Fr. Bryan Howard
5th Sunday of Lent – Year B – 18 March 2018
In a world of cyber bullying, safe spaces, and school shootings, two words that you probably hear over and over are self confidence. Self confidence and self esteem are very important concepts in a world where posting the wrong thing on twitter or instagram can see you fired from you job, black listed, and ostracized from society, at least until people forget about you. As the song says, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
So, the first time we really pay attention to today’s Gospel, it may seem odd that Jesus says, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” Is Jesus really telling us to hate our lives? To hate ourselves? Talking about this specific line, St. Augustine gives us two possible interpretations of it, and I thing that both of them are very good to reflect on during this second to last week of Lent.
First, “If you would preserve your life in Christ, fear not death for Christ.” If you love your life, and want to keep it, then you need to understand that the only way to do that is to live for Christ and die for Christ. Put more simply, you are going to die. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but someday you are going to die. We can’t choose whether we’re going to die, only how we’re going to live. Will you live for Christ? Will you die for Christ, it you are called upon to do so?
Second, St. Augustine tells us, “Do not love your life here, left you lose it hereafter.” Have you ever heard the song, “If heaven ain’t a lot like Texas, I don’t want to go,” or Billy Joel, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” Have you ever heard someone say, “If they don’t have such and such in heaven, then I don’t want to go. If that’s just a way of saying that you really like something a lot, then that’s fine, it’s just a figure of speech, but sometimes people mean it. What they’re basically saying is that they love that thing or person more than God. “I would rather be separated from God for all eternity, than be separated from my favorite this.”
Think about what the season of Lent is all about. God loved us so much that he created the universe, even though He didn’t get anything out of it. Think about it. You can give something back to your parents because they have needs outside of themselves, food, water, shelter, affection, respect, friendship. But, God doesn’t need anything that He doesn’t already have, and if He did need something, He couldn’t create it because He doesn’t have it. So why did God create us? He simply wanted to share His love with us. He shared His love with us by sending us the prophets of the Old Testament, by choosing a people, the Jewish people, to share His way of life with the world, and by revealing His truth to us. Finally, Jesus Christ the Son of God, God Himself, came down to become one of us. Even if I could, I wouldn’t become an ant, just to share my love with the ants. But that’s basically what God did. And if that wasn’t enough, then He died for us, and not just any death, but the death of the Cross.
So, how can we love Jesus more? How can we love God more than we love even our own lives. Are we willing to die for Jesus, and even to live for Jesus, so that we can live with Jesus for eternity. What are we willing to sacrifice, to put aside, so that we can live with Him? Our pride? Our greed? Our anger? Our unforgiveness?
Over that last couple of weeks you may have noticed a theme running through my homilies: baby steps, a little bit at a time. And this week is no different. The way that we grow to love God more, is by giving up things that we like and that we don’t really need for Him. That’s what we’re doing in Lent. When you pass by a Burger King and really want to stop in for a chicken sandwich, but then you remember that it’s Friday, and you keep driving. You’re saying, Jesus, I love you more than I love chicken sandwiches. When you’re praying and you get distracted, maybe by work or what’s coming on TV later, but you pull yourself away from that and turn your attention back to Jesus, you’re saying, “Jesus, I love you more than I love TV.” When you come to the Church to volunteer, or go help out at the food bank or battered women’s shelter, when you could be going fishing. You’re saying, “Jesus, “I love you more than I love fishing.” And that’s really saying something. So, when Lent ends, don’t stop making little sacrifices for Jesus, because, each time you do you’re saying, “Jesus, I love you more than I love even myself.”
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.