3rd Sunday of Lent Year C

   

     This past weekend some of the men from our parish were away on an ACTS retreat. Yesterday I had the opportunity to go out for the morning to speak with them and answer some questions. As I listened to their questions it was clear that many of them had come to a deep encounter with Christ on the retreat. In one way or another they had heard the Lord call out to them just as He called out to Moses through the burning bush in the desert and like Moses they wanted to come closer so they could then go out and bring others to Him.

     With only about a minute left I tried to squeeze in one last question. There it came, the toughest question yet. The question was simple, “how can I bring back a child who has left the Church.” Well the room broke out in laughter because they quickly realized there was no way I could address that question in 1 minute. Having experienced the joy of Christ, it was only natural that these men would want to know how to allow their own children to experience that joy.

     It’s that same joy that Christ calls us to when He tells us to repent in today’s Gospel. I think so often, when we hear that word repent many of us immediately think it simply means to turn away from sin. While this is true, it falls well short of what our Lord is actually calling us to; for to turn from something requires us to turn towards something else. When we hear that command of Christ to repent, we are actually hearing Christ calling us home to Himself. He is calling us into a relationship with Him and the only thing holding us back from Him is ourselves. This call to repentance then is a call to open our hearts. It is a recognition that “being a Christian can only take the form of becoming a Christian ever anew; that it is not an event now over and done with, but a process requiring constant practice.”[1]

     Just prior to what we heard in today’s Gospel Jesus calls the crowd to reorder their lives. If your life is anything like mine, so often we worry about all the details of life and then we try to figure out where God fits into the whole picture. Yet that only leads to more stress and anxiety. Rather than trying to fit God into our hectic life we first need to seek God alone and then all the other things will fall into place.

     My friends God’s call to repentance is simply an invitation to follow Him. It is a reminder that “one aspect of becoming a Christian is having to leave behind what everyone else thinks and wants, the prevailing standard, in order to enter the light of the truth of our being and aided by that light to find the right path.”[2] While this idea of reordering our life to put God first may seem daunting, what do we really have to do by reordering our lives around Christ?

     Friends “a man can become a Christian, not by birth, but only by conversion.”[3] Have you ever noticed how God calls people in the Bible? Take Moses from today’s first reading as an example. Moses was a murder on the run. Did Jesus call Moses by saying “confess you murderous thug?” God didn’t need to tell Moses he was a sinner; he already knew that. Rather than call him out for his evil, God invited him to reorder his life around Him. God is intriguing in and of Himself, we don’t need to do anything to make God interesting, we simply need to help others reorder their lives around Christ and let Christ do the rest of the work. In today’s First Reading Moses wasn’t able to resist the Lord’s invitation. Moses reordered His life around that encounter with the burning bush and went on to lead God’s chosen people from slavery to freedom.

     My friends if we want to invite those who have fallen away back to the Church we need to start with ourselves. Our Lord is truly kind and merciful, all we need to do is repent. All we need to do is reorder our lives around Christ and allow Him to work in our lives. The beauty of Christ attracts others. If we order our lives around Christ and proclaim the great things He has done for us our lives will be living witnesses of God’s love and will attract people back home to the Church. This season of Lent is our opportunity to reorder our lives around Christ. He who is veiled no longer in the burning bush, but now in the Eucharist calls us to place Him at the center of our lives. Will you?

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg 280.

[2] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Jesus of Nazareth Part II. San Francisco: Ignatius Press,2011. Pg 67.

[3] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg 363.

 

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