Saturday, July 8, 2017

Rest from the Burden of Sin - A Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle A

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
July 9, 2017

Have you ever been so incredibly tired that all you wanted to do was just collapse in utter exhaustion? Have you ever been really and completely tired…I mean drained and worn out? I think we’ve all been there, whether it was because of work, or school, or family obligations, or sports, or what have you. I think we’ve all had times when, physically, our bodies just can’t take it anymore and we’re done. Luckily we have this little thing known as sleep that amazingly helps to refresh and renew our tired bodies. There’s nothing like a nice shower, a hearty meal, and a solid eight hours of good sleep to get us back on track and ready to jump back into gear. But isn’t it true that there’s another kind of tiredness that sleep cannot take care of? A fatigue that extends way beyond heavy eyes and sore muscles…that lingers and stays with us despite all of our efforts…a weariness that cuts to our core, dampens our spirit, and weighs us down. It’s the kind of tiredness that affects our whole person and makes the whole of life seem burdensome. Each one of us, myself included, at any given moment suffers more or less from this existential fatigue. Sometimes it is brought about because something horrible and tragic has happened…other times it is brought about because our dreams and expectations were not fulfilled…but more often than not, this weariness is brought about as the direct or indirect effect of the poor choices we human beings so often and easily make. In our Christian tradition we call this “sin” and we know, from our own experience, that sin has a trickle-down makes us miserable, tired, worn out, anxious, weary, and burdened.

When God created the whole world, He created it good. When He created man and woman, He didn’t just create them good, but very good. After the Fall, man and woman did not lose their fundamental goodness, but they did lose the ability to act in accordance with this goodness. This is why sin makes us miserable…sin is not something that simply offends God, a breaking of God’s rules and laws, sin is something that is completely and utterly opposed to everything we are. God created us beautiful, He created us true, and He created us good…this is who we are and nothing can change that…but sin is ugly, sin is false, sin is not good. We were not made for sin, we were not made to sin, and so when we do sin things go poorly for us. We get bogged down by it, and the more we sin and the greater we sin the more miserable we become.

When I was a little boy I was constantly getting into trouble…and often times it was because my ingenuity was getting the best of me: I would often take things from around the house and re-appropriate them for my own purposes. Sometimes this was harmless, like when I’d use the couch cushion to makes forts…but other times I went too far. I remember one time taking the garden hose and using it as a rope to climb the tree in our back yard. There’s a reason hoses don’t make good ropes…they’re slippery and they have no traction. Of course this thought didn’t occur to me until after the hose lost its grip, and I fell and broke my arm. When my mother heard my screaming she came running out of the house and after she determined that I would live to see to tomorrow she didn’t hesitate to scold me…referring to my make-shift rope she shook her head and said, “That’s not what that’s for!” If I had a dollar for every time my mother said, “That’s not what that’s for” I’d be a rich man…but there’s a lot of wisdom behind it, isn’t there? Hoses were not made to be used as ropes for climbing…they were made for something completely different. By misusing the hose I was asking for trouble…and I got it…about six weeks in a cast worth of trouble.

Sin is like this…just on a much greater scale. We’re not made to sin, we’re made for something completely different…something much better. But sin is alluring and it calls out to us, convincing us that everything will be okay if we just give in…and when we do, we see the lie for what it is. We don’t feel okay, we don’t feel good…we feel miserable. Just like the hose slipped and sent me falling to the ground, sin causes us to slip and fall from God, from each other, and even from our own selves. Luckily for me I had my mother who, despite her rightful scolding, lovingly brushed me off and took me to the emergency room so that I could begin the process of healing. I fell, she picked me up, and before the end of the day my arm was in a cast and on the road to health. But isn’t it the case that with sin we tend to stay on the ground? Our embarrassment, our fear, or even our apathy causes us to wallow…we long for wholeness, but we’re not sure how to get it. We might try to find it ourselves or turn to other means for healing, but this never works, at least not for long. I think about the day-time talk shows where we see people from all over the world getting on national television to talk about some pretty serious things: that their marriages failed, that they don’t know who the father of their children is, that they’re cheating on their spouse, that they’ve gambled away their savings, that they’re horribly addicted to drugs and alcohol…they’re bogged down by the effects of sin in their lives and they’re yearning for healing…they’re yearning for someone to pick them up, brush them off, love them, and make them whole once again. The problem is, we can’t just turn to each other, we can’t just turn to other people who themselves are struggling with their own sin…and we certainly can’t turn to ourselves. So where do we go? How do we get out of the cesspool of sin and misery? Who can relieve us of our weariness? The answer is plain as day: Jesus Christ.

In our gospel today from St. Matthew, we hear Jesus tell us, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are burdened…and I will give you rest.” Jesus Christ, Who is both God and Man, Himself without sin, took on the burden of our sin at Calvary and poured out His innocent and holy blood for the forgiveness of our sins. But the effects of this great act of love are not automatic…they have to be willingly and actively received by us. He tells us that we have to come to Him…that we have to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him. He has power over the sin that infects our lives and makes us miserable…but He can’t heal us and make us whole again unless we want Him to. We must invite Him daily into our hearts and into our lives, so that the saving power of His Cross can destroy our weariness and our fatigue.

One of the ways in which the Lord makes present to us the salvific effects and power of His gift of love on Calvary is through the Sacrament of Penance, of Confession. This Sacrament is the ordinary way in which sins are forgiven and we are restored to wholeness. I go to confession once every two weeks…I have for years and I hope I always will. I know that Christ is present, in a unique and wonderful way through His priest in the confessional…and when I’m bogged down by sin, when I’m weary and disheartened, those beautiful words of absolution lift my soul and restore me to the abundant life. I would encourage all of us to make greater use of this holy Sacrament…and to do so regularly: once a month is an excellent practice. We have scheduled confession times, as you know, but don’t feel limited by them. If you need to go to confession, Father Greg, Father Rick, and myself…we’re here for you. I can only speak for myself, but feel free to call the parish office at any time to come see me. Or if you see me out and about, in between Masses, at the grocery store, at the coffee shop, whether I’m in a collar or whether I’m in a tee-shirt, stop me and ask. Nothing would give me greater joy. I’m here for you, day and night, 24/7, 365 days a year. I may not be able to drop everything immediately, but you are my greatest priority and I will always make time for you.

And so, in this spirit, in the desire to be whole, in the desire to be restored to fullness and goodness and glory, in the desire to be unburdened, we flock to our Lord Jesus Christ and come unto Him, laying before Him all we are, all that we have done and failed to do, and we hear gently whispered to us, “Yes, come to me…come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

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