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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Wake Up! Repent and Turn Back to God

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 15, 2015
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

Fr. John Paul

Repent and turn your heart back to God. That is the message of today’s first Mass reading from 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23.

The stage is set before the Babylonians invaded Israel and took the Jews captive about 600 years before the birth of Christ. The Jews had turned away from the laws of God, rejected His Word and followed the vanity and pagan practices of the people around them.

"They mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy." (2 Chron 36:16)

In their sinfulness, the Jews had forgotten to keep the Sabbath sacred and devoted to God. They were adding “infidelity to infidelity.

God "early and often" sent prophets to the Jews to warn them that they needed to turn their hearts back to God or face the consequences, but they would not listen. 

So, God allowed Jerusalem to be desecrated, using Babylon as His agent of judgment against the Jews for their sins of idolatry. The king of Babylonia swarmed into Judah. There was slaughter and looting. Jerusalem was taken and the temple was burned down. The city walls were pulled down, and many of the Jews were forced to leave their homeland and were taken captive and deported to Babylon. Captivity meant they were denied temple worship in Jerusalem. 

My brothers and sisters, today’s reading should be a wakeup call for each one of us. The Jewish people experienced this huge tragedy because they had turned away from the laws of God. 

Whenever we turn away from God in our individual lives, things do not go right. Whenever societies turn away from the ways of God, the society experiences unfortunate repercussions. Yet, what angers our Lord the most is when the members of His Church do not follow His ways. To whom much is given, much will be expected. (Luke 12:48)

The Jews and their leaders were
“practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the LORD’s temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.” (2Chron 36:14)

So we are reminded that the sins of the world and society at large are one thing, but what angers the Lord most is when we allow His temple to become polluted. 

As Catholics, it is essential that we strive to keep our Lord’s Church and our hearts holy. This is why our Church emphasizes the importance of receiving Communion worthily. When we enter our Lord’s Church, we should have a spirit of reverence. We should enter God’s house knowing that our Lord is present in the tabernacle! 

In last week’s Gospel (John 2:13-25), we heard the story of the cleansing of the temple. Our Lord Jesus went into the temple with whips because there were those exchanging necessary coin at a profit  in His Father’s house, causing an impediment to worship for the people.
So we can see that Our Lord Jesus clearly understood the importance of keeping his Father’s house free from the ways of the world.

While today’s first reading relates the struggles that the Jewish people encountered because they had abandoned God, this reading also gives us hope. 

The suffering of the Babylonian exile caused the Jewish people to turn back to God. The chosen people collectively did penance for  70 years, until they made up for their disobedience to the covenant. 

"By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion." (Psalm 137)

Then God allowed the Jewish people to return  to Jerusalem. And the temple of God and temple worship would be restored. 

Yet, this restoration would not end with the building of the Jewish temple. The fullness of this restoration would come nearly 600 years later through the Life, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ when true worshipers would worship in Spirit and in Truth. 

This restoration will be complete at the end of time when Our Lord comes again to judge the living and the dead. 

Until that time, Our Lord calls us to be faithful. He has given us His Church, which is His temple, and He calls His members of His Church to follow His ways. 

As the Jews in today’s first reading were influenced by the sins of the peoples around them, so our Church is being attacked by the influences of the sins of society today. Our relativistic society is seeking to pollute our Church with its infidelities and its abominations. Our society today even defines marriage in ungodly ways, even though marriage is already defined by God and was created by God!

Our Church is the voice of God in a troubled world. Yet, many today do not want to listen to our Church.

I don't want to wake up!
Even many Catholics are not following our Church’s teachings. Many disdain the Word of God in order to follow their own pursuits.

As God's messengers  were mocked for speaking the word of God, so it is today. We Catholics who stand up for the truth of our faith are mocked by the world.

Yet, if we do not want to be half-hearted Catholics, that is what we are called to do --live in the Truth. We are called to be a light to the world. As our Lord says in today’s Gospel (John 3:14-21), “Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” 

My brothers and sisters, let us Catholics individually heed the Lord's wake-up call.
As a country, as a world, as a people, we are turning away from God. If we continue to defy God’s word, there will be serious repercussions for us and our children. 

God is warning us through the great prophets of our day: the voices of our recent popes, the lives of our recently canonized saints, the witness of lay evangelists, through the apparitions of our Blessed Mother, and through Scripture itself! God is calling us to repentance. Let us heed this call. Let us come back to God before it is too late!

Who is Fr. John Paul Shea? From Mormon to Catholic priest. 

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! It was St. John Chrysostom, I forget which Homily (it might have been "Against Hippodromes and Theatres"), where he points out the difference between a "Christian" and a "sincere Christian".