Welcome to the experimental new feature of our website, the Pastor's Blog. I'll use the blog to post my weekly bulletin article, my homilies for Sunday's and solemnities, and other posts. Look out for a series of posts discussing the book that we gave out on the first Sunday of Lent, Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture.
When I post my homilies, I'll post an audio recording, if one is available, and the text. These won't watch exactly, because I don't usually preach directly from the text, but they're usually only a little bit different. Below is the text of my homily:
Fr. Bryan Howard
1st Sunday of Lent – Year B – 18 February 2018
Have you ever heard the Church referred to as the bark of Peter? Well, that’s not only because St. Peter was a fisherman and the first Pope. It has a deeper, Biblical meaning as well, and it comes from the Old Testament. The earliest Christians saw a connection between Noah’s Ark and the Church. Noah and His family were saved from the flood by the ark, and we are saved by entering the Church. The Church is the vessel of salvation. It is God who saves us, but He does it through the Church.
The water is the key here. In the Old Testament, water always means an end of something and a new beginning. In the Exodus, when the Jewish people are freed from slavery in Egypt, they have to pass through the Red Sea. This marks the end of their slavery to Pharaoh and a new beginning as God’s chosen people. Then after 40 years in the desert, the Israelites, once again, cross a river, but this time the cross the Jordan River, ending their time in the desert and entering the Promised Land. In the time of Noah, there was great violence everywhere, and that was why God caused the flood, to wash away the murder and violence of the people. However, he choose one righteous man, Noah, and his family to save and make a new beginning of humanity. The waters of the flood symbolized a death to sin and violence and a new life for humanity through the family of Noah.
And in the New Testament Christ Himself, spent 30 years living with Mary and Joseph in secrecy. He ended that time and began His public ministry by going down to the Jordan River, where He was baptized by John the Baptist. In the second reading we heard the words of St. Paul, “while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Baptism is a new beginning for us. In baptism we, or our parents and godparents if we’re too young, reject Satan, his works, and his empty promises and profess our faith in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. We end our old life of sin, burying it in the waters of baptism, and begin a new life of righteousness through the resurrection of Christ. Through Baptism we enter the Church. If we stay in the Church we are saved, but if we leave the Church we die, just as surely as Noah or his family would have died if they jumped off the ark into the flood waters.
A few weeks ago I pointed out that we can’t judge someone else’s soul, because only God knows that. It’s not as simply as whether someone comes to Church on Sunday’s. But, how does someone leave the Church? First, through apostasy, which is explicitly rejecting the Christian faith and Jesus Christ. That one’s pretty obvious, but most of us don’t have to worry about that. Second, we cut ourselves off from the Church and from the grace of God when we commit a mortal sin. That’s a serious sin that we commit knowingly and deliberately. You can’t commit and mortal sin on accident. You have to know what you’re doing, know that it’s a serious sin, and do it anyway. Sins like blasphemy (insulting God and holy things), murder and abortion, taking advantage of the poor, lying under oath or with malice against another person, and the sexual sins (which our society has a particular problem with), like pornography, sex outside of marriage, and homosexual acts.
Our sins can seem to enslave us, making it harder and harder to fight off temptation every time we fall into sin. God wants to free us from this vicious cycle, but we have to want to be set free and put in the work to change our lives, to make a new beginning. During this Mass, ask God for the special grace to know which sins you struggle with the most and to have His help in overcoming them.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.