My column from our parish bulletin
June 12, 2016
Dear Followers of Jesus,
Luke’s gospel (7:36-8.3) today invites us into an intimate story. An uninvited guest comes to Simon’s house where Jesus had been invited. The woman bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears. She anoints them with oil from her alabaster jar. She brings here complete life to the feet of Jesus, to the heart of the Messiah, the place of love.
This portrait of love and mercy is often difficult to take into our lives. Many of us think that sin is a list of do’s and don’ts. We tend to think that forgiveness happens when we give a list of sins in a two-minute confession and then we get on with our lives. There is something missing within our hearts when we think sin is a commodity that is traded for forgiveness. What is missing is that we never get to the real issues of our hearts, our consciences and how we truly live in all of our relationships in the world. Forgiveness is not cheap. Our faith demands that we risk letting go of old patterns as we move toward God’s fidelity within us.
The woman who washes the feet of Jesus is sick and tired of being sick and tired. She knows deeply within her heart what is missing. She knows that Jesus’ love and forgiveness is more than skin deep, it is a way of life. She models for us the true treasure of our relationship with God, that we cannot live our lives on our own power, greed, lust and convictions. We need the constant mercy of Jesus to invite us into a radical change of life. Conversion means a radical, loving letting go of our stubbornness and living in God’s grace. Faith is more than an intellectual pursuit.
One of the obstacles in parish life is that we come to church always needing to look good to others. We seldom want to admit our faults because we do not want others to think less of us. So many people want to be perceived as being “perfect.” This is a great trap because we then think our faith is about externals, about having the right education or saying all the prayers correctly. In fact, faith is about our being vulnerable enough before God so that we can feel and experience the love and mercy of Jesus. We need to build our communities based on our own and common poverty, our need for God. We need honesty about our struggles and needs. Then we will be more open to the human poverty others face in life as well.
Our sins are more than a laundry list. We have choices in life. Our sinfulness may lead us to bitterness and being judgmental or we can live within God’s fidelity and learn how to love fully and completely. Life is incredibly complicated and we really need God. So we need to come as we are, with the life experiences we have, with the brokenness that we find ourselves living today. Living a faith-filled life is about us finally realizing that prayer softens our hardened hearts and that confession will open us to the real love that is ours in Jesus’ name.
Our faith gives us a unique treasure in that we have an opportunity to come before God with our broken and fragile hearts. We need the experiences of a fragile community so that we can understand that we live in the mercy and consolation of Jesus especially among others.
The Year of Mercy as it unfolds is trying to get at the meaning of this story for every Christian. I see how the Year of Mercy is working among us who struggle to believe in Jesus amid the hardships, sins and turmoil in which we live. I see this year as a beautiful and joyous opening for us to encounter the real Jesus again. However, there is a need for continuing conversion within our Church. I pray that we could review again some of the issues of family life and sexuality especially. I pray for the continuation of our conversion toward the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the source of compassion and peace.
We welcome Rev. Joseph Corpora, CSC this weekend to Sacred Heart Church to preach on the Year of Mercy. Pope Francis mandated Fr. Joe as a Missionary of Mercy for this year. He will also preach Sunday Vespers this weekend. Fr. Joe is a classmate of mine and we were both in the first class at the novitiate in Cascade in 1978. He now ministers at the University of Notre Dame.
With abundant mercy of God,