Homily – Twenty-Nineth Sunday Ordinary – Cycle B – October 21, 2018
Isaiah 53:10-11; PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45
My homily at the 10:00 Mass at Holy Ghost Church on Sunday, October 21, 2018.
Today’s readings reveal the depth of God’s love for us, for each and every one of us. Let me say this another way…God loves us so much! His love is different than any other love we may have experienced. His love is truly unconditional. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love and there is nothing we can do to lose his love. There is no end to God’s love. His love is infinite. His love will never be exhausted. He loves us no matter what we have done or what we have failed to do. The papal preacher, Fr. Cantalamessa, says if we could put the entire scripture into three words it would be “God is love.”
The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah tells us that the Christ would be crushed in infirmity for us. That he would give his life for us as an offering for our sin. That through his suffering, many will be justified as he bears their guilt.
This willingness of Christ to suffer for us and take on our sins is the supreme demonstration of the depth of His love for us. We are all sinners. None of us are able to stand before God and justify why we deserve eternal life, apart from the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. It is only through Christ’s sacrifice of his life on the cross that we have the hope of eternal salvation. It is his love for us, his sacrifice of his life for us, that allows us to be able to live forever in his Kingdom.
As we hear in today’s second reading from Hebrews, Jesus is the Son of God, the great high priest, who can sympathize with our weakness. Why? Because he was tested in EVERY way, yet without sin. He knows how we are tempted and He understands our failings.
Jesus himself will stand with us before the Father to justify us through the sacrifice of his own life for us, as long as we confidently approach his throne of grace to receive his mercy. It is our choice as to whether or not we will seek his mercy and his forgiveness.
In His love for us, Christ offers us his mercy, regardless of what we may have done in our lives if we come to him repentant and sorrowful for our sins. Even those sins we repeat over and over again.
God loves us so much that He sent his Holy Spirit to fill us with his love and his grace. The Holy Spirit was able to change the disciples we see in today’s gospel reading from seemingly clueless followers to powerful evangelists.
For the past few weeks, Jesus and his disciples have been making their way to Jerusalem. In the verses just before today’s reading, Jesus once again told the disciples in no uncertain terms what would happen to him when they reached their destination. He told them that he would be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, that they would condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles. He had just told them that he would be mocked, spit upon and scourged. After all this, he would be put to death and in three days following his death, he would rise from the dead.
You’d think James and John would have been concerned about what this all meant, this suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. You’d think they would have asked more about it and how they were expected to participate in it. But, no, their concern seemed primarily to be that they would be granted special status and importance when he came into his glory.
Consider the arrogance of their request, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And the other disciples became jealous of their request, perhaps wishing that they had requested it before James and John. Aren’t we so often just like them?
Jesus didn’t call them out for their selfish request. He didn’t ridicule them. No, he loved them with his unconditional love and asked them if they could drink of the cup that he would drink. They said they could and he assured them that they would drink of this cup. However, he also said that it was not his decision as to who would sit at his right or left hand. No, Jesus didn’t shame them for their selfish request, rather he loved them and honored it to the extent he had the authority to honor it.
When we pray, do we ask God to help us understand the mystery of his death and resurrection and what it means for us? Do we ask him what we can do to better serve him? Or, do we only ask him for favors? Do we think of God the Father as one who should always do what we ask, as if we are somehow entitled to his grace, or do we come before him with our requests conditioning it with “if it be your will, Father?” And then sit quietly to listen to discern what his will actually is in the matter.
God certainly wants us to ask for what we need as he desires that we understand that everything we have is a gift from him. But prayer is so much more than asking God to grant all of our special intentions. It’s most important purpose is for us to LISTEN to him and understand what he wants us to do for him.
God wants to spend time with us as our friend and share with us how he wants us to grow in love through service to him. He wants to have a relationship with us and to know how much he loves us. It is in our daily prayer life that we can come to really know God and develop a friendship with him.
And it is in that friendship that we come to realize his love for us and know what we he wants us to do for him. Through this friendship we can understand how he wants us to serve him and minister to those he has set on our path.
Let me say this again, because it’s so important that we understand it. Christ offers his unconditional love to all of us, regardless of what we may have done, or not done, in our lives. All we have to do to receive this love is to come to him repentant and sorrowful for our sins. Christ loves us each one of us so much, so unconditionally, that he will show mercy to even the most despicable sinner if he sincerely repents.
Even someone as evil as the abortionist Kermit Gosnell, now serving life in prison for his horrific crimes as this country’s biggest serial killer can be forgiven. There’s a movie playing in the theaters now about the shocking true story of Dr. Gosnell. Fr. Dowling encourages you to see the movie but he cautions you about taking children under the age of 18 to see it, even though it has a rating of PG-13.
Now I know that many of us have had our lives touched in some way by abortion. Anyone who has encouraged another to seek one, had one herself, or performed an abortion, can receive forgiveness for this grievous sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Remember, there is nothing we can do to cause God not to love us. He is always willing to forgive us.
In the confessional we rejoice at the words of the priest giving us absolution. At this very moment of absolution your sins are truly forgiven, no matter how terrible they might have been. At this moment God removes them from us as far as the East is from the West. THIS is Divine Love in action.
May you experience His unconditional love, poured out through His Holy Spirit, who is always seeking to find a way to call us to conversion and intimacy with Christ.
With God’s love for us in mind, here’s your homework this week. I have three assignments for you!
1. Renew your commitment to prayer and service to others in whatever way God calls you. Resolve to make an effort to spend more time with Him in prayer each day so as to fall more deeply in love with Christ and increase your desire to do whatever he asks you to do.
2. Make a commitment to go to confession more frequently. If you haven’t been in awhile, today would be a very good day to return. Confessions will be heard after this Mass and before each Mass every Sunday.
3. If you can, go see the Gosnell movie with a friend and pray for Kermit Gosnell’s conversion.
May God bless you and grant you the peace and joy of his unconditional love throughout the coming week. Amen.