March 5, 2012

This following homily was preached today in St Albert’s Chaplaincy, and was written after I had posted the one below (originally used on Godzdogz in 2011).

As such, this homily is more current and topical.

HOMILY for Mon in Week 2 of Lent

Daniel 9:4-10; Ps 78; Luke 6:36-38

Occasionally I’ve had to hang things on the wall using a nail and hammer. And I’m not particularly good at this… Imagine me trying to hammer a nail into the wall, and I find the wall is somewhat unyielding, and my aim slips. So, I make a small indentation below the point that I wanted. I’ve missed the mark, and in fact, I find that I’ve made an indentation in a softer part of the plaster. So, I keep hitting that point, deciding to settle for that lower position instead. The picture, when it’s hung here, isn’t quite where it should be, but I convince myself it’s fine. And in fact, if I’m to live with myself and my weakness, I soon convince myself that it’s what I wanted in the first place, and indeed, everyone else should think so too. 

I use this to illustrate how sin affects us as individuals, and also its effect on society. Sin is missing the mark, and when we find that the good and true is a little hard, somewhat unyielding, our aim slips. Instead of persevering, and finding the right tools to hit the hard spot, we may take the easier way, and persist in missing the mark. So, we persist in sin. And then we soon convince ourselves that perhaps that is the best way forward anyway – there’s no such thing as the right place to hang the picture, or no better way of behaving, and so on. So, truth is relativized, such that I become the sole arbiter of right and wrong. And anyone who disagrees has to be convinced otherwise, or silenced. 

That, I’m afraid, is a dynamic that we sinners are all too prone to. We not only want to justify our sin, but desiring to persist in sin, we begin to deny it’s even sinful, and assert that our sinful actions may, in fact, even be right. Because of sin, our moral judgment is clouded, and we become spiritually and morally confused. So, as Daniel says in our First Reading: “To us, O Lord, belongs confusion of face, to our kings, our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you” (Dan 9:8).

I’m afraid that the truth behind this dynamic of justifying sin, and the confusion that comes from sin, is brought into sharp relief by the current push of the Government to re-define marriage, and so, to allow same-sex couples to marry. And the Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, typifies such ensuing moral confusion when she says that marriage is “owned by the people” and not by the Church. Well, marriage is, in fact, ‘owned’ by humankind. It is not defined by democratic process but defined by the God-given truth of our human nature. As my Dominican brother, fr. Timothy Radcliffe wrote in ‘The Tablet’ this weekend: “Marriage is founded on the glorious fact of sexual difference and its potential fertility. Without this there would be no life on this planet, no evolution, no human beings, no future… Everywhere and always it [marriage] remains founded on the union in difference of male and female”. 

To deny this fundamental and natural difference is not to be more free. It is to be confused, and error leads to a dead-end. This is the position our society is in right now; a society that is deluded into thinking it can re-define human nature, and even re-define what is or isn’t human. The only way forward and out of this sinful morass is to have the wisdom of Daniel. 

For true wisdom is not afraid to recognize that we have been misled by our human weakness and sensual passions. Wisdom knows when we need to reverse out of a dead-end, and so, to confess that “I have sinned”. Because, only by making this first step can we be freed from the slavery of error, and be embraced by God, and reconciled to the Truth, which gives life and true freedom. And we need not fear this dynamic because our Father in heaven is merciful, responding to our humility and sorrow for sins not just with an equal measure of mercy, but with even more: a “good measure” of overflowing compassion and healing love, made visible in the gift of Jesus Christ who died for our sins.

Will we accept this gift, or reject it by insisting on our own righteousness?

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