Sunday, May 1, 2011

Third Homily from Lent

De Spes non confundit
Lectio Tertia [1]

Instruction for the Third Sunday of Lent
27th of March, 2011

Parish of Saints Peter and Paul
Rev. Mr. Michael Taylor

·         First Sunday of Lent: Concerning the knowledge of good and evil
·         Second Sunday of Lent: Concerning the call to holiness
·         Third Sunday of Lent: Concerning why hope is necessary
·         Fourth Sunday of Lent: Concerning what is pleasing to God
·         Fifth Sunday of Lent: Concerning why our faith is salvific
·         Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion: Concerning how to be a martyr

And hope confoundeth not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is given to us…For God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.[2]

We have been told of the virtues. There are the four cardinal virtues; fortitude, justice, temperance and prudence. Then there are the three theological virtues; faith, hope and love. Now most of us could define faith, or at least have a general idea of what faith is. Even more so, we have many concepts of what it means to love. We have the love of a mother to her child, the love of a brother to his siblings, and the love of a husband to his wife. But how many of you could define hope? Furthermore, we know what an act of faith is. It can be as simple as professing the creed at mass. An act of love falls either as love of God or love of neighbor. But how many of you know what an act of hope is? Hope is considered the misplaced virtue, the nebulous concept that is prayed for between faith and love. Yet without hope, we cannot have salvation, for we find ourselves mired in the mud of our despair, a despair that comes from the sins we have committed. So, let us speak about hope, so that we can understand the meaning of Lent.
In the Letter to Hebrews, we find a scriptural definition for hope, a definition which finds its foundation in faith, for it is written, faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.[3] This hope, this substance of things hoped for, allows us to enter into the mystery of faith,[4] which is the promise into the happiness of heaven.[5] We cannot desire that which cannot be fulfilled. When a person is hungry, it is because they are capable of eating, an indication that human nature requires food. If we are thirsty, it is because we are capable of being thirsty, itself, an indication that human nature requires water. All humanity desires God, just as all humanity desires food and water. This desire is capable of being fulfilled, and this fulfillment is called faith.
In our society though, we have settled for mediocrity. We are told, don’t worry about your flaws, don’t worry about your weaknesses. You’re fine just the way you are. You were born the way you’re supposed to be. Yet this is not the Christian message. We know that we are born into a system of sin, what we know to be Original Sin.[6] And yet God’s command that we be holy seems to us an injustice. Throughout history, we have rebelled against God, saying, “your ways are unfair, your laws too hard, human beings are simply too fallen. If you had wanted us to be perfect, you should have created us better.” Now God could have ignored our complaints. He could have stood by His perfection and left us to either follow the law and be saved or ignore them and be condemned. Yet He did not abandon us. He came down. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us! Christ came to show us that our human nature could live in peace with the divine nature of God.
But we chose to put Christ on trial, this time for real. We put Christ on trial because He claimed to be God and we demanded He explain God’s ways to us. John Paul the Great contemplated the meaning of man putting God on trial in his meditation of Good Friday:
“This is the definitive meaning of Good Friday; Man, you who judge God, you who order Him to justify himself before your tribunal, think about yourself, if you are not responsible for the death of this condemned man, if the judgment of God is not actually a judgment upon yourself. Consider if this judgment and its result, the Cross and then the resurrection, are not your only way to Salvation.” [7]

This is how God proves His love for us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. [8] God calls us to be perfect because He knows what we are capable of, for He Himself is our Creator.[9] God tells us, before I formed you in thy mother’s womb, I knew you; and before you were born I sanctified you.[10] In Baptism I gave you my Holy Spirit.[11] In the Eucharist, I have given you my beloved Son.[12] I will take out your stony hearts and give you a heart of flesh[13] and on the last day I will raise you up to life eternal [14] and I will be your God [15] and you will be my beloved children! [16] That’s audacity of hope. That’s change you can believe in.
            Faith gives us something. It gives us hope, it gives us this seed which helps compel us towards heaven. As Saint Paul says, God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control-[17] that, by contrast, is the beautiful way in which the Second Letter to Timothy describes the fundamental attitude of the Christian.[18] Hope does not leave us in despair, but we realize that with Christ, all things are possible. With that in mind, let me return back to today’s gospel, to see how hope lives in our lives.
            In the gospel, it says that Jesus went to a well in the middle of the day in the city of Samaria. Now, throughout the bible, there is a history of meeting people in need at the well. In Genesis, Jacob helps role away a stone over the well, and in the process, meets Rachel, who will be his future wife.[19] In Exodus, with Moses on the run for his life, he defends the daughters of Mid’ian against shepherds, and eventually marries one of them.[20] Yet there is a important note here. The woman at the well is there at noon, by herself, in the heat, rather than going with the other women of her village in the cool of the morning. We later find out that this is because she has been living a life of sin, which has left her isolated from her neighbors. This is what sin does. It keeps us isolated and detached from those around us. Yet notice what Jesus does. He offers her the drink of water which will give her eternal life.[21] Remember, this is how God proves His love for us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Christ meets the woman where she is at and the water He offers is a foreshadowing of baptism. Yet she does not understand what He is offering. This is because sin darkens our intellect and weakens our will. Now notice what He does next.
            Jesus tells the woman to go get her husband. Now Jesus knows what her situation is. We know what her situation is. She knows what her situation is. So why did He ask her to go get her husband? Because He wanted her to admit that she was in sin. Remember what the beloved Apostle, John, writes, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.[22] The Samaritan woman admits, I have no husband.[23] Notice that she doesn’t confess everything. But Jesus takes where she is at, and works with it, revealing her life to the woman; thou hast said well, ‘I have no husband; for thou hast had five husbands: and he whom thou hast now, is not thy husband. This thou hast said truly. She responds with the belief that Jesus is a prophet.
This in and of itself is an act of faith. Now the faith of the Samaritans had foretold of the coming of the messiah, as she says, I know that the Messiah cometh (who is called Christ); therefore, when He comes, he will tell us all things.[24] Jesus reveals himself to be the Christ. Notice the place hope now plays. In faith, she has been prepared for the encounter with Jesus, to anticipate the coming of the messiah. But hope will compel her to overcome her shame, the shame of her sins, the despair of her isolation, to go back and talk to her neighbors, to tell them who she has found. And what words does she use? Come and see a man who has told me all things I have done? Is he not the Christ? [25] She doesn’t say, look at the man who said, “when you’re perfect, you will be saved” or “for those who are found worthy, they shall gain the kingdom of heaven.” No, she speaks of the one who, knowing her sins, still offered her eternal life. Again, this is how God proves His love for us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.[26]
Hope is necessary, because it allows us to respond to the call of Christ. It is one thing to believe in faith that Jesus is the Son of God, the redeemer of the world. But it requires hope to be able to respond to his call to be saints. It requires Hope to be able to say, I’m not where I’m supposed to be, but with God’s grace and help, I have the hope that one day I will be there. As Christ has said, my grace is sufficient for thee. [27] Hope allows us to know that where we were at Ash Wednesday is not the same person we’ll be on Easter. While we are reminded on Ash Wednesday that we are dust and to dust we shall return, hope allows us to gather together as family on Holy Saturday and know that we too share in the resurrection of the Christ Jesus, our brother and savior. This is our hope in God. In God alone is our hope and we shall never hope in vain.

[1] Concerning the Hope which confoundeth not. See Romans 5.5 (Taken from the second reading)
[2] Romans 5.5, 8
[3] Hebrews 11.1
[4] Cf. Hebrew 6.19
[5] Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q17, a2, a7: “Absolutely speaking, faith precedes hope. For the object of hope is a future good, arduous but possible to obtain. In order, therefore, that we may hope, it is necessary for the object of hope to be proposed to us as possible.
[6] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §402: “All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as Saint Paul affirms: By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners : sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men have sinned [Rom. 5.12,19]. The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ: Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men [Rom. 5.18]. SEE ALSO, Catechism of the Catholic Church §§ 388-389.
[7] John Paul II. Crossing the Threshold of Hope. 
[8] Romans 5.8
[9] Cf. Gen. 1.26
[10] Cf. Jeremiah 1.5
[11] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§1262, 1265
[12] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§1337-1340
[13] Cf. Ezekiel 11.19: And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them: I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh…
[14] Cf. John 6.39-40: …and this is the will of him who sent, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day.
[15] Cf. Ezekiel 36.26-28: A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. [27] And I will put my spirit within you, and cause to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people and I shall be your God.
[16] Cf. I John 3.1-3: See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as He is pure.
[17] II Timothy 1.7
[18] Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, §10
[19] Cf. Genesis 29.1-14
[20] Cf Exodus 2.15-21
[21] John 4.10
[22] I John 1.8-9
[23] John 4.16
[24] John 4.25
[25] John 4.29
[26] Romans 5.8
[27] Cf. II Corinthians 12.9

No comments:

Post a Comment