07 March 20213 Lent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
3 Lent

Fourth Sunday of Lent - Cycle B - John 3:14-21

The good news is the Bible is available in 2300 languages. The bad news is the world has 6700 languages. Two thirds of the world's languages have not yet seen the Gospels. Christ tells us we have to do a better job of telling everyone about Someone who can save anyone.

I was driving out of New York City across the George Washington Bridge. My tank was empty. I almost had to push the car into a gas station in New Jersey. The attendant filled my tank. He gave me a leaflet titled "God's Plan of Salvation."

Then the young man in fractured English asked me the question the Teacher asked of Nicodemus. "Are you born again, mister?" He did not wait for my answer. He told me, "Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:7, `You must be born again.'" As I put my refreshed car into drive, he shouted, "We'll praise the Lord together, mister." My gas jockey subscribed to the line that teaches "evangelism is one beggar telling another where to find bread."

Happily there are people around who are saying yes to Jesus. The young man above accepted the invitation of Christ "to have eternal life in Him." Unhappily too many of us are zerox copies of Senor Nicodemus. He is the timid disciple Jesus is chatting with in today's Gospel. Like him too, we hedge our bets with Jesus. We are afraid to place our lives on the table. We say, "Why not give me a call tomorrow, Lord?" We know we will be out tomorrow. And we have no answering machine. "Most people," said DL Moody, "talk cream and live skim milk."

We should not be hard on Nicodemus. Christ enjoyed his company. (Can the same be said of us?) He relished His talk with the well-read gentleman. The apostles were hardly brain surgeons. Only a few of them could read and write. Chats of the type described in today's Gospel with them would have been an exercise in futility.

Furthermore, through this gentleman Nicodemus, we receive a splendid outline of the job definition of the Master as He Himself understood it. What better authority is there?

After saying all that, the poor fellow was still a reluctant disciple. In a word, Nicodemus was a respectable person, who was shackled by conventions and fearful of great decisions. The opinion of the fellow next door was more important than that of Christ's. Do you get the feeling we are talking about ourselves?

His conversation with the Lord was held at night. He was not anxious to be seen by friends in daylight with this strange preacher. He had much to lose. So, he was an after midnight follower. He would remain a closet Christian. Will that be our fate? Or will we be bold enough to break free of our restraints and take a genuine flyer on Christ? Will we "out" ourselves?

Several months after my rendezvous with the disciple of

Christ at the gas station, I pulled into a diner for a quickie hamburger and coffee. My waiter was about 20. He spotted my Roman collar and began talking volumes. He told me he had recently been converted to Christ through Mormons. He was giving away 10% of his income to the church. He was waiting for a call to be shipped out as a lay missionary. I asked what country he would like to work in. He told me, "Whatever country Jesus sends me to." Even though the hamburger tasted like a hockey puck, I left impressed and ashamed. I was envious of the man's compelling faith. Nicodemus or Gilhooley he was not. A free spirit and genuine Christ follower he was. He had proved to me a line I had read. "You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving."

I had lunch with a college student. He told me how our campus ministry program might be improved. I listened. Finally I rejoined, "But, Jon, in your four college years you have never once gone to Sunday Mass. In an emergency, you would not be able to find the chapel." Said he hotly, "So what? I am a good Catholic." That wonderful line of Kierkegaard came to mind. "It is so much easier to become a Christian when you aren't one than to become one when you assume you already are."

Yet, for Jon and us there is hope in this Lent which

means spring or new birth, for "in every winter's heart there

is a quivering spring." Christ will not force us to grow, but He can love us into new l

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
3 Lent

The Covenant of the Ten Commandments

This Lent the First Readings from the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures present various covenants between God and his people. We reflect on them during Lent to help us have a greater understanding of the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus which we celebrate at Easter. Two weeks ago we had the covenant of the rainbow that God made with his people when he promised he would never give up on his people. Last Sunday we had the covenant with Abraham when he trusted that God would provide after being told to sacrifice his son. The message was that God knows the inner turmoil we may have in our faith lives and gives us the strength to grow in faith even in the most difficult times of our lives.

This Sunday we are presented with the covenant made through Moses, the Ten Commandments. This covenant was so solemn that the Israelites kept the tablets of the covenant in a specially made beautiful platform and tent which they called the Ark of the Covenant. Eventually, under King Solomon, they would build a Temple to house the Ark and the precious commandments. What was so important to the Israelites was that these commandments told them what God wanted them to do for them to continue receiving his special care. They practiced the Ten Commandments so they could remain the Chosen People.

We also are called to practice the Ten Commandments as our response to God's presence, his choice of us. I would like to take a deeper look at a few of the commandments today.

It is rather natural, certainly human, for us to want to do everything as easily as possible. This includes the very actions we were created for: to know, love and serve the Lord. We tend to cheapen our following of God. We tend to cheapen the foundation law of God's covenant with us, the Ten Commandments. Just look at the first two commandments. We cheapen the First Commandment into, simply, don't practice idolatry, as though we are inclined to offer incense to a statue in our homes. But the commandment is much more than this. It is a commandment not to put anything before God. The materialist is an idol worshiper. His God is his money, his stuff. A person caught up in promiscuity is an idol worshiper, his God is his body. The selfish narcissistic individual is an idol worshiper; his God is himself. The Jewish Temple priests of today’s Gospel were more concerned with the money they were making in the Temple than worshiping God in the Temple. Jesus accused them of making money their god, violating the first commandment. He threw them out of the Temple.

We talk about keeping holy the Sabbath Day and note the obligation we have to celebrate the Lord's Supper on Sundays. I am sure that before the pandemic there were people who attended Mass only because they were obliged to attend. One man told me that he goes to Church to keep God happy, as though Divine Eternal Bliss depended on his presence in Church. As you know, due to the pandemic the Sunday obligation has been lifted. Still, it is wonderful to see so many people attending Mass simply because they want to be there and need to be there. The obligation to attend Church and receive the sacraments is secondary to our deep need to experience the real presence of the Lord at the Last Supper, on the Cross and in the Eucharist. Many of those who are not able to go to Mass watch it on our YouTube stations and are not concerned with fulfilling an obligation as they are with praying on Sunday.

Consider the Sixth Commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery. A number of years ago a seven-year-old in this parish told me he committed adultery. I told him that he didn’t, only adults do that, that’s why it’s called adultery. If he wanted to know anything more, he should talk to his mother. OK, so I cheated, but I had a hard time to keep from cracking up. Anyway, people only consider the sexual dimension of the Sixth Commandment. It is a lot deeper than that. Adultery is not just about sex. It is about putting others and things before the one we are committed to in life. Essentially it is a violation of a vow made to another to find God by giving his or her all to that person, or in the case of a priest or religious, those people, who are their way to God.

Everybody wants religion to be easy. The Jews wanted signs so they would not have to take steps of faith. Many people today travel throughout the world looking for miracles to be the basis of their faith. The gentiles, the Greek philosophers, wanted neat theories on who God is and who Jesus is. Many people today get caught up in rationalizing their way out of faith and morality. “We,” St. Paul says to the Corinthians, “offer something that is not based on rationalization nor on wonders. We preach Christ crucified.” The crucifix both reminds us of Christ's sacrifice and calls us to join him in sacrificing ourselves for him and for his father's kingdom. This is not easy. This is, though, the way of the Lord.

The Ten Commandments call us to a way of life that is out of tune with the society the media presents, and, to some degree, out of tune with our own society. Honesty, respect for parents, fidelity, respect for property, putting God before all else, giving him a day a week, are all ways that we are distinct from others. To be distinct, to be separate for the Lord, is what we mean when we say, “We are called to be holy.” We live these commandments so that ultimately we might not be wrapped up in ourselves. We live these commandments in response to God's preference of us as his chosen people.

The Ten Commandments are not outdated. Nor are they easy. But they are effective. By fulfilling this covenant we are responding to God's call to be his people.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
3 Lent

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
3 Lent

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