Monday, March 27, 2006

Homily worth reading By Deacon Emmanuel Ihemedu

St. Martin's Men of Emmaus
MARCH 26, 2006
“Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you.”
This psalm was composed after the chosen people of God returned from exile in Babylon. The psalm recalls the sadness of their exile experience, the suffering that they endured. Our first reading from the second book of Chronicles tells us the reason for the exile. It recounts the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile in Babylon (537 B.C.E).
This is the fall of the kingdom of David. The greatness of the kingdom of David was due to his fidelity to proper worship of God, and the fall of his kingdom under subsequent kings was as a result of their infidelity to proper worship of God and their failure to listen to God’s word brought to them by the prophets, the messengers of God.
The chosen people of God had desecrated the temple of God. The princes, the priests and the entire community were invaded by sin, immorality. In them there was no purity of heart, no right relationship with God. They had given themselves over to self-indulgence, the pursuit of worldly pleasures, the oppression of the poor, and worship of false values. They became morally weak and abandoned their relationship with God. God in his infinite love and mercy sent his words through the prophets as the guiding principle of life and living to dispel the darkness of their lives and to call them back to a life of relationship with Him. Yet they ignored the word of God and mocked the messengers of God. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie; and because of that God gave them up in their stubbornness. We know the consequences. The result was catastrophic
Their enemies invaded their land, destroyed the walls of Jerusalem and took them as slaves on exile. They appealed to God from the exterior to come and fight for them and the Lord gave them up to their own sins.
We are the new people of Israel. And everyday we are constantly at war with the worst of all enemies- sin, evil, and death. Like I said in one of my homilies, the center of this battle is not Iraq or Afghanistan. It is here at St. Martin, in our homes, our families, our places of work. It is even in the air that we breathe. It seems to me that sin is constantly invading our society, destroying the fabrics of our lives and taken us as slaves and exiling us from our relationship with God.
God sent his prophets to the chosen people to teach them how to defeat sin, evil, death and to return to him. In the same way, God in his infinite love and mercy has sent us his Son as our victory over sin, evil and death. Jesus is the Light of the World, who alone can dispel the darkness of sin in our lives. We have a choice: Either to come into the light of God’s love- Jesus, or to remain in darkness. Part of the strategy for winning this spiritual warfare is by accepting Jesus as the guiding principle of life and living. Coming into the light exposes our sins, but only that we can be forgiven.
How do we come into the Light? By allowing Jesus to circumcise our heart. It is a clean heart, a pure heart, a circumcised heart that God loves and that’s what brings us into the light of God’s love, not just an external observance of the moral or religious laws, no matter how relatively perfect that may be. This is the message that the prophets brought to the children of Abraham in our first reading and they ignored them.
Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God says Joel [2:13] and surely that is the basic program for every Lent. Deuteronomy [10: 16] tells us, Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and be no longer stiff-necked.
Lent, then, is the time to have our hearts circumcised by God, and that purification is not simply a matter of external disciplines. It is more painful than that, because it goes deeper.
The first step in this interior circumcision is the most painful, the opening of our heart before God, and in a very concrete way. It is clearly not a matter of privately informing God of what is in our heart - he knows everything already.
It is a matter of opening our heart then to whom? In fact it is to ourselves, because we have the inbuilt tendency to disguise, to hide from ourselves the truth that lies deep in our hearts about our thoughts, our desires, our temptations, the roots of our temptations.
In practice, this means opening our hearts to another, and through this other to come to know ourselves before God. This is one of the reasons Christ instituted the sacrament of reconciliation so that we can allow Him to circumcise our hearts, to open our hearts to ourselves through the mediation of our confessors and spiritual directors for the sake of transparency, so that there is no little or big dark secrets just between us and God. Any Secret between us and God does not lead to purity of heart but to self-rationalization, self-deceit, and self-destruction. Not all of us are masters in deceiving others, but most of us are masters at self-deceit. Being fully open and honest to our confessors and spiritual directors, before God, is the only way of being open and honest to oneself
The failure to circumcise the heart has been a disaster for so many Christians, including the clergy and therefore for the Church. Could the priest, who is drinking too much, continue down hill if he were really opening his heart to God in this very concrete way? Could the husband who is troubled by marital infidelity continue downhill and destroy his marriage if he was really opening his heart to a good confessor or spiritual director? Could the teenager who is troubled by the access to pornography on the internet continue downhill if he was really opening his heart to a good director, not just one of his buddies who are easy on him? And so many more traps, so many paths of rationalization, so many paths of disaster both personal and for the people of God whom we serve.
The truth is I cannot love the Lord and love the Church, which is one with Him, His Mystical Body, with all my heart, unless my heart is pure, and that requires the repeated circumcision of the heart, the often painful process of self-revelation that goes beyond the surface of my life and reaches the depths of my soul. I can wear this vestment as much as I want, if I don’t have purity of heart, it is nonsense. The hood does not make the monk. We are all called to be holy, to be saints. That’s what I’m called to be and that’s what you’re called to be. If we are not striving for sainthood, the devil is winning the war.
There is simply no other way to win this battle with sin, evil and death than to allow Jesus the Light to circumcise our hearts and dispel the darkness of sin in our lives, and God does that through the concrete ministry of the Church, which is the ultimate safeguard against self-deception, presumption, blindness, and personal shipwreck.
Those who cannot believe that God is so-loving avoid the light and remain trapped in the guilt and condemnation of their sin.
The light of God’s love is available to everyone. Let us come into that light more fully and allow him to scatter the darkness that lingers within us. Amen.


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