God is Bigger Than Your Sins
By Fr. Robert J. Carr
Today's Homily again is a product of our homily preparation meetings. Our next meeting will be in January.
When you look over the readings you can see an evolution of the plan of salvation. It begins with David complaining that the Lord, in this case in the Ark of the Covenant, (the same ark that is the focus the movie The Raiders of the Lost Ark) is in a tent, where as he lives in a cedar palace. The king decides things should be different. The readings culminate chronologically with the second reading from Paul in the First Century AD. Here Paul explains that the plan of salvation is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Abuse of Power
There is a little piece that is missing. We begin with David and we work right to Jesus. What is missing. There is a little incident with a certain one King David and a certain subject of his named Bathsheba. If you are not familiar with the story, David is king and has an adulterous affair with a woman named Bathsheba. Her husband is away at war and she is alone.
The product of the affair is that she is pregnant and David tries to cover it up. He calls her husband Uriah from the front and encourages him to have a night with his wife. However, that is forbidden for soldiers at war. So he refuses. David feels he has only one recourse. He has Uriah murdered, therefore, covering up his affair. Well, kind of. There are only three people who know: Bathsheba, David and God. When you try to put one over on God you fail. In fact, if you think of it, it is three thousand years later and we are still talking about the incident; that is how much the cover-up failed.
Yet, in spite of this, David does not lose his place in Salvation History and Jesus still is a son of David. What is the lesson here. God's call and election are permanent. If you are open to God's call in your life, He will work through you. Your sins, are not too big for him to handle, provided that you, like David, remain humble before him seeking forgiveness and a desire to be closer to God.
Sinfulness in History
Salvation history, starting with Adam and Eve, is filled with people who fall short of God's mandate. It is not filled with perfect people but human people. Indeed, next week we celebrate Christmas when God comes to us in the flesh as Jesus Christ to save us from our sins.
You are not God, therefore, allow yourself to be human. I have heard over the years of people who are willing to throw in the towel of faith because they don't meet their own standard of holiness. They also follow the concept of what is known as a plaster saint, this is the false image of what it means to be holy. It an image in which we consider the saints to have been perfect. None of them were. Paul, by the way, is open about his failures and even humbles himself before God at the days when he in all his prideful ignorance engaged in persecuting the Church. He too comes to learn of forgiveness and the truth of God's mercy and love.
Our Faith is not for the perfect, but for the imperfect. It is not for the saint, it is for the sinner and no sin, no matter how big is outside God's scope of mercy. If you walk through the doors of a Church, you admit you are a sinner. You are incapable of being holy on your own and you have to rely on God's mercy for your salvation. That is what being Catholic means. Once we do this, then we can readily understand others faults and lead others to the mercy and healing of God. However, there is a caveat, you have to be willing to seek forgiveness and to change in your quest for God.
This is also one of the lost realities of our faith. Too many people describe our faith as something that makes us good to one another. That is not our faith at all. If anything that is nothing more than civil discourse. Our faith is about recognizing our sinfulness and seeking healing for it. This is also the great difference between Christianity and psychiatry.
There is a term used in modern circles; it is psychobabble. Psychobabble means that kind of feel good pop psychology that is used to replace spirituality. The term is used often in regard to churches. "I went to mass and the priest preached nothing more than psychobabble."
That means the person heard nothing about God, but a lot about how to be good people and live good lives. Again, that is not Christianity; that is psychobabble. Now, don't get me wrong psychology and psychiatry have their places, but they are not Catholicism and Catholicism is not psychobabble.
We are here to experience spiritual growth and healing and that begins by humbly accepting our sinfulness and our need for holiness. You would be surprised how much healing happens when we do that and hand ourselves over to the grace of God. You would be surprised how much healing does not happen when we follow the opposite track.
Our Failures Teach Us About Being Human
When we are in touch with our sinfulness then we have a deeper understanding of whom we are as humans. When we reject it, then we have a false understanding of whom we are and we are vulnerable to all the spiritual maladies that can destroy us. This is the great danger in today's world. David becomes the great king of the Jews by God's hand and by humbling himself before God when he falls short of his dignity. His famous prayer of repentance is found in some bibles as psalm 51 and others as psalm 50. It begins with "Have mercy on me, oh God."
Paul, understood well God's mercy. Mary, was the humble woman who understood who was God and who was not. You have the choice to follow the same path or to pridefully reject it. The choice is yours.
Recently, dateline NBC aired a program that featured some men caught in a very serious act of sin. Some responded that they were in treatment for their sinful activity. Yet, such treatment, if it does not understand the nature of sinfulness will be either ineffective or not effective at all. Yet, the person who can admit that he has done something not only improper, but downright sinful, so much so that he has broken his relationship with God and has put himself in a position in which he is powerless to overcome his behavior can find his sin, habit, addiction etc. then the source of holiness. He can grow in holiness when he brings his problem to the awesome mercy of God.
He may not change overnight, but he will change and grow in holiness. The person seeking only psychological healing may find healing, but it will not be as comprehensive and complete. However, those needing psychological healing who also seek spiritual healing through regular confession will be healed to a deeper and more comprehensive level. That is why we have confession. In fact, those caught in the sting of that program got to the level of psychological illness and crime because they did not respond to the sinful activity that grew to the criminal level. For example, it is a sin to read pornography. When that is dismissed the sexual sin can increase to a more serious and eventually criminal level.
From Curse to Grace
It is our sinfulness that Christ came to heal and, therefore, our sinfulness turns from curse to source of grace when that healing occurs. This is why St. Paul says that where sin abounds, grace abounds more. We do not want to be encouraged to sin, but when we do, we can trust that God's grace and mercy will heal us and make us more stronger and holier.
There is a great heresy that accompanies this time of year, and that is that we have within us the ability to be the perfect human and be nice to each other. The heresy is usually proven wrong every year especially in countless mall parking lots. Our goodness comes from the grace of God, we cannot be good on our own, yet in God, we can be powerful agents of God's grace even if we have been the greatest of sinners. God's healing can touch any soul at any time.
Saying No To CNN
While I was at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, a CNN News crew came in to videotape the mass. The community kicked them out and I later informed CNN that it is not acceptable to come to a mass unannounced. Why? The Community just did not want the news crew there, but I was unhappy for other reasons. We have no idea if there is someone in church whose past is such that he does not want it revealed. This is the place for the worst of all sinners to find healing. Such people do not like to be on television.
This ultimately is the message of Christmas, that the worst of all sinners can find salvation. David knew it, Paul knew it. Yet, most of the world does not. They work hard to dismiss the concept of sin and live wise in their own estimation. That is a recipe for disaster. Make sure you are open about your sinfulness, eager to become more aware of it and never let your sins get in the way of knowing God's merciful love. That is the meaning of Christmas.
http://www.catholicismanew.org MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Priest, 617 230-3300
Sin, Confession, Mercy
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