Saturday, March 13, 2021



Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent, March 14, 2021. Readings: Ephesians 2:4-10, Gospel of St. John 3:14-21. Theme: Laetare! 

Today, we mark the midway point of Lent. It is “Laetare Sunday”, which is a Latin word that means “to praise”. The usual Lenten penitential color of purple gives way to pink, which is the color of joy, to remind us that today is a time for praise and rejoicing because we are quickly approaching the events of Good Friday through Easter Sunday. We are drawing closer to the celebration of the Pascal Mystery by which the human race has been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and freed from the bonds of sin. And so, we are moved to praise God who wipes the slate of our lives clean when we return to him with repentant hearts and who gives us the hope of a brand-new life, of genuine rehabilitation from sin through, with and in Jesus Christ! 

Now, some people find our Christian message of a brand-new life too good to be true. Maybe it’s because they have a hard time forgiving themselves for things they have done and believe the devil’s lie that they are beyond redemption. Or maybe it’s because they have never experienced the healing power of real forgiveness from others. But the reality and awesomeness of God’s forgiving and rehabilitating love reminds me of something astounding I learned when I was a college student. 

There was a priest at our university who had been appointed the official exorcist for the diocese. And he had quite a lot of experience in that ministry. He would always take a group of Catholics with him as a prayer-team during an exorcism and he had a non-negotiable requirement for those who agreed to be on this team. They had to make a thorough honest confession of their sins. He had a very interesting explanation for the non-negotiable condition. It seems that during an exorcism, the demon tries with all his might to get true believers out of the room because their prayers become part of the all-powerful intercession of Christ. And so, the evil spirit will often try to drive people out of the room by calling out their most private embarrassing sins! 

To encourage everyone to truly make good confession, he shared with us an experience from a prior exorcism. When the time came for the demon to try and accuse and scatter the team, he remained silent. No one had sins called out. No one had their most private and darker moments revealed for all the know. When the priest demanded that the demon tell him why this was no one was being outed, he got this defeated reply: “No one here has sinned! There is nothing I can accuse them of having done!”  

Surely among these college kids there were sins that could have been named and shamed. So, what was up? I think the best way to explain it is to use the words of Blessed Jean-Joseph Lataste, who started a religious order open to rehabilitated former prisoners, which was something totally revolutionary or his times. He used to always say, “God doesn’t look what we have been or done; he only cares about what we are today.” In other words, when God forgives, he also chooses to forget. 

You see, when we honestly and humbly confess to God with repentant hearts, and we chose to live our lives trusting in Jesus as Savior, our sins are not just forgiven, but completely annihilated. Totally obliterated. It’s as if they were never even committed in the first place. God grants us a totally clean slate, with yet another chance for a fresh new start. By God’s grace we receive such a true and complete rehabilitation from sin that even the memory of them is erased from the mind of God, so to speak. 

This is precisely what St. Paul says in today’s second reading when he beautifully describes the effects of the Paschal Mystery of Good Friday through Easter Sunday: God who is rich in mercy and because of his great love for us…brought us to life with Christ and raised us up with him… For by grace you have been saved through faith…and this is the gift of God.” St. John proclaims this same beautiful truth to us in today’s Gospel when he says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” In biblical language, “to believe” means to trust. Those who trust in Jesus as their Savior, living with confidence in his merciful love, receive this totally awesome and free gift of a brand-new life in God’s eyes. 

It seems to me that through today’s liturgy, God’s Word is calling us to be truly free of those things that still weigh us down in conscience and hold us back from enjoying real freedom in Christ. Let’s each ask ourselves: How long has it been since I have made a really good, honest and sincere confession? What better way to prepare for and receive the hope and promise of new life at Easter than by running to the loving embrace of God and receiving from him a fresh new start through the Sacrament of Reconciliation!

The Paschal Mystery means the....




and Ascension...

of Jesus Christ for our salvation!

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