Saturday, March 6, 2010

The courage to say "Here I Am"

HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT, March 7, 2010:


“God called out to Moses from the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ He answered, ‘Here I am.’ God said, ‘Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’” With this incredible moment, Moses’ life would be changed forever. He would go from being a privileged member of the Egyptian royal family to become a prophet and leader of a slave people on their way to freedom – all because of this encounter.

Think for a moment about how extraordinary this encounter is. Moses is going about his normal day-to-day activities of tending the flock, when he sees something that defies explanation – a bush appears to be on fire and yet the bush itself is not being consumed. This initially brought about a curiosity in him to go and investigate this odd situation. And, there, as he approaches, he hears a voice; a voice that he immediately recognizes as the voice of God. Moses hid his face, believing that if he saw God, he would not live. He wasn’t ready to die. But, this would not be the case, instead, Moses was being called by God to a new vocation; one that would last the rest of his lifetime; a vocation so profound that it would leave its mark on all generations to come after him right down to our own time.

There are two important things to remember from this encounter. First, God was very present to Moses. And second, God had mercy on His people and was ready to rescue them with infinite love and patience. That was what Moses learned on that day so long ago; and it is exactly the same for us today. Like Moses, God has a vocation for each of us; and just like the people then, we too are constantly being shown God’s infinite mercy, love and patience. We prayed that in our psalm today, “The Lord is kind and merciful.”

I read a vocation story about a young girl in the 1940s who learned a lesson and received a call. One day at lunch time, the children were told to bring their coats to their desks and get ready to go home for lunch. They could line up as soon as their coats were buttoned and their hats on. They did this quickly because they were eager for lunch. But one little boy couldn’t button his coat, and he was holding the whole class up. This little girl thought to herself, “Boy, even my younger sister and brother can button their coats, what’s wrong with this boy?” And then she looked at her teacher. Sr. Mary was across the room and noticed the boy standing unable to fix his coat. Her eyes met with his and she slowly walked over with a loving smile on her face and compassion in her eyes. Slowly she buttoned his coat while lovingly smiling to him. He beamed back with all the love in his heart. The little girl who started out as judgmental, now stood in awe. She thought to herself, “Sister didn’t even speak a word and she is doing something so good! I want to do that too!” Today, she counts that simple day as the beginning of her own religious vocation. In that moment, she saw the mercy, the love, the presence and the patience of God; and felt God calling her to the same; it changed her life from that day forward.

Now, we could stop right here, but we still have our Gospel passage to deal with which calls us to repentance. Actually, it tells us much more than that. Yes, Jesus is encouraging people to repentance, “If you do not repent, you will all perish,” but He also tells them to be careful about judging, “Do you think that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans?” Jesus gives a resounding “no” before telling the parable of the fig tree – notice that even the fig tree gets a second chance. This is important because God gives us second chances too. God gives us far more than second chances; He gives us infinite chances to repent and return to Him; to listen and hear His call; to be strengthened and follow His vocation for our lives. But that doesn’t mean that we can take advantage of God’s mercy by living in sinful ways and leaving the good life; the holy life until the end of life.

Life is fragile. If someone dies in battle, or in a natural disaster, or from a difficult disease, it does not mean that God is punishing them. Life is fragile. God is not simply waiting to punish us if we fall and sin. God is always waiting to forgive us; to reconcile us; to welcome us back to Him. And God is always calling us. We want to meet God as best we can. Even knowing of God’s infinite love and mercy, God wants us – His beloved sons and daughters – to live good lives, to follow where He leads us. Every day is another gift of mercy, love, and compassion from God.

In just a few moments, God will reveal Himself to us just as powerfully as He did to Moses; this time not in a burning bush, but in the Blessed Sacrament – His true and real presence among us. He will again call us to follow our true vocation as His children. Let us repent once again and listen to the call of God in our lives and follow Him in kindness, mercy, compassion, gentleness, justice and love.

May God give you peace.

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