Today’s reflection is based on my homily given for the National Catholic Broadcasting Daily TV Mass.
It might be a natural inclination for us to want to look or want for a sign that will point us in the direction of something that we already ought to know. We really don’t like surprises, and most of us wrestle with patience with any sort of long term project requiring steady work.
But we can be assured that there’s virtue in the progress of everything we do along the way in our Christian lives. This may be why Jesus comes across so hard hitting in today’s Gospel; He knows we are on our way but have detours that aren’t going to be helpful to us along that way. Put in our ordinary everyday terms, He might have said “C’mon people, how many times do I have to remind you of this?!?” Put in another way, His message might be like the strong message of a winning coach calling his players to a stronger, more united, more devoted commitment to the end game, a victory – a win!
Our Lord references the Old Testament prophesy of Jonah; part of which is our first reading today. Jonah brings an alarming and awakening message, perhaps to some, a very frightening message that they need to hear: wake up!The complete fulfillment of God’s plan is taking place now! Get your act together! Friends, this is a message and a wake-up call for us all; I know it is for me, but it is for so many of us who are in the process of living our Christian lives; we know that there are areas in our lives we still need to work on.
As Lent is upon us now, it’s important for us to really think about this, really reflect upon it in our daily lives. If we stop and consider the dramatic message Jonah brought to the people of Nineveh, it startled those who aspire for holiness but who were maybe forgetful, who had become complacent in some things or indifferent in some things.
I believe that to be us: myself to be certain and maybe you too!
One can only hope that a any sermon or homily is going to be for the person who came with no intention to live close to God and then leaves converted & changed, prepared to live a radically different life; but the reality is that while we welcome and embrace anyone like this, it is more likely that if you’re listening to me, if you’ve turned on the television or if you’ve come down here to the Abbey, you’re already trying to live your life close to Jesus. I know I am, but I also know that I fail at that sometimes. If you’re anything like me, you need today’s wake-up to get things going again. We all need to be reminded today that the Lord’s hope and desire for us to re-commit ourselves to a holy way of life is now! It’s today, not tomorrow but today.
If we truly embrace that, it should be fire not fear in our hearts. It should be the fire of the love of God that compels us to love and embrace Him and a holy way of life, to love unconditionally those around us; family, friends, those who mistreat us and disrespect us most especially too. It ought to be the fire of the love of Christ that should want us to joyfully proclaim in word and deed that we are Christian – without fear.
Fear is not now, and never has been from the Lord. If the reading from the Book of Jonah and if Jesus’ word bring about fear in us, it’s important that we address that. It may be fear of something in our daily lives that we have to pray for freedom from and ask God how we might be released from that fear. I know I’ve talked with many who are fearful of the end and the final judgment on account of their sins. Well, we ought not to be – those who are usually afraid are not the ones who should be. We need to make the regular practice of a good confession, and then entrust our struggle to God Himself. The last thing God would want for any of us would be that we spend so much time wrestling with our own sins and weaknesses that we live in them instead of living for Him and doing the good work He has called us to. We need to be cognizant and accept our responsibility for our sins, always trying to do better – but to be afraid of God’s wrath for sin is not helping us to have a healthy spiritual life and prayer life.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, may we see today’s Mass as that sign, the same sign given by Jesus once for all and for which we put our faith, have a greater sense of hope in and grow to embrace in a spirit of love which Jesus intended for it to be. May God bless you.