Sunday, June 10, 2018

DO THE WILL OF THE FATHER: a homily for the Tenth Sunday in year B, (Mark 3.20–35)

            What a homecoming!  Our Lord returns to Nazareth and faces two challenges. The Jewish lawyers and theologians are accusing Him of being possessed while His relatives are putting Him under pressure to conform.  In the intensely clannish climate of Israel the question is this: where does His authority come from?  In other words who is Jesus and what should we do about Him?
            In the midst of all this our Lord offers His defense: He is the strong man who has robbed the robber Satan.  He is the center of history and the source of salvation.  Anyone who does His Father's will is mother, sister, brother to Him.  It is not biology but obedience to the truth that forms the family of God.
            One would have to be totally indifferent to one's salvation or dangerously complacent not to wonder about that sin against the Holy Spirit.  What does that mean?  The sin against the Holy Spirit or the unforgiveable sin is the refusal to admit one's sin or the power and will of God to forgive it.  It is a rejection of God's mercy and forgiveness. A drowning man who resists any help or a dying man who refuses life-saving treatment cannot be saved and likewise those who refuse God's mercy remain in their sin.  It does not mean that God does not or cannot forgive but that His forgiveness is not welcome and until that changes the sin remains and the sinner cannot hope for Heaven.
            All too often we think of sin in terms of breaking rules, especially breaking Church rules.  That in part is due to the Church's practice in the past of using such penalties to enforce discipline.  Sin is not about breaking rules but about doing evil. Sin is a rejection of God's authority, His mercy and His love, and His plan for us.  It follows that any thought, word or deed that freely and consciously rejects God's plan is evil and therefore sinful.
            You will remember that our Lord says that if anyone looks lustfully at another person he or she has already committed sin in their heart.  This is because the one looking with lust has given their will to an act they know to be wrong and though there was no physical action they have turned their will to an evil end.  Each time you or I do such a thing we make it easier to do it in future until we end up so evil that we can no longer do good.  I knew a female student once who could not tell the truth even if it got her out of trouble.    
            Of course the opposite is also true. The more you choose to do good, to do the right thing, the more likely you are to choose good in future until it becomes nearly impossible to do wrong.  It is a habit, that is, a settled disposition of one's charachter. Such a habit is a virtue if it is good and a vice if it is evil.
            As I have pointed out to you before there is an objective moral order. It is Objective because it exists independently of us, Moral because it governs right and wrong and an order because it has a hierarchical structure.  We do good when we live by it and respect it and evil by ignoring it and acting contrary to it even if only in our thoughts.  This is why even seemingly small acts can be morally significant.
            For instance, Adolf Hitler did not, as far as we know, kill anyone.  Yet by his signature he gave power to Himmler and Himmler gave power to Heydrich and Heydrich thought up the 'final solution', that is, the mass murder of millions of innocent Jews.  The pen is mightier than the sword because it so often unleashes it. So even our smallest acts can bring great good or great evil and we will answer to God for the consequences of every one of them.
            The good news is that God has extended to us His mercy and forgiveness in His Son.  In Christ He has given us everything, every grace and every blessing.  It is up to us to avail of it.  He will not force Himself on us.  He will not violate our free will in even the smallest way.  He would not force the scribes and the Pharisees; He will not force us.
            More, any and every sin, no matter how dreadful or disgusting, no matter how shameful, no matter how often committed, no matter how many affected, any sin will be forgiven if it is repented and confessed.  If we cast ourselves on His mercy we will not be disappointed.  But only those sins are forgiven that are repented and confessed in this life.  We cannot confess or repent in the next.  What we hold back, what we refuse to acknowledge as sin, or if we refuse to trust in His mercy and forgiveness, then that cannot be forgiven.  What is not dipped in the water is not washed.
            Through Baptism and Confirmation He has made us one Family, one flesh with Himself.  More, He has given us a share in His own Sonship and a place on the Throne of Heaven.  In Holy Communion He offers us His Body and Blood, His own soul and Divinity as food for us.  He asks that we believe in Him, trust Him and give Him each and every in sin in the Confession. He wants to see, touch and heal each and every wound.  He will not force His love on us and neither will He force His mercy. 
            Don't let pride or false humility, weak faith or laziness, keep you out of heaven.  The more and the swifter we turn to His grace in the Sacrament of Confession the quicker and the greater will we grow in holiness.  That holiness will attract others to Christ and His mercy, especially those we love.  If you really love your loved ones you will strive to get as close to Christ as possible because only through, with and in Him can anyone be saved. 

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