Homily by Deacon Harry Evans

You may have noticed our unusual rose colored vestments….Today is Laetare Sunday, which means “Rejoice Sunday”. We are halfway through Lent and I hope these days of fasting, prayer, almsgiving or whatever practice you have chosen have been fruitful for you as they have been for me and thus a cause for rejoicing.

When a runner reaches the halfway point of a race, he may think it’s all downhill from here, but he knows it’s not time to let up…he keeps running. We too should keep running this race toward our goal of becoming the people that God intended us to be.

There is a pattern that is often repeated in the narratives of the Old Testament as we see today. The people of God fall into sin that is marked by idolatry, corruption and injustice.

God sends prophets to warn them and turn their hearts back to the Lord. The warnings are usually ignored and then followed by disaster for the nation, usually at the hands of an oppressor.

But the story does not end there — eventually the people are healed and forgiven and are able to make a fresh beginning. This pattern is repeated in nations and societies today, as well as in the lives of individuals. Proof positive that God loves us and never abandons us, even though there are times when we have to learn our lessons the hard way.

God raised the eyes of the people in the wilderness so that they might be healed.

He raised the nations from exile and bondage so that they might be restored and he raised Jesus from the dead so that we might be saved. We also have been raised up so that we might become a sign of truth and a witness to God’s love in the world.

We have been made a new people, free from the restraints of the past. Joined with Christ we become God’s creation that bear the image of the creator. We are to become the very sacrament of God’s mercy.

We rejoice today because we see the work God is doing in our lives. If we have truly committed ourselves to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, during this Lent we should be able to see the fruit of our labors, to see what the free gift of grace is able to do.

These forty days provide an opportunity for God, and he is always going to take advantage of an opportunity to bring us closer to him….as we are trying to know him better and trying to love ourselves less and our neighbors more.

In our efforts we strive for perfection, and he, who wants us to be perfect, is using this effort to effect real change in our hearts and lives. To wipe clean any negative behaviors and thoughts so that purification and renewal can take place.

The goal of this is to strengthen our belief in Jesus and to be his presence in the world. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Believing in Jesus must mean something other than just going to Mass on Sunday and something other than saying the right words and even something other than a particular feeling of faith.

I can say that I believe in someone and merely mean that I think that they exist, but I can also say that I believe in someone and mean that I trust them, that I put myself on their side and commit myself to their cause. That is what it really means to believe in someone.

This kind of belief in Jesus that leads to eternal life must be something else entirely, something the saints had in common…and we are all called to be saints.

As followers of Christ we believe that Jesus has the power to transform us. Through the Holy Spirit God has continued to grace and bless us through the centuries as all of humanity struggles to find the way back to God.

The graces given to us by God are gifts…not something we earn or merit. It is not we who are accomplishing this change, lest we should boast. God can accomplish this change if we are open to his will and the only proper response on our part should be an eagerness to receive and share these blessings with others and to remain faithful to the good news.

As we continue on our Lenten journey, let us strive to break the pattern of sin that was the legacy of the people of the old covenant and move into the light.

Then we can claim our heritage as true sons and daughters of the living God. And be sure that God’s mercy lifts us out of our hopelessness and despair… lifts us out of darkness and sin… so that we might enjoy the blessings of eternal life in Christ.