Thursday, February 14, 2013

Homily - "Be spiritual AND religious this Lent"

“Your Father who sees in secret will repay you”.  It’s fitting that we’re offering confessions during Mass with this in mind because we have some secret booths for you to be forgiven.  God forgives in secret for what we’ve done wrong in secret…and in public.  We hear this line three times in today’s Gospel.  I know that Jesus is talking about doing positive things like prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  But, I can’t help to think about stuff that I did in college and be scared by what my Father saw in secret.  Yikes!

It’s no secret (!) that I hit the party scene hard during college.  But, I didn’t drink in secret too often…actually, hardly at all.  One time, though, I did.  It was right after I got cut from the club tennis team at my small Catholic college.  And, this was right after getting cut from the club baseball team.  What a loser, I thought to myself, and realizing that my athletic career (or lack thereof) was over.  So, I went back to my room, roommate gone, and threw myself a little pity party with the help of some strong drink.  Hours later, my friends picked me up.  I was a mess.  They laughed at me the whole time (nice friends, huh!) and were told by others to stop because I obviously had a handicap (a stronger word was used).  So, I think that my Father saw that in secret and will repay me.  Actually, I was repaid the next morning…and a few other mornings after long nights out!

But, let’s stay positive.  The point is that we should do what is right for the sake of doing what is right…and God will reward us.  There is a group of people who do this…the saints.  One description is that a saint does what is right when no one is looking.  Wouldn’t that be cool to live that way?  We present ourselves in a very good way publicly – to classmates, peers, friends, and even family.  But, in private, it might be a different story.  It would be so nice to be consistently who we are all the time – to be authentic in public and private.  I speak a lot about freedom.  Freedom is the ability to choose the good.  It means being who we want to be all the time.  Confession has a lot to do with our being free.  It frees us from the slavery of sin.

Lent is a perfect opportunity to change…to be saints!  Every one of us is called to be a saint.  AMEN?  I don’t mean canonized in Rome some day…although that would be pretty cool if you had a St. in front of your name.  I mean doing what is right when no one is looking.  I mean being free to be who you really want to be all the time.  Lent gives us the opportunity to change our ways, and get back to who we are and who we want to be.

I do want to address a possible misinterpretation of what Christ is saying.  Some might think that the Lord’s line about praying in private means that we can be “spiritual but not religious”.  He’s not saying this.  The same Lord who encourages private prayer is the same Lord who shows us that we need to pray publicly and communally in the Mass.  He says in John 6 that we need the Eucharist to have life and to get to Heaven.  We can’t get the Eucharist in our room!  Nowhere in the Bible or in the Church does Christ say for us to be “spiritual but not religious”.  I don’t know of any saint who was spiritual but not religious. 

So, my Lenten challenge to you is to be spiritual AND religious.  Go to Mass every Sunday in Lent.  And, you will make an awesome Lent!  If your Mom or Dad asks you what you’re giving up for Lent, tell them nothing…that you’re going to Mass every week.  And, that you’re trying to be a saint!  They will think you’re nuts of course (!), but they will back off.  Be spiritual and religious…come back to Mass if you’ve been away.  We are all one family.  We are all trying to be saints.  We are trying to do what is right when no one is looking.  AMEN?  Amen.

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