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At times I get so weary of the world.  At times I feel very heavy.  It is easy for me to slip back.

More often than not, when I am praying the Breviary, a line of scripture will slap me back to reality.  I recognize that I am weary and heavy because I am trying to play God again.

Resurrection comes with the humility.

There is THE resurrection, THE event, and there is our personal encounters with the Risen Christ.  We can miss out on those when we are too caught up in our grief, anger, ignorance or the day to day grind.

 

Good Friday Homily

Why did Jesus do what he did?  Why did he accept death on the Cross?

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The answer to this question can effect how we truly live.

The answer is Freedom.

 

Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross.  He gave of himself.  He did so in total freedom.   Jesus, out of true Love for all, us and the Father, wanted to give of himself.  He did not do it out of obligation, to the Father or to us; he did not do it to guilt us, force us to change; he did not do it to earn the Father’s love.  This was not something he HAD to do.  This was something he WANTED to do.

Was he scared about it?  Yes of course.  That is what the Agony of the Garden was all about yet he did not let his fears control his choice.  He knew what was good; he knew that the Father loved him; and he chose to accept the cross.  He chose to give of himself.

 

When we accept this attitude and when we participate with Christ in this kind of life we will be changed.    When we willingly give of ourself we are going to be changed for the better.

We will be FREE!

 

See, I think that most of us are NOT FREE, and have the wrong attitude about giving.  Here’s the test…are we bitter about doing things?  Are we complaining about having to give of ourselves?  Whining about it?  Cynical about it?  When we do something that we feel forced to do, either out of obligation, duty, guilt, shame, or we think it will earn affection or honor…then there is little or no true love involved.

This was how I lived for a significant portion of my life.  I did what I thought was good, but I could not understand why I felt angry and depressed all the time.  Turns out I was not doing it with my heart.  I was doing most from internal pressure.  I was doing it because I thought I HAD to.  And there was resentment within me, and there was a shame about having this resentment.

20060304-6468 Snowy Statue

 

It wasn’t until I was finally shown the deeper meaning of the Paschal Mystery that I began to be free.

Salvation is freedom and Jesus shows us that when we approach life with his way, it frees us.   It will change us.  It means that we think about what we are to do; we acknowledge any loss in the giving of self, and we recognize that yes, maybe I would rather be fishing, sleeping, etc but, there is something here greater than me.

It is about recognizing a greater vision, a long term goal that can take precedence over the short term goal.  Then we can truly give of ourselves with all our heart, with all of our mind, with all of our bodies.  When we do that, we participate in the Salvation of Jesus Christ.

We participate in his own suffering and death, AND we also will rise with him to new life.  A life in which we are more joyful.  A life in which we are more free.  A life in which there is more goodness in this world.

This is the Cross.  It is the symbol of Love.  It is the symbol of Salvation.

It is the Way in which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, reveals the Love of the Father for us.

What is the great sin in our world, in our country, in this city and parish?

I believe it is the sin of Self-Centeredness.

This is the original sin that I think manifests itself in all the other sins that we do; whether it is the little white lies that we say, to the grave sins such as adultery, murder, abortion, bigotry.  We commit them because we are self-centered.

 

Self-Centeredness is what causes suffering in our own lives and in the lives of others  Self-Centeredness is an attitude in which we are focussed in on our own selves, to the neglect of others.

Clearly this shows up in egotism, greedy, selfishness, bigotry, discrimination, theft, etc.  We are usually good at recognizing those.

However, it is those more subtle ways of acting self-centered that can cause us and the people around us problems.

 

We are Self-centered when we hold onto our anger and we refuse to forgive.  We are Self-centered when we hold onto our grief and we fail to hope.  We are self centered when we try to control the whole universe and we want everyone to do what we want of them.  It is when we are so wrapped up in our own pain, hurt and suffering, that we can no longer see the needs of others.  We are self-centered when we judge other people as bad, as ignorant, as illegal, as immoral; the implication is that we ourselves are not these.

This is the human condition.  It can effect us as individuals, and certainly it effects as a whole.  We the church are not immune to this.

It started with the first sin, when Adam and Eve thought only of themselves, thought of themselves to be equal with God; and forgetting that God desires unity, which is not the same.  We continue this first sin, this original sin when we think only of ourselves and because of it people to suffer in hunger, in disease, in appalling situations because “I will not share MY MONEY.”  or “I don’t want MY taxes to go to THOSE people.” or “They want to be poor.” or “That does not fit into MY schedule.”

We continue this sin and we get all angry and passive aggressive when things change, or don’t go the way we want.  When the universe and all the people we try to control do not listen to us.  We continue this sin and we sleep around with whomever we want and then we kill the unwanted children, and we destroy our marriages and families.  We destroy our own integrity.  We continue this sin and this is why a man filled with hate shot and killed three people this past weekend in Kansas City.  We continue this sin and this is why families are torn apart as people are deported, or worse, die in the our desert while searching for a better life.

People always ask, “Why does God permit suffering in the world?”    Well God does not.    We do, because we are self-centered.

 

God is other centered, the complete opposite of Self-Centered.   God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, in whose image are created, is centered always on the other.  Father gives of his very self totally to the Son.  The Son, who loves the Father, receives all that the Father gives to him and in turn, gives to the Father all that he is.  This exchange of Love is the person of the Holy Spirit.  It is a mutual, dynamic, ongoing giving of self to the other.  This is the meaning of love.

God so loves that God creates the world and all within it.  God so loves that God creates man and woman in God’s own image so that Man and Woman will give of themselves freely and be united with each other and with God.  God so loves the world that the Father sends the beloved Son, the Father gives to the world the beloved Son, to save it.

Jesus Christ is born and gives of himself to others.

He cures, he forgives, he teaches, he touches, he is other centered, not because he must do so, not because of some legal reasoning, but because he wants to.  It is his nature.  Jesus, the Son of God, desires to give of himself.  He gives of himself even unto death.

We celebrate this giving of self in the Eucharist each and every week.  Tonight though, it takes on a special meaning.  Eucharist is directly connected with Service.  Eucharist is about God giving of God’s very self to us, so that we will give of ourselves to others.

Jesus calls us to be true to our human nature, and NOT to the human condition.  He gives us this mandatum, this command to wash the feet of others.  He does so not to punish, not to instill guilt, not to shame us, rather to inspire us.  We are called to wash the feet, we are called to serve others.  We are called to be other-centered.  We are called to be true to who we truly are as men and women.  We are called to forgive those who have hurt us, and ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt.  We are called to be generous with the blessings of life.  We are called to be humble.  We are called to make better choices above and beyond our own desires and needs.  We are called to truly Catholic, truly human, truly free.

To see our own personal needs, yes, but also to see our very selves in relation with all the other needs out there.  To work together with all others, so that this evil of suffering that is present in this beautiful world will be diminished.

To work together so that the kingdom of Heaven, a reality of unity, will exist.

As we enter now into the most holy time of the year, we participate in God’s giving of self for us.

We participate in this Holy Triduum, in which God gives to us for our own freedom, so to save the world.

We participate in giving of ourselves, as Christ did, so that we too will find LIFE.

How will we participate?

Mandatum

Looking back, the darkest part of my adult life was when I was so caught up in my own pain, my own drama.  It was hard to see others, truly see others.  I was shown the truth and the freedom by going to others, to truly helping others.

 

Judas and Peter

There have been dark times in my life, when I could not see a future; when I was so tired that I just wanted to go away.

Hope came in unexpected ways.

 

In all of our lives, we have or will have decisions to make.  And for us as Christians, we wish that decisions have God the Father’s approval or affirmation.    Jesus has such a decision, and like us, the answer, the approval is not always easily heard.

Jesus, in the garden, is such a powerful episode.  Here Jesus is confronted by his future; a future in which for the short run is filled with pain, agony, death.  He is confronted by his emotions.  He is scared of what will happen, and rightly so.  Yet, he knows that he came to do the will of the Father, he wants to do the will of the Father.
The will of the Father is not necessarily about particulars, e.g. the color of which shirt we are to wear, which bread we eat.  The will of the Father, in which we pray, be done on earth as it is in heaven, is that all may be one.  Unity is the will of the Father.

 

As it is with Jesus, this Unity, this will is to be the guiding principle for our decision.  When we have important decisions to make, and we are confused by our emotions, and we are looking to God for the answer….the answer has already been give.  Unity.

It may mean that we will have to endure short term pain and sacrifice; we too may be scared.  However, when we keep that long term goal, that desire for Unity ahead of us, the Holy Spirit is with us, empowering us, so that we can make the correct decision.

Emotions are real and they are very important, but we cannot base our decision purely on those emotions.  So when we are at an important part of our lives, when we are faced with a decision, go back to the scene of Jesus in the garden.  Pray over what he faced and what he chose to do, and why.

20130320-073727.jpgAnd we too will have our answer.

The Truth is that God loves us.  God loves me.  Divine love says that I and all, we are much more than our past, more than our present, more than our mistakes and smallness.  We are potential.  I am potential.

Stephen Mattson

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