Saturday, March 5, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Lent Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Strength for the Weak

Today most of us are aware that there are two kinds of sins, mortal and venial. Many of us cannot give the technical distinction between these two kinds of sins as taught by the Church. Our idea mostly is that mortal sin is big sin and venial sin is small sin.

In the Old Testament we do not find such a distinction as mortal sin and venial sin. But there is another kind of distinction of sins in the Old Testament. The distinction begins in the Book of Leviticus, chapters 4 and 5. It is made clearer in Numbers 15:20-31. The two sins are: 1) sins through inadvertence, unwittingly done; and 2) sins through defiance, knowingly and willfully done. In the Old Testament only the first kind of sin could be forgiven. The second kind could not be forgiven. No amount of sacrifice could forgive this sin. Here is the judgment of God about this second kind of sin.

"But anyone who sins defiantly, whether he be a native or an alien, insults the Lord, and shall be cut off from among the people. Since he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, he must be cut off. He has only himself to blame." Numbers 15:30-31.

In the New Testament Jesus also made a distinction between two kinds of sin: 1) sins against him which was pardonable; 2) sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which can never be pardoned. (Luke 12:10)

The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that if we sin willfully after receiving the truth, there remains for us no further sacrifice for sins, only a fearful expectation of judgment and a flaming fire to consume the adversaries of God. (10:26).

When Jesus asked forgiveness for those who crucified him he had a condition attached to this forgiveness: "they know not what they are doing." Luke 23:34.

In the Gospel reading today there is a class of people whom the Scribes and Pharisees condemned as sinners: the tax collectors and prostitutes. But Jesus did not condemn them. In fact he welcomed them. This made the Scribes and Pharisees suspect that Jesus was in truth a sinner because he associated with them. To point out the real situation of these tax collectors and prostitutes Jesus spoke the beautiful and wonderful parable of the Prodigal Son. Some Bible scholars say that this story should be entitled the parable of the Prodigal Father because the father there was so wasteful of his resources, perhaps more than his son.

In this parable Jesus taught that these tax collectors and prostitutes who were represented by the younger son who indulged in riotous living were sinners who were not really aware of what they were doing. In the Old Testament language they sinned inadvertently. They committed sins of weakness. They did not commit sins of defiance. It was the Scribes and Pharisees who condemned these tax collectors who committed the sin of defiance.

Here we see the mentality of Jesus. He was always on the side of the oppressed, the weak, the downtrodden in society.

There is no place for defiant sinners in the company of Jesus, only for sinners who are so by weakness. These tax collectors and prostitutes were aware that they were weak. They knew they were in the wrong work. And they perceived that Jesus could give them the strength to get out of their work. When Jesus forgives he transforms weakness into strength. When he said to a person, "Do not sin", the person addressed to would not sin anymore.

For many years now I have been sinning against the second commandment which says, You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain. Even today I still commit this sin. But Jesus has not abandoned me. He still loves me and makes me feel that he still receives and loves me.

This sin is something that I have inherited from my parents and those around me. When I am surprised, I utter the interjection "sus!" which is from the name of Jesus. Many priests and nuns and other religious teachers have told me that this is taking the name of Jesus in vain. I agree. But I just cannot stop myself from uttering "sus" when I am surprised. When I utter this syllable I am not even aware of it. It truly is for me a sin of inadvertence.

Does Jesus condemn me? Not at all. He never struck my mouth or put a disease into my tongue for taking his name in vain. But the priests, nuns and religious teachers condemn me. The same story happens again. The teachers of religion condemn those weak people whom Jesus welcomes. Jesus continues to deal with me as with a most intimate friend. I know in time he will get rid of this bad habit in me, as he had gotten rid of my other bad habits before. I do not say that I will get rid of that bad habit. Jesus will get rid of that for me. That is how faithful and profitable his friendship is. He transforms my weakness into strength.

What weaknesses do you suffer? Weaknesses in your sex life? In the use of other people's money? In laziness in your work or study? Jesus can turn these weaknesses into strengths. Give over your weakness to Jesus. Let him handle it. He certainly will make you strong.

Let me end with that lovely hymn our brothers and sisters in faith have sang for more than a century now.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me.
See, on the portals he's waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home.
Ye who are weary, come home.
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home.
(from Majesty Hymns, pages 325-326)

Bowing our heads let us pray.

Lord Jesus, we acknowledge our weakness. This is the cause of our sins. Forgive us. Make us strong through our weakness by fully depending on you in everything. Amen.

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