediate, something creative, generous, kind, or thoughtful. As Mother Teresa would say, “do something beautiful for God”.

It really is the same thing as being in a relationship with someone else. We should do things for God as we would do for other people. He is a person and we are in relationship with Him. I will leave it up to all of us to figure out ways to respond to God because I think we all know how to respond to Him in our own ways.

Now, there might be some people who are afraid to respond to God because they haven’t responded to Him in a long time. We are reminded, though, in the second reading that “God is rich in mercy”. He is rich in mercy. He offers His mercy to us as soon as we make the initial response to Him. He is rich in mercy and offers us a bailout. We hear a lot about bailouts these days. Well, in his richness, God offers a bailout, especially to those of us who are spiritually bankrupt. We call this Confession. At St. Andrew’s, we offer many opportunities for “God’s bailout” in Confession. During Lent, we have extraordinary opportunities for it – there are confessions on Tuesdays at 8 pm in the Church, we will have a Penance Service on Monday, March 30 at 7:30 pm, and all of the ordinary times that we offer confessions. We offer it a lot here because God is rich in mercy, and we want to offer people here a chance to receive his rich mercy.

Finally, in a few minutes, we will live out these lines from John’s Gospel. God will send His Son to us in the Eucharist, not to condemn us but to save us. When we come to the Eucharist – the visible sign of God’s love and mercy - when we come to Holy Communion, we make a response in faith, and as Jesus teaches about the Eucharist, we have eternal life.


  • Fr. Greg,

    The second to the last paragraph starting with “Now, there might be some people who are afraid to respond to God because they haven’t responded to Him in a long time” and ended with “He offers His mercy to us as soon as we make the initial response to Him” HAD ME IN TEARS! I am one of those cradle Catholics who turned away from the faith because of the old teaching that I was going to spend eternity in purgatory for the things that I have done and there are other personal reasons that helped me make that choice that are just excuses now that I look back at the events of my past. The plain fact is that if I had been persistent with my faith I would have already had the answer that ended up taking me years to find out.

    4 months ago I hit an emotional bottom that made me more open to the possibility of salvation or even just a little bit of mercy would be welcomed.
    I have received so much more than I could have imagined! Because of my mothers (passed on) relationship with our Pastor the door was opened to me. Early December of 2008 I was watching the movie “The Passion Of The Christ” by Mel Gibson and it hit me like a ton of bricks…What am I willing to give for that love, peace and mercy? My answer was easy at that point…ANYTHING. I went back to the Church, made confession, paid my penance and have been an active member in my relationship with the Holy Trinity and our Blessed Mother and with my Church.

    I am so grateful for our Pastor that God used him as a tool to reach me! There has been such a warming of the heart and many other blessings that have left me in awe since my return! Our Pastor gave us all a challenge during mass March 3rd and that he has given me and others in council before and that is to ask God for a sign of his love. All I could think of was “Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God” but the next morning I thought “our Pastor wouldn’t tell us to do something that would drive us further from God” so I started my morning prayers up again specifically to ask for a hug and expressing my fear that I wasn’t trying to tempt or upset him with this request. Then I proceeded to pray the Rosary, by the time I got to the 3rd mystery I was grateful I was already on my knees! My chest felt like it was going to explode with joy, love, peace and every wonderful feeling you can think of. My skin tingled from the top of my head, down to my toes and to the ends of my fingertips. Silent tears were flowing from my face then laughter with the tears still flowing. I don’t think I took a breath until I was finished with praying the Rosary because I was afraid it would end, but it hasn’t…It’s still with me today. I can’t explain it any better than that…It’s one of those things that the saying “You had to be there” to really understand it really fits. I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have been forgiven and I am so loved more than I could have ever have imagined. For the first time in my 47 years I have a dream and I know I have family that loves me and I am not alone and never will be again unless I choose to walk away again and I don’t ever see that happening.

    I have already lost friendships and have encountered people who are so hard-core against organized religion that it saddens my heart to see me in those people. I have an extensive prayer list and nothing but love and forgiveness in my heart. Only God could have made such a difference in my life!

    So I will close by saying “THANK YOU” for another opportunity to let others know that God does love us (me) and He is full of love and mercy! All we have to do is keep his words with us in speech and action and simply ask for it and it is there in abundance!

    God Bless And Thanks Again!

    By Blogger Elisa, at 6:55 PM  

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