Monday, December 09, 2013

Homily - "Imitate and Follow SJB"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

When I was out of the seminary the last time, my sister-in-law set me up on a date with a young woman who was Catholic (although wasn’t practicing at the time) and very nice.  We met up for coffee on our first date and hit it off really well.  That led to a second date for dinner.  She knew that I had been in the seminary twice.  So, at dinner, she asked me questions about the Church the whole time…through dinner, through dessert, and even after that.  I was thinking, ‘yeah, I like talking about this stuff, but come on, lady, this is a date!’  The classic line of the night was what she said at the end, “wow, I thought you wanted to be a priest because you’re a nice guy.  I didn’t know you were so religious”.  Hmmm…check, please!
Now, it’s not the best example, but I tell that story because of my sister-in-law.  I don’t fault her at all; we were all up against something else (my call to be a priest).  But, in the language of today’s readings, she “prepared the way” for that date.  I trusted her judgment about the young woman, and went ahead with the date.  She was the way for me to meet her.  I wouldn’t have had that experience (and a pretty funny story) if it wasn’t for her.  It’s the same way with so many of you on this campus.  You “prepare the way of the Lord” for so many other students at GW.  When you invite your friends to Mass or confessions after Mass like tonight, Newman Center, Bible study ,or whatever, you prepare the way of the Lord for them.  You are the way to Christ for them. They trust you, and go ahead with coming to Christ.  In that way, you imitate St. John the Baptist.

Two things I ask of you: Imitate and follow John the Baptist.  This is IF: Imitate and Follow.  Imitate him in preparing the way of the Lord.  He was the precursor to Christ.  He prepared the way of the Lord for all of us.  You are the precursor to Christ for your friends on campus.  My sister-in-law was the precursor to that young woman.  Prepare the way of the Lord!  Imitate and follow St. John the Baptist.  Follow his first word, “repent”! Repent means to turn away from sin and turn towards the Lord.  It means to have a conversion of heart. John repented for himself and others.  And, his example is what prepared the way of the Lord for others.  Follow his example of repentance – maybe not in eating grasshoppers and wild honey, but in living for Christ and holiness.  Preparing the way of the Lord in our own lives is the most effective way to prepare the way of the Lord for others.
We should repent every day, not just during Advent.  But, in a special way, the Lord calls us to repent to prepare the way of the Lord at Christmas.  We prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts.  We make straight his paths…make straight the path for him. The best way to repent, to prepare our hearts, to make straight the paths for the Lord is Confession.  It’s the best way to prepare for Christmas, and to enjoy it fully.  The best birthday present you can give Jesus is your sins…he wants them!  He died for them to be forgiven.  We will have three priests offering confessions after Mass.  We have guides to Confession in the back of Church to help you prepare for this sacrament of mercy….sacrament of repentance….to fully repent and be freed of your sins.   Repentance brings freedom!

Going through the guide is helpful to examine our conscience because we may not be aware of how we sin.  For example, under the first commandment, I might not have been involved in the occult, butdo I put God ahead of everyone and everything?  Or, do I put other people or things ahead of Him?  Do I pray daily?  Have I received Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin?  Mortal sin is a grave offense – and not everything I will go through here is a grave offense – which means it is seriously wrong, I know it is seriously wrong, and I freely choose to do it.  If we have committed a mortal sin, we need to go to Confession before receiving the Eucharist.  We need to prepare for the coming of the Lord in the Eucharist by being in a state of grace. Have I taken God’s name in vain?  Here’s an example: saying GD or JC (in vain) knowingly and freely is mortal; OMG is venial. 
Do I keep Sunday as a day of prayer, rest, and relaxation? Have I deliberately come late or left early from Mass without a good reason?  Do I honor and respect my parents and those in authority? Have I participated in any way in an abortion?  Have I abused alcohol or drugs? Have I used contraception? Have I engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage? Have I looked at pornography?  Have I masturbated? Have I told impure jokes or used impure language?   

Have I stolen or cheated or pirated materials? Do I share with the poor according to my means? Have I lied or plagiarized or gossiped?  Have I ruined the good name of others by spreading lies? Have I pursued or entertained impure thoughts?  Have I looked at impure scenes from movies, shows, or plays deliberately to be aroused? Am I envious of what other people have in terms of gifts or possessions?  Is there someone I refuse to love? Is there someone I refuse to forgive?  Have I not forgiven myself for things that I’ve already confessed?
Have I deliberately missed Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation without a serious reason? Have I been to Confession in the past year? Do I contribute to the material needs of the Church as best I can?

And, the seven deadly sins: pride (selfishness…one definition of sin is “me first”), anger, lust, envy, greed, sloth (laziness), and gluttony (overeating/overdrinking).

We go through all of this to fully repent, get right with God, and to experience full freedom .  Sins weigh us down, so the more we give them to the Lord, the freer we are.  It’s like having a great weight lifted from our shoulders!  And, the beauty of being Catholic is that we hear from Christ through the priest that we are forgiven.  That is so healing to hear that all of this stuff is forgiven.  Maybe it’s major stuff going back five or ten years…we hear that it’s all forgiven, and that it’s done.  God has forgiven us!  We then just need to forgive ourselves.  But, that experience of freedom and healing is why Confession has spiked up among GW Catholics the past few years.  You have had that experience and have told others about it, and they have come.  You have prepared the way of the Lord for them in Confession!
Continue to imitate and follow St. John the Baptist in preparing the way of the Lord for others and in your own lives.

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