[Sunday homily by Deacon Tom]
This week, while we all worked, or went to school…as we volunteered or tinkered about the house…as we attended meetings, went to the grocery store and even as some of us fell off our Lenten wagons…
§ Come on…please tell me I’m not the only one.
§ A show of hands from everyone who had at least a mini-lapse this week from your Lenten observance?
Anyway, as we all went about our daily lives, the Vatican was essential shut down. No meetings. No audience with the Pope. No tribunals or visitations or Papal pronouncements. All was essentially quiet, except in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Vatican, where our Holy Father and members of the Roman Curia met, three times a day.
For the whole week, they hit the pause button and engulfed themselves in their annual Lenten Spiritual Exercises, led by a French-speaking cleric, Cardinal Laurent Pasinya, Archbishop of a large diocese in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in South Africa. By all accounts Cardinal Pasinya preached masterfully, and his retreatants emerged renewed, revitalized and ready to shepherd the Roman Catholic Church through the Easter Triduum and beyond.
And as I trolled for ideas for this homily, the theme of the Pope’s Lenten retreat struck me, in the simplicity of its title:
And by “communion,” Cardinal Pasinya meant oneness or unity. He suggests that …QUOTE…“This is the mission and principal and purpose, the ‘raison d'etre’ of Lent: the fact that it helps us to live more intensely communion with God”
But I fear that our modern understanding of the phrase “communion with God” is, maybe a bit meek or docile. After all, if I say that I live “in communion with nature,” some would say that this could simply mean that I don’t go around hacking down trees indiscriminantly and try to recycle. And “communion with God?” Well…it could merely indicate that “I don’t bother God and God doesn’t bother me. We get along just fine, God and me. Everything’s dandy.”
No…I think communion means more than this.
I’m thinking more along the lines of “Communion with God’s WILL for me.” That’s a little different now, isn’t it? Before, we were merely “living in communion.” A land of unicorns and daisies, with a Seals and Croft soundtrack playing in the background. Now…this “communion with God” thing, AND HIS WILL FOR ME, has some real teeth to it. It forces me to ask God, “God…what do you want from me today? What do you have in mind?” And it assumes that I will carry that out. Whatever it is.
This is big thinking. It’s scary. It just got really complicated. Because if we ask…he might answer. If we listen…we might find out he’s asking for something WAY bigger than we are willing to give.
That was certainly the case with Abraham.
§ God asked him to leave his homeland and family in his old age.
§ “Okay, God.”
§ Now, go into the wilderness, to a strange land that I will show you. A land of idol-worshipers and pagans.
§ “Okay, God.”
Then, in today’s reading, comes the sucker punch.
§ God called him: “Abraham!”
§ “Here I am!” he replied.
§ “Abraham, take your only son, your beloved. The one for whom you and Sarah waited for SO many years. Take him to Moriah, and there, on a place of my choosing, offer him up as a sacrifice.”
§ “Well…Okay, God.”
Abraham was even willing to do that. The unthinkable. Having had a little bit of experience at losing a son, I don’t know where he found the strength. But he did. The fact is…Abraham’s life was an astonishing chronicle of faith and obedience. It was a lesson in “communion.” No matter what, he was willing to place himself in the hands of the God, and to trust.
I don’t have that measure of trust. Do you? I could not do that. Could you? Could any of us? Really?
But let’s remember how it began…
“Here I am, Lord.”
It was just that simple. “Here I am.”
I really, really think that Lent is about being “present” to God. It’s about stripping away all the other crud in our lives, like layers of an onion, and making ourselves raw and simple and naked and trusting before the Lord. “Here I am.” All the prayer and fasting, all the devotions, the daily Mass, the Rosaries, the Stations of the Cross, the Eucharistic Adoration and the donations for the Dental Clinic in Haiti, attending the Pew Perspectives Program or the Catholicism Program or an ACTS Retreat or whatever it is that you are doing. That’s all it is meant to do. Make you more present, more connected, more in communion with him. So…is it? Is your Lent making you MORE present to God? Because that’s the sacrifice, that’s the gift, that’s the devotion your Father in heaven wishes.
Because that’s the promise he makes to US this Lent. He, who did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all…says to us: Here I am.
§ Here I am…on the Cross.
§ Here I am…in the confessional.
§ Here am in the Rosary and Stations and even, maybe, the Fish Fries.
§ Here I am…offered, sacrificed and broken on that altar for you.
§ I want to share myself. I want to change your heart this Lent. I want to transform, even transfigure YOU.
§ I want to BE with you. Will you BE with me?
Lent is an incredible opportunity, a fabulous time to be in communion. And the amazing thing is that when we are in communion with God, it is reflected in our being in communion with others, especially “the least” among us. So let’s not think that because we are so magnanimously offering ourselves to Christ, we don’t have time to offer ourselves to others.
Let’s lace up our “communion shoes” and hit the roads and streets of Glendale and Webster. Let’s march down the street to a neighbor who is lonely and say, “Here I am.” Then, let’s load the kids in the car and head to a soup kitchen or Saint Patrick Center or any number of the incredible charities in our community who need volunteers and say, “Here we are.” And to the person at work who is struggling with their faith, who has fallen away and longs for a loving relationship with Jesus. “Here I am…and here is Christ, too, as an added bonus.
Now here’s the really tough one: look at the spouse you’ve taken for granted this past week…or the child for whom you’ve been too busy, and say it. Go ahead, say it: “Here I am.” I’ve got time; I can wait. Say it: “Here I am.”
And to the God whom you’ve neglected, the faith you’ve overlooked, the prayer life that has grown stale. For the times you’ve just gone through the motions as you come forward for Holy Communion. For our silence toward God, our distance from Christ, our indifference to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. “Here…Here I am, Lord.”
As a Parish, we can feel and live the power of communion with God this Lent. We need only be present.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary
--Mother of the Redeemer, Mother of the Redeemed,
and our Queen of Peace--
intercede for us with the Father and bring us in communion with the heart and mind of Jesus.