Saturday, March 17, 2012

God really does love us (a homily on today's Gospel from the late Bishop Joe Grech)

Fifteen months ago, the death occurred of the Most Rev'd Joe Grech, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst in rural Victoria, Australia. He was a Spirit-filled preacher of the Gospel and a real pastor to his people, especially the young. Go HERE to find out more about him. 

What follows is his homily for this Fourth Sunday of Lent, preached back in 2009. It is from the Diocese of Sandhurst website.

About two weeks ago I had a very difficult funeral. A young man, thirty seven years of age died as a consequence of a suspected suicide. He left behind a wife and a beautiful eight year old daughter. As I was facing the large congregation I kept saying to myself “What can I say to these people today?” From a human point of view there was nothing good about what had occurred. People were stunned and perplexed. I am sure that many, especially those closest to him could not understand why this thing had to happen. I am sure that they had many questions lurking in their minds for which answers were very difficult to find. Definitely my intention was not to judge but somehow to read that situation from a very different angle, the angle of faith. 

As I was thinking this way, the words that Jesus said to Nicodemus in today’s gospel suddenly flashed in my mind. “Yes God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Yes, it was a tragedy. Yes it would have been better if that young man was still alive. Yes it would have been great for his wife and child to keep enjoying the company and the presence of a husband and a father. Yet the reality was different. However, even though what happened was tragic, God because of his amazing care and affection, was still saying to that young man and to all of us “Hey not all is lost. I still care. Irrespective of whatever happened this is still my beloved son. I care about him. Trust me”. Our God indeed can turn what seems to be tragedies into triumphs. 

There is another addition to this situation. When I was sharing these thoughts with those present, I also challenged myself and everybody present to think about where our life is going. Whether we are walking close with our God or whether God is distant. I asked everyone including myself to make a decision while we still can reason a bit clearly to draw closer to our God because after all, at the end of our lives what matters is our relationship with Jesus Christ who is passionately in love with us. I am still today receiving emails from those who were present at this funeral sharing about their life situations and asking how they can move into a closer relationship with our God. Yes indeed many were touched that day by the mercy and the constant love of our God. 

True, sometimes we are caught in a situation of darkness. It is very difficult at times to break from our own circles of sadness and difficulties on our own. We long for the light to live in peace and tranquillity yet we very often find ourselves caught in situations where we cannot even see the possibility of how we can move forward. This is where Jesus comes in. 

There is a reading from the gospel of St John that we often hear proclaimed during funerals. “There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I would have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too” (Jn 14:2-3). I have often stopped and reflected where is the Father’s house which Jesus was referring too? Yes we have always been told that this refers to heaven. That is correct. However, there is also another place where we can find the Father’s house and that is in our hearts. We believe that the life giving presence of our God is also found in our hearts because of our baptism and confirmation. 

In our hearts, there are indeed many rooms. We are happy with many of these rooms. We do not find it difficult to enter some of these rooms. We feel at home. The doors are wide open, the blinds are up, the windows are open and we feel quite contented in these rooms. 

However, there are other rooms in our hearts where the doors are closed; where we are very uncomfortable as we approach these rooms. The doors to these rooms are locked very tightly. The blinds are down, the windows are closed and darkness pervades. At times we pretend that these rooms do not exist. However, it only takes a simple incident, or meeting with someone whom we have not seen for a long time or a word that someone says to us to make us realise very vividly that these closed rooms are very much real. 

What are we going to do? Once again this is where Jesus comes in. “Jesus here I am. You know the situation that I am in. I cannot continue to live in the midst of these locked rooms because I need to live in peace and tranquillity. So Lord take my hand and you help me to put my hand on the door handle and you help me turn that handle and you help me open these doors. I cannot do it on my own. Help me to put on the lights. Help me to draw these blinds up. Help me top open the windows, help me to let the fresh air in. Help me to overcome my fear. Help me to be at peace in whatever situation I find myself in because I know that you are always with me”. 

Even if our faith is very small and minute it does not matter. Let us use whatever faith we possess and it will grow. The real tragedy is not that we have to face at times difficult and agonizing moments in our lives. The tragedy is when we think or when we decide that we can face these situations on our own. With Jesus there is always a way forward. Thank God for our faith. Amen.


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