Homily for March 17

The Woman Taken in Adultery by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

A lot of people are favorably impressed by our new pope
and you can count me among them.

He is a man of simplicity, of simple ways.

You’ve probably read that just before he went out to the balcony
to greet the people right after his election,
he turned down an fur-trimmed red velvet cape
for a simple white cassock.

He preferred the cross he’s always worn around his neck
to the ornate jeweled one he was offered when he became pope.
He bowed from the balcony at St. Peter’s
and asked the people of the world to bless him.

He declined the papal limousine after the Conclave
and rode back on the bus with the cardinals.

He stopped to pick up his luggage and pay his bill
at the residence he’d been staying at before the Conclave.

Back in Argentina he chose not to live in the archbishop’s house
but rather in a small apartment where he cooked for himself
and took the bus to his office each morning.

A man of simple ways…

Over the past week it’s been interesting to work with today’s scriptures
as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis.

The Lord’s words in Isaiah seemed to ring so true and strong:
See, I’m doing something new!
It springs forth – do you perceive it?

It’s early and even much too early to predict
how Francis will lead the people of God
and what mark he will leave on the papacy.

But he’s already begun to leave his warm fingerprints on the Vatican,
on custom and protocol and, most importantly,
on the hearts of Catholics and many others around the world.

Pope Francis is doing something new – do we perceive it?
Do we perceive how his warmth invites us to trust again?
how his simplicity refreshes parched faith?
how his gentle manner wins people over?
In the smallest, quiet ways, he’s making a difference, making a change.

I think of the quietness of Jesus
in this familiar story of the woman caught in adultery.

When the religious establishment of his day challenges him,
he pays them very little attention – he virtually ignores them –
he bends down and scribbles something on the ground.

Just his quiet, gentle presence was a gift of mercy.

He doesn’t respond to the scribes’ questions. He lets his silence speak.
He doesn’t get wrapped up in their debate. He doodles on the ground.
He doesn’t judge or condemn the scribes and Pharisees –
he invites them to do that for themselves:
“You decide who’s without sin…”
He doesn’t condemn the woman.
He forgives her and instructs her to sin no more.

In a matter of moments the scene changes
from a self-righteous crowd ready to stone a woman to death
to a quiet encounter between Jesus and a woman,
an encounter that ends in mercy and pardon.

Do we see what’s happening here?
Jesus is doing something new.
It’s a new law and the judgment of this new law is mercy for sinners,
sinners like the woman in the story
and sinners like you and sinners like me.

It’s right here in front of us – do we perceive it?

Perhaps the law, or others or we ourselves, might threaten to
to cast stones at us for our sins -- but of this I can be sure:
Jesus is right there with us, doodling on the ground,
waiting to do something new in our lives,
waiting for us stop stewing in the events of my past,
waiting to offer us his mercy and pardon,
waiting to turn our hearts from sin to grace.

On the day after his election Pope Francis visited a church in Rome
and he met some priests there hearing confessions and he told them:
 “Be merciful when you hear confessions. The people need your mercy.”

You and I would probably never pick up a stone
to throw at another person in judgment.
But there are plenty of times when you and I might be tempted to think
that we are “without sin.”
But there’s not one person here this morning
who doesn’t stand in need of God’s mercy – not one of us.
Not one of us is without sin. And every one of us needs the mercy of Jesus.
And Pope Francis knows that and he wants that mercy to be ours.

Meeting with the media yesterday morning, the pope told reporters:
“How I would love a Church that is poor and is for the poor.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Especially if you’re one who thinks the Church should sell
all its property and its famous art and give the money to the poor.

But if we are the Church, if you and I are the Church,
then we have to ask ourselves,
“Will we be poor, for the poor?”

Will we sell what we have, you and I, at least what we don’t need,
will we sell our luxuries and give our money to the poor?
Will we be that kind of Church we become?
Will we be that kind of Church people?

We heard St. Paul’s words this morning:
“I have accepted the loss of all things
and I consider it all so much rubbish,
so that I might gain Christ and be found in him…”

That’s the kind of poverty Pope Francis -
the warm, gentle man of simple ways
- that’s the kind of poverty, the kind of “poor church”
he’s asking us to consider and to consider becoming.
And it’s a lot to consider.

We are almost instantly drawn to this new pope
as so many were drawn right away to Christ.
Both Pope Francis and Jesus come with a message of mercy
and both invite us to a deeper Christian life:
Francis calls us to be poor for the sake of the gospel
while Jesus forgives us, gives us his mercy
and instructs us to sin no more.
There is plenty of warmth in both invitations
but there is no cheap grace here.
This will cost us something.

Today for the first time we’ll pray at the altar for “Francis our pope.”
We will pray for him at the Lord’s Table
where we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus
who made himself poor,
who accepted the loss of everything,
so that you and I might be rich in mercy.

Pray with me that Pope Francis will continue to leave his mark
on our hearts and that together with him
we might become a Church that is poor,
and a Church that is for the poor.


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1 comment:

  1. Brilliant and challenging.
    Thank you Father...


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