Confident in God's Grace

(November 6, 2022)

Bottom line: Even though the evil one attacks us relentlessly, we have confidence in God's grace.

In these last weeks we have been journeying together with Jesus - to Jerusalem. Our journey includes children, youth, young adults, young families and mature families, singles and seniors. Today St. Paul sums up the journey for us. But before going to St. Paul, let's start with what we have learned on the final stages of our journey together.

We've seen that God reveals himself through creation - not just a single Big Bang, but an ongoing creation like the relation of a mother to the child in her womb. The child depends totally on her mom during those months as we depend totally on God. A father told me about watching a 4-D ultrasound of their daughter in his wife's womb. He pressed a certain point and the girl reacted. The pictures even showed inside the child's body - her tiny organs developing. Just so we are enfolded in God's love. He wants the best for us, thus he calls us to repentance. Like Jesus saying to the outcast tax collector, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house."

Jesus wants us to have a new life characterized by repentance. He tells about the publican who beats his breast and says, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." So, aware of our own sinfulness, we can walk with fellow sinners, not judging but accompanying them.

Our new life in Jesus not only involves repentance, but also prayer. We saw Moses with his arms lifted in prayer. Jesus tells us to imitate the persistence the wronged widow. Keep at it. Don't stop praying. Don't give up.

Finally we saw that the new life is marked by gratitude - like the Samaritan leper who returned to thank Jesus. Ingratitude brings sorrow - no matter how much we have. Even though we have more abundance than any society in history, we also have more depression and suicidal thoughts. Sometimes people with much less experience joy because they begin each day with gratitude to God.

So repentance that leads to prayer and gratitude. We've learned that on our journey together with Jesus.

Today St. Paul sums up our journey to the New Jerusalem, union with God: "May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word."

We see God's love in Jesus giving his life for us. That gives everlasting encouragement. Everlasting means that God's encouragement will have consequences not just for this brief life, but for eternity. We have good hope because of grace which means a free gift.

We sometimes think we would be happy if we had more money. Money does matter. Next week we will have a report on our financial situation and will thank and ask for your stewardship of time, talent and financial resources.

Money is important, but it will not save us. We might think other things can save, like good health or success. Some people are thinking, if only my party wins, things will be ok. Elections matter and as citizens we have duty to vote thoughtfully and prayerfully.

But good hope comes from grace, God's free gift that encourages the heart. Now, for people today the heart is the center of emotions. In the Bible, however, the heart is not only the center of feelings, but also of thinking and acting. The heart is that inner core that every moment is either turning toward God or away from him. It makes possible every good deed and word. Paul says:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people, for not all have faith."

We need God's word because the human heart easily becomes twisted and malignant - when we forget God. Paul then makes this clarification:

"But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one."

The phrase "from the evil one" in Greek is identical to what we say at the end of the Our Father - deliver us from evil. Some think the enemy is MAGA Republican, or the liberals or Planned Parenthood or drug dealers. No, all of those people can change. But the devil is eternally fixed in his hatred for God and for us. Our enemy is Satan, the evil one.

I think of Francisco who died this last week. His life was often sad and difficult. For sure, Satan used alcohol and drugs to bring him down. A few times I had a chance to see his heart. With tears, he felt he let his mother down and he would pray before the statue of Our Lady. Even though we sometimes had to use "tough love", even get the police involved, I have to say I am proud of so many people who showed care from Francisco - families who took him to breakfast, Harold Walters who took him into his home, our St Vincent de Paul who did their best to help him get his life back together. Even though the efforts did not bring the results we hoped for, that does not mean we despair. As Paul says,

"We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you, you are doing and will continue to do." Even though the evil one attacks us relentlessly, we have confidence in God's grace. Remembering the heart is our inner core - the center of feeling, thinking and acting, we conclude with Paul's prayer:

"May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ." Amen.


Homily Stewards of Mercy Week 1: Zacchaeus (Audio homily for 31th Sunday, Year C 2016)

How to Pray, Part Four (Audio homily for 31st Sunday, Year C 2013)

From Archives (Homilies for Thirty-First Sunday, Year C):

2019: Zacchaeus, Come Down Quickly
2016: Stewards of Mercy Week 1: Zacchaeus
2013: How to Pray, Part Four: Self-Emptying
2010: Salvation
2007: A Little Man With a Lot to Teach Us
2004: Astonished Gratitude
2001: An Ocean of Mercy

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*

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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Bishop Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

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