The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Homily: Morning Prayer Saturday 23 Feb

While on my weekend deacons' retreat, I was asked to conduct Saturday's Morning Prayer and preach the homily on the reading from Isaiah, chapter one:

"Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they may become white as wool" [Is 1:-16-18]

My homily follows:
Sisters and brothers, God often speaks to us in the silence of our hearts, and like Elijah we're called to pull away from the noise of the world and listen for His quiet, still voice [1 Kgs 19]

...become white as snow (By Natalie Hunsaker)
But sometimes God doesn't wait for us to get all cozy and comfortable. Sometimes there's an urgency to His message. He wants us to hear and respond now and so He literally shouts it at us...just like this morning's passage from Isaiah chapter one.

When you read the early Church Fathers, especially their commentaries on Sacred Scripture, one common theme becomes evident: They all preached that the entire Old Testament, virtually every verse, pointed in one direction, to Jesus Christ, to the Good News. And I think there's probably no better example of this than the prophet Isaiah. Listen again to some of the words we just heard:

"Wash yourselves clean!
...Come now, let us set things right, say the Lord.
Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow."

Do you hear the Gospel here? Do you hear the Good News? Well, all you have to do is turn to Mark's Gospel and listen to the parallel between the first chapters of each book.

In Mark, Jesus begins His public ministry with a proclamation and a command, and as usual Mark gives it to us wrapped up in tight, succinct prose. Listen to these first words spoken by our Lord:

"The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel" [Mark 1:15].

First He proclaims the fulfillment of all that has come before -- the Law, the Prophets, all is fulfilled. All has been brought to completion. And the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom so long awaited by God's People, is at hand.

But it's not all God's work. We each have a part to play. And so the command: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel."  This command, these six words, are the same words with which we are greeted on Ash Wednesday when the ashes, that sign of repentance, are applied to our foreheads: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel."

These are the words of Lent. These are the words of our journey to the Kingdom. We are called to accept the fact of our sinfulness and the need for repentance. For without repentance the rest of the command means nothing.

"Believe in the Gospel." Believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ. What is the Good News? It's forgiveness. And forgiveness calls for repentance. And it's eternal life, the fruit of our repentance and God's forgiveness.

Believe in forgiveness. Believe in eternal life. Know that God wants to forgive. He wants those scarlet sins of ours, of the entire world, to be washed away. And notice too, both Isaiah and Jesus tell us it's up to us. That's right, God wants us to cooperate in our salvation.

"Repent," commands Jesus. "Wash yourselves clean," Isaiah pleads with God's people. Yes, that's right, you can do the washing. All it takes is repentance. And then, speaking through His prophet, God Himself pleads:  "Come now, let us set things right." Not you, not me, but us. Let's do it together, God says.  You provide the repentance, you do my work in the world, and I'll take care of the forgiveness; I'll provide that salvation I've promised. Let us set things right.

Believe in the Gospel. Believe in the Truth, Jesus says. The truth of redemption. The truth of forgiveness. The truth of eternal life. The truth of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. Believe in Me, Jesus says; Believe in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for we are here with you.

We will make our dwelling within you. We will work alongside you as you carry out my work, as you carry out your ministry, as you make disciples of all nations, as you preach and teach and heal...for you are never alone.

Brothers and sisters, we are called to be servants of the Truth in our shared ministry.  Let's do it together. Come now, says The Lord, let us set things right.

Praised be Jesus Christ.

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