Fr. Bryan Howard
4th Sunday of Lent – Year B – 11 March 2018
Today is Laetare Sunday, or “Rejoice Sunday.” It’s the fourth Sunday of Lent, meaning that we’re halfway through Lent and that much closer to Easter and to the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the death and resurrection of the Lord. And we have a lot of reasons to rejoice. God has given us immeasurable blessings. We’re blessed to be born in this great land of freedom and opportunity, the United States. We’re blessed in our family and friends. We’re blessed to be Catholic, to know about God and His love for us, and to be members of His people. We shouldn’t take these blessings for granted, because there are people in the world today who don’t have them. There are people who don’t have any family or friends. There are people who struggle just to get enough to eat and drink and some sort of shelter. There are places in the world where people don’t have the freedoms that we do where you might be arrested or killed just for being Christian or disagreeing with the government. There are people who’ve never even heard of Jesus.
We are Christians and Catholics, but what does that mean to us? Does it make a difference in how we live our lives? St. Paul wrote in our 2nd reading, “because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ…, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace.” This is really why we rejoice. We have been called to salvation, to the grace of God, and to the life of Christ.
If we have such great blessings and graces from God, then why is there so much sin in the world? As we read in the Gospel, “And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.” People preferred darkness to light. If you attended the Mission this past week with Fr. Kurt Young, one of the things you heard on the first night of the Mission, Monday night, was that our own sins can keep us from deepening our relationship with God. In fact, sin is one of the main things that make it harder to grow closer to God. God is light. He brings light into the darkness and reveals what is in our hearts. We all have those places in our hearts that we prefer to keep in darkness. Things that we don’t want anyone to know about. When we sin, if we’re not actively trying to overcome that sin, it starts to affect the way we think. First, it gets harder to fight that temptation. That’s called concupiscence, the tendency to fall into sin. Second, it becomes easier to justify that sin and convince ourselves that it’s not really wrong at all. 75 years ago, almost everyone agreed that sex outside of marriage was wrong, now most people think that it’s normal. 25 years ago, most people agreed that euthanasia (physician assisted suicide) was wrong, now it’s legal in 5 states and Washington, DC. You see, it causes us a lot of stress when we’re acting in a way that we believe is wrong. So, we can either change our behavior or change our mind. It’s often easier to change our minds.
As Jesus said in the Gospel, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” At the Easter Vigil, as I carry the paschal candle, which represents the resurrected Christ, into the darkened Church, I’ll sing, “The light of Christ,” and then everyone’s candles will be lit from that candle. Christ is the one who brings light into the dark places. We have to bring the light of Christ into the dark places in our own lives, so that He can burn away our sins. Here are three tips to help you do that.
First, frequent confession. When we wait 6 months or a year between going to confession, it’s easy to forget some of our sins, or to start thinking that they’re not a big deal. If we go each month, it helps us to face them directly and bring them to God. Then, with God’s help, we can start to break their power over us.
Second, use an examination of conscience. Find a good examination of conscience. I have several good ones linked on our website in the resources section, and we keep a stack of them next to the confessional. Use it regularly to examine your life. Then you’ll be better prepared for confession and it’ll get easier to go to confession.
Finally, the one percent rule. This comes from World War II. When the US entered the war, we had to get our factories changed from peace time to war production quickly, so the government send a pamphlet out giving advice on how to get changed over. They suggested that factories not try to go full out right away, but aim to improve production 1% every day. After the war, when they were taking stock, they found that the factories that listened outproduced the ones that tried to go 100% right away. Aim to improve yourself 1% each day. We can’t do everything, right away. It’s just not possible and if we try we’ll burn ourselves out. But if you try to improve 1% each day, you might do more than you could have imagined.
Remember, you’re not alone. God wants to share with you the immeasurable riches of His grace, so walk in the light.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.