Here is my homily from this morning’s Mass. God bless each of you!
As we begin Lent, we are given this Gospel passage in which we are reminded that if we gain the whole world, but lose ourselves, we gain nothing, and that everyone who calls himself Christian must pick up his cross.
I am reminded of the great little treatise John Henry Newman wrote at the end of the 19th century, which he entitled, “The Venture of Faith.” In this writing, Newman poses the question, “What have you ventured for the Faith?” Indeed, what have we risked, put on the line, because of our commitment to Jesus Christ and the Church? What have we given?
You know, God takes us at our word, even though we often do not understand the full implications of our words, our promises, our commitments. He takes us at our word, and then only promises that he will be there to help us carry it out, whatever it may be that we have promised.
All of us here this morning have, by virtue of our baptisms and our presence around this altar, made the public promise and commitment to follow Jesus Christ. We call ourselves Christians. God takes us at our word, even though we do not know what this commitment will mean for us in our lives. God says, “So be it! You are my follower!”
When a man and woman approach the Church and publicly declare their vows to each other, promising a life together, God says, “So be it! You are man and wife!” and promises to help them, even though they do not fully understand the implications of their marital promises.
When a man kneels before his bishop and is ordained a deacon, promising to become an Icon of Jesus Christ the Servant, he knows not what this promise will bring him in life, but God takes him at his word and says, “So be it! You are my deacon.” God promises only to be there to help him.
My friends, Lent is a good time for us to reflect on the promises and commitments we have made to God, to each other, and to the Church. God takes us at our word in these commitments. We don’t really know the full implications of our promises, what we will have to carry to fulfill them, but he will be there to help us carry those crosses.
I will conclude with this: I do not recommend you watch it, but in that video of the 21 men who were killed in Libya this past week by ISIS because they were Christian, if you watch their last words before death, they confessed, “Lord, Jesus Christ!” Yes, they professed Jesus. They carried their cross, and fulfilled their commitment made at baptism, even though at that time they knew not what that baptismal promise would require of them. May God richly reward them now.
Let us this Lent examine our promises and commitments, knowing God accepts those promises at face value even if we do not fully comprehend the implications of making those commitments. He does so assuring us he is there to help us fulfill them in the power of his Spirit.