First Things: Your Story & His Story

(Homily Fourth Sunday of Lent, Cycle C)

Message: The other person may feel lost, even dead. Your word can come like water in a wasteland.

A few weeks ago I gathered a group of men to talk about spiritual leadership. The group included Hispanics and non-Spanish speakers; young, middle and few my age. (smile) I asked each to share his normal pattern of prayer. They described thanking God when waking, blessing their children before going to work, taking their wife's hand to pray formally and spontaneously, praying the rosary or thanking God in the car, asking God's help for problems, reading the Bible, prayer around the dinner table, saying a prayer before going to bed. They mentioned difficulties, uncertainties and dryness, but also miraculous answers to prayer. Like every man there, I felt blessed and encouraged.

That's something we should do more: share with others how we pray. One of the Disciple Maker items had this statement, "My parish equips me to have conversations about my faith...by helping me recognize how God is working in my life." 40% strongly agreed; 44% agreed. Remember "agree" is lukewarm. We can do better. In the top parish in the country 54% strongly agree the parish helps them recognize God at work in their lives. It's not a matter of competition. I want to help each of you recognize God at work in your life.

It's not so hard. It means to reflect on your story and connect it with Jesus. That's what happens to the "prodigal son." At the end of the parable the father says, "we must celebrate" because he "was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and has been found."

Is that not you and me? Have you never felt dead, like you wanted to crawl in hole and give up? And do we not feel something inside when we hear the words, "I once was lost and now am found." That's your story and mine.

It's also Jesus' story. A few months back we heard about Jesus being lost three days, then his parents finding him in the Temple. Those three days, of course, prefigure the three days in the tomb. We connect our story with Jesus when we admit: I was lost and now - thank God - I am found. I was dead and God brought me back. That resurrection happens on an emotional, moral and spiritual level.

Even sometimes on a physical level. A young priest friend suffered years from a chronic back problem. Three times a day he took analgesics and could only sit in a certain kind of chair. At a retreat some priests prayed over him - not for physical healing, but a family relationship. When the priest stood, he realized to his amazement - God had lifted his back pain. He has not needed the pain pills for a couple of months. God sometimes acts dramatically so we know his reality and his mercy.

And for testimony. For sure, testimony at the right time and place. That's where daily prayer comes in - to ask God to open the right moment. It may involve an answer to prayer like some received during the Anointing of the sick. Or the testimony could be simple, even indirect, like mentioning you saw something interesting on the way to Mass. Those words may plant a seed or open a conversation. The other person might feel lost, even dead. Your word can come like water in a wasteland.

Next Sunday we will talk about mercy - having a heart for the suffering of others. People suffer because they do no have God. They may have a good job, a lovely home, a beautiful wife - and be lost. They do not have Jesus. You can help that person find the one relationship that matters eternally. You may feel messed up, but keep remembering, "I once was lost and now am found - dead and come back to life."

Now we will have the second scrutiny. It carries the same message in a slightly different way. This scrutiny - or exorcism prayer - is based on the man born blind, healed by Jesus. So, yes, we must celebrate and rejoice. I was lost and am found. Dead and come back to life. Blind and now I see. Amen.

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Spanish Version

From Archives (Year C homilies for Fourth Sunday of Lent):

I Have Sinned (2013)
A New Creation (2010)
Confession of Sins and New Creation (2007)
The Reproach of Egypt (2004)
Return of the Prodigal Son (2001)
Who is The Prodigal Son? (1998)

Homilies for Year A Readings for RCIA Scrutinies:

Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 4 (2014)
Sight (2011)
Small Gesture with Enormous Promise (2008)
Seeing and Knowing (2005)
Men Who Went Blind (2002)
Fatal Blindness (1999)

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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