Monday, June 6, 2016

From Death to Life - Homily for the 10th Sunday in OT (C)

Do you remember the story of the Prodigal Son?

It’s the one where the young man spends his inheritance on sinful living, but then comes to his senses and returns home where he is welcomed by his merciful father.

But do you remember what the father says when his son returns home? He says: “My son was lost and is found. He was dead and is now alive!”

He was dead…!

The father’s words were expressing how far the young man had strayed from love: he was so far from love that he was dead to it. That’s what sin does.

Hence the father’s joy when the son returns: it is such a miracle that love has sprung anew: he has come back to life. Love has been miraculously restored—yes, it is a miracle that the son is home again! “He was dead and is now alive!”
Paul, I think, feels a certain connection to the Prodigal Son. Hear Paul’s words as he writes to the Galatians. He says,

you heard of my former way of life…
how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure
and tried to destroy it…
But… God… called me…

In other words: I was one of the worst of sinners, but God has given me another chance. I was dead in a world of sin, but now I am alive! It's a miracle!

*          *          *

Certainly we see the connection. But did you notice the readings that bookend Paul’s testimony?

The first reading and the Gospel both speak of times when God raises a young man not from spiritual death, but from physical death—literally, from the dead. What is the meaning of this?

In short, God is more powerful than any kind of death—whether it be the physical kind that claims our mortal bodies, or the spiritual kind that is the result of grave (or mortal) sin. No matter how grave our sin, God is more powerful; and no matter how long we have been dead, God has the power to raise us up.

And note: both are miraculous: being restored to a new life of grace is just as much a miracle as if He should raise us from the dead!

*          *          *

But I also want us to take a moment and notice the woman, the widow.

She has lost her husband; he has died. And her only son; he has died, too.

Is there anyone else in Scripture—someone very close to Jesus—who has mourned her husband and her son?

It is Mary.

I think this is one of the reasons why Jesus “felt pity for her”—a phrase which means more than simply “feeling sorry for” her. It means that Jesus was moved to the core for love of this widow. He saw His Mother in her.

I hope this is a consolation to all of our widows here. Jesus sees Mary in you. Your prayers and intercession are very powerful and move His heart!

And who does the widow bring to Jesus? Her son: the one who is dead.

This is what Mary does. Mary is the Mother of Mercy. Anytime we are dead because of sin—mortal or otherwise—she weeps over us and brings us through her maternal and loving prayers to her Son, just as we have asked when we say, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

Jesus is moved to the core. How could He leave to the dead His Mother’s child? In His love for her, He is moved to heal the one who has died.

Indeed, if we should enter into the confessional, it is because Mary—and so many holy widows who are praying for us—it is because of her that Jesus visits us there and gives us His mercy.

*          *          *

Consider for a moment those old fashioned confessionals. Have you ever noticed how the old ones resemble a kind of coffin?—the wooden door, the cramped quarters, the darkness inside, the stagnant air…. It was as though they were made to remind you of your mortality—both of your physical mortality, but also the gravity of sin.

And when we come out of that confessional, there is that breath of fresh air, the beauty of the stained-glass windows and the light, the stretching of legs that were once cramped within—all throughout there pulses the feeling of new life.

All of us have been in that coffin by our sins—the Prodigal Son, Paul, me—but then in that absolution it is as though Jesus is calling us forth, saying: “Young man, I tell you, arise!”

Arise! Receive new life! Start walking in grace again, put away your old ways, start a new life of love and holiness!

And just like each of those young men; just like Paul; just like the Prodigal Son—when we come out of the confessional, there is rejoicing. Our Father’s words can ring in our ears:

“My son was lost and is found. He was dead and is now alive!”

It is a miracle!

*          *          *

I encourage all of us, therefore, to go to confession this summer—and bring your children. Receiving new life isn’t just for Advent or Lent or at school. It’s for any time that we come to our senses and realize we need a new beginning, a new life.

At this Holy Mass, therefore, let us entrust ourselves and all of our parishioners to the care of Mary, the Mother of Mercy. Let us in a special way entrust all who have been a long time from confession—those spiritual “walking dead” in this world—let us entrust them in this special Year of Mercy to our heavenly Father’s care; that God may visit us and rescue us (cf. Ps 30), calling us forth from our old ways of sin and death, and to arise to walk in newness of life! 

No comments:

Post a Comment