Homily for the Third Sunday in Lent – March 11, 2012 by Father Stephen
Homily: March 11, 2012
3rd Sunday in Lent
When St Paul tells us in today’s Epistle to be imitators of God, he means Christ, for it is in Christ that God became visible and physically accessible to us. St John says, Eternal Life appeared among us, whom we have seen, our hands have touched and we ate with him. So by seeing Christ and hearing his teachings, we give an opening of our hearts and minds to Christ, who is God himself in human frame, in body and soul. Even Scripture tells us that God is spirit, and the Father himself is invisible and lives in eternal light as the source and fullness of truth, goodness and beauty, and yet, when we give a hearing to Christ and through the eyes of the Apostles had seen Christ, we did, so that we could imitate God’s goodness, the Truth, he is and the wonder and perfection, we may plunge into. And once in heaven, God himself grants for us the privilege to behold Him as He is in Himself, nothing shall bar us from seeing Him as He is: Eternal Perfection, Fullness of Joy in undisturbed tranquil peace.
Here on earth we are created for earning our merit to enter into the fullness of God’s goodness and perfection, the source and fulfillment of the human soul, which only God’s infinite goodness can eternally satisfy. Yet, because we live now here on earth in time and space, both of which has a beginning and an end, we in time and space can have a foretaste of heaven. Know this, that in heaven the human spirit by the spiritual faculties of our intelligence and will we shall be eternally present to God and God will be accessible for our eternal experience without needing any middle ground uniting us to God. Our Lord himself said “Go to the Father directly even now for he loves you as he loves me.” How much more this will be a reality in Heaven. St Paul tells us that “we shall know Him as we are known,” and the same is for our will by which faculty we shall love God. We shall desire nothing other than to will what the will of God wills, who wills and possesses perfection, which we now can only desire and long for, because of our time and space limitations here on earth. Yet, here comes the good news Christ revealed: that we can get a glimpse to know and will our eternal salvation here already. That is why the Savior said: “Come to me and I will refresh you. Turn to me and I shall raise you up.” This means that we can bring our will into unity, in line with the will of Christ, who and the Father and the Holy Spirit of God are one. This we can do so by the Grace God gives us, if we preserve this Grace and live, remain in Grace, by which we are empowered, indeed we are enabled because of the merit and grace of Christ, to be one with God already here on earth and do begin the joy and fulfillment of our destiny in doing and being one in what God wills and does. Our Savior says “if you love me you shall obey my commandments, thus you may remain and abide in my love.” This my dear brethren is the beginning of Heaven on earth, to bring our will by our sanctification as we heard last Sunday St Paul exhorting us to sanctify ourselves. This sanctification is accessible to us by Grace, prayers in the state of Grace, in fasting and in the good deeds of virtues. So, salvation is brought so close to us that by mere knowing God, willing and being one with God’s will, we are savoring the life of God by willing, doing, being in union with our Heavenly Father and with his Son Jesus Christ Our Savior Lord. God had made known this design to us from the beginning through the prophets, holy men and women and finally and fully through the teachings and example of Christ.
Then the intruder devil breaks upon us since he had lost out in his being tested, he broke upon our first parents by envy and jealousy to destroy and bring humanity to ruin in the temptation and by the Fall of our first parents, so that we also would inherit the weakened and wounded human nature, so as to fail and lose the glory of Heaven, which Christ came to make to restore for us, making it a possibility for us to gain merits to recover what we had lost, namely our salvation. St. John assures us in his Gospel that “Christ our Savior gave us the power to become the children of God.” This brings us to the second part of our homily, in which Christ reveals the cunning works of the enemy, whom he had identified as the source of all deceptions, the father of lies, a murderer from the beginning.
God had revealed his will known to Adam and Eve. God said: “You have power over everything, except do not eat of the fruit of the tree of life standing at the center of the Garden. Nor even touch it or you shall parish, for it would bring death upon you. God unveiled the truth plainly and clearly. Doing and remaining united with the will of God was to be the source of man’s eternal life. Not doing and not being one with his will would bring eternal death.
There came the adversary. He lied and broke in on the one important test of Adam and Eve by deceiving them, by contradicting the Word of God spoken and revealed to them. By planting seeds of doubt and contradicting God, the devil detracted men from preserving, from remaining one with God, and as a consequence to counter God’s promise of eternal life for man. By blinding man to see their malice in disobedience, the devil misguided our first parents. So they lost union with God, eternal life, they had to die, they were expelled from paradise and lost their union and friendship with God, lost their grace, the life of God in them, and brought death upon them and upon their descendents. But Christ was sent into the world in our behalf and by his saving teaching and death He had restored our hope by showing us the way of return, but it would require for us to embrace sacrifice and self-denial by which means we have a second chance to merit and reach our union with God and eternal life. Today the devil continues to use his old tricks that brought our first parents to their sad state by his lies, deceptions and contradicting God. Here we shall reflect on what Our Lord is teaching us. Let us learn from what we just read in the Gospel: “And our Lord Jesus was casting out a devil, and the same was dumb.”
Now the devil does not bring sinners to hell with their eyes open. As he did with our first parents, he first blinds us from seeing the evil, the malice of own sins. The Word of God tells us that “malice blinds men.” So, does the devil lead men to eternal perdition. Before we fall into sin, the devil is busy covering up, blinding us, so that we may not see the malice in disobedience, but instead point to and promises delight, incites us to refuse to see the evil in the sin we do, and the ruin we are about to bring upon ourselves in disregarding, and in not adhering, not obeying, but offending God. After we commit sin, then the devil comes and seeks to silence us, to make us dumb, that, through shame, we might conceal our guilt in confession. So, he draws souls to hell by a double chain, first by inciting us to sin, then after we had sinned, to sacrilege by inducing us to play dumb, to conceal in confession our sin rather than truthfully admitting them.
St. Augustine says: “Lord, keep a door at my mouth, that it may be closed against all improper words, but be open to confess the sins I have committed. So that it will be a door of restraint, and not of destruction.” Let us choose to disregard sin and temptation in silence, not to utter words offensive to God or to our neighbor, this is an act of virtue; but speak the truth, if we had failed or sinned, to reveal the truth in confession and find our liberation by God’s mercy. Jesus said the truth shall make you free. To keep silent over sin in confession, is a grave vice, the ruin of the soul. After we have offended God, the devil is busy to suppress the voice of our conscience, and to keep our mouth closed to prevent us from confessing the truth, namely our guilt, our sin. A saint once asked the devil, what he was doing there. He said: “I am now restoring to the eyes of the penitents the shame that I took away from them before, while they were committing sin; I now restore their shame so that they may have a horror of confession.”
Listen to St. John Chrysostom, he says “but God helps us to see sin as shameful, so that we may abstain from it, and gives us courage to confess it by promising pardon to all who accuse themselves of their sins in true sorrow. The devil opposes God: he induces us to a false confidence in order to bring us to sin by multiplying excuses; but, when once sin is committed, he scorns us to shame, to prevent us from facing and confessing our sin. One who conceals his sin in confession abuses and invalidates his confession, and tramples under foot the blood of Jesus Christ. says Tertullian, “Unhappy souls! they think only of the shame of confessing their sins, and do not reflect that, if they conceal them, they shall be damned. Be grateful to Jesus Christ who in our place died on the Cross to forgive our sins; show your love to him and do not offend him any more. Do penance daily cheerfully, showing him your love and gratitude for his love for you, for having you as his beloved.
In gratitude and thanksgiving offer sacrifices to God so that many sinners by the grace you earn for them by your prayers and penance, may come to recognize their sins and return to Christ to live in his friendship without offending him anymore. Gather souls for Christ, and become a grateful and his useful servant, so you gain souls for God as your form of gratitude for his love for you. Lent is time to increase in grace and offer faithful service to God through prayers and penance. Pray daily for conversion of misguided Catholics, so many hapless sinners may return to God and his Church. Praise Christ and the devil will flee from you. Amen.