Homily: Third Sunday of the Year A

By 11:42 AM

Homily: Third Sunday of the Year A


There is a story told of a little boy who was hurrying to school. He was late as usual. As he ran along, he talked to God saying, “Please help me to get to school on time. If you do, I promise to reform and to leave earlier.” No sooner had he finished his prayer, then he stumbled on a loose rock. His lunch went one way and his books went the other. After a moment of stunned silence he looked up and said, “Ok, Lord, you don’t have to push.” In today’s Gospel Jesus invites us “to reform our lives.” He does not “push” but leaves us free to respond to his invitation.

Maybe some of us feel that the Lord is not talking to us but to those who are living extremely sinful lives. You know, the public sinners, who don’t believe or worship God; those whose lives are really a ridicule of all morality. Jesus wants them to reform their lives. This is true. But Jesus is also speaking to each of us. He is calling each of us to greater perfection now in our lives, so that our union with him will be more total. “Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus realizes that we can’t take our relationship with him for granted. If we do, we will become complacent and grow lax in our love, in our awareness and in our need of him in our lives. This is why the Lord sounds so demanding and insistent with us. This is why the Lord never seems to be satisfied with us, because he know we will take this the wrong way. We will slack off our vigilance and slip back into our old ways of sin and non-love, not intentionally and not deliberately, but out of a habit or tendency.

In another place, Jesus talks about the return of the Evil Spirit. He says, “When an evil spirit goes out of a man, it travels over dry country looking for a place to rest; if it doesn’t find one, it says to itself, ‘I will go back to my house which I left.’ So it goes back and finds the house clean and all fixed up. Then it goes out and brings seven other spirits even worse than itse4lf and they come and live there.  So that man is in worse shape when it is all over, than he was at the beginning.”

The Lord knows how we are; he knows the influence of evil; he knows how evil can be made to look as a good; that we can be lured into non-growth, into back-sliding. The Lord endured the temptations of the desert to show us how to react, how to put God first, how to realign our lives in such a way that we do not try to test God, that we do not try to become like God, that we do not let the powers, the wealth, the security of this world sway us from our real wealth, which is relationship with him. He is our real power. “We can do all thing in him who strengthens us.

This need to constantly repent and reform our lives was the message of Jesus continually in his three years of preaching. The greater the purification of our lives, the more in harmony with our relationship with God, the greater our joy forever. This is for our good. This was not a negative invitation but a positive call to growth. We tie ourselves down by many selfish strings and attachments; we entangle ourselves within a spider web of non-God-directed involvements. Jesus is asking us to free ourselves, so that we may find our security in him, our happiness in him, our future in him. We prayed in the Responsorial Psalm: The Lord is my light and my salvation.

To say reform your lives does not mean that we are so sinful that we are doomed to eternal nothingness, but that we have much which is not of God, which is not for God, which leaves God out of the picture. God calls us to a greater relationship with him. Each new level requires that we let go something that is holding us back. Some of us are like Lot’s wife. We want to be with God, but we want to look back as well. We want our cake and eat it.

Parents know that they must continue to preach, to teach, to give example, to correct, to stay on the backs of their children as they grow up, because no matter how well the training, how well the example, the young person can still do wrong and get hurt. The young person resent it. We resent at times when God does the same to us.

He doesn’t push us. He invites us but leaves us free to respond to his invitation.

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