Sunday, February 28, 2016

God is waiting for you!










HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT, February 28, 2016:

Pope Francis repeatedly tells a story which he says was the source of his vocation and spirituality. When he was a young man of 17, he was heading to the train in Buenos Aires one day for his school’s annual picnic and thinking of proposing to a girlfriend at the picnic. As he passed by the local church, he decided to pop in to say a prayer. There he met a young, friendly priest and decided to go to confession. Something happened in that confession which Pope Francis describes as an encounter with God who had been waiting for him. In the encounter he experienced unmistakably and powerfully the mercy of God for him and for all people. He knew from that experience that the only meaning his life could have would be to show everyone the mercy of God. In that moment, He felt called and he discovered a special vocation of mercy. He did not go to the train or the picnic that day. He did not propose to his girlfriend. His life and its course was completely changed in that moment. And, he tells us that because of that experience more than 60 years ago he adopted the motto as archbishop, cardinal, and pope “miserando atque eligendo” which he translates “having been shown mercy and chosen to show mercy.”

This is a powerful and poignant moment in the life of our Holy Father and it is a story that came to mind as I was reflecting on our first reading today from the Book of Exodus. We heard, “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 with our living and loving God.

We probably know this story in the life of Moses well, and I think many people hear stories like this, or the remarkable stories of healing and miracles from the Gospels, with a sense of wonder and awe, but also with a sense that these stories are Biblical, but don’t perhaps happen anymore. Such miraculous Godly encounters are a thing of the past and not something that will ever occur in our lifetime.

But, as this simple story from the young life of Pope Francis reminds us, God still desires to reach out and touch our lives and change them forever. On Ash Wednesday, as we began this season of Lent, I shared a quote of Pope Francis from about a year ago. Reflecting on God’s gift of mercy he said, “‘Feeling mercy changes everything’. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world.” The Pope knows this to be a true statement in his own life and we are reminded today that it can and should be true in ours.

So, as we gather once again today as God’s people, where do we need to have a real experience of God in our lives? What pains or troubles do we need to ask God to help us carry? Are we in need of a clearer idea of the direction He has set for us? Or do we simply have a deep desire to feel God’s presence, to know in the depths of our being that God is real and right here by our side?

In this Exodus encounter, we see that God was very present to Moses and was ready to rescue His people with infinite mercy, love and patience. This is what Moses learned on that day; and it this is what God wants to teach us here today. Like Moses, God has a desire to reach out and encounter us in our lives. And this encounter can change everything in our lives if we are open to it.

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. But we have to take the first step and believe. We have to open our eyes to see beyond the bread and wine on the altar and to see that it is our God who is present to us. We have to open our lives to receive that mercy that God wants to show us; we have to open our hearts receive this encounter in order to be changed by it.

My friends, once again, God is waiting for each one of us. God is calling out to us like He did to Moses, like He did to Pope Francis. He wants to have a real encounter with us so that we will know that He is real, and that this encounter might make all the difference in our lives. Feeling mercy changes everything. Feeling God changes everything.

Let God today encounter your joy, your sorrow; your triumphs and your failures; your victories and your losses – let God encounter you and go forth from here renewed by the time spent truly with our living and loving God.

May the Lord give you peace.

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