I have been on the road for the last two weekends. Last Saturday, March 3, I celebrated Mass and helped with confessions at the retreat for junior high students in Centennial. Then on Sunday, March 4, I celebrated Masses at St. Paul’s Newman Center in Laramie. This Saturday (March 10), I attended the fundraiser for St. Anthony’s Tri-Parish School in Casper, which was well attended and a wonderful evening. Then on Sunday, I celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s parish in Wheatland and at Mary Queen of Heaven parish in Chugwater. It was the first visit to those parishes. The homily from this Sunday’s Mass is below.
Take time to marvel at the miracle of Spring in the next few months. Each Spring, new life is poured out as pure gift from God. Farmers and ranchers work hard during calving and planting season. Yet, their toil is tiny compared to the immensity of life bursting forth all around them.
The buds on the trees are bulging. New leaves are not far behind. Before long the grass will tint the land green. Flowers will pop out on the prairie as sentinels to the beauty of God. Wheat sprouts will poke out from tiny kernels of grain packed with power. Newborn calves wobbly on their legs will soon frolic with delight across the pasture.
Take time to marvel at the miracle of Spring in the next few months. Each Spring, new life is poured out as pure gift from God.
Do you know that LENT is an old English word for SPRING? The miracle of new life in creation also overflows in our spiritual lives. Grace is poured into our hearts as pure gift from God.
St. Paul says, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5).
The land is so barren in winter; yet it is completely transformed in spring. Our hearts are often desolate because of the cold dark winter of sin. Yet, God renews us with mercy, grace and forgiveness again and again. It is pure gift.
“When we are dead in our transgressions,” God shows us the “immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast” (Eph. 2:7-8).
Are you taking time to marvel at the miracle of new life offered to you this Lent? It is not something we accomplish. Rather it is the GIFT of God. It is even more powerful than the miracle of spring. It is especially abundant in the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.
Have you been to confession? When you go to confession, do you embrace forgiveness as pure gift? Often, people will say, “I know that God forgives me, but I can’t forgive myself.” But that is a sneaky form of pride. God’s job is to forgive. Our job is to receive forgiveness. So when we start to decide whether or not we are eligible for forgiveness, then we are making ourselves bigger than God. We’re doing God’s job. It is a form of pride.
Our stance before God is to receive grace like children receive gifts from their parents. Jesus said, “Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). This was so confusing for the Pharisees. For them, to experience the kingdom of God, you had to be old enough to read the Torah and keep the commandments. But Jesus says, “Nope. It’s pure gift. Unless you accept it like a little child, you will never enter into the Father’s mercy.”
“By grace you have been saved through faith.” All that you have to do is believe it and accept it as a gift. “It is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”
Pope Francis is a strong witness of how God loves us so freely. He keeps focusing us on God’s mercy. In his first Angelus address, Pope Francis said, “It is not God who tires of forgiving man, but we who tire of asking for forgiveness. Let us never tire, let us never tire! He is the loving Father, who always forgives, who has that heart of mercy for all of us.”
Several years ago, a young man in his twenties told me that he had been angry with both parents for his entire life. His mother spent much of her time drinking and partying. His dad was absent for most of his life. Yet, he decided to tell his mom “I forgive you, and I love you.” He said, “I felt my soul for the first time in years. I felt so good inside.”
By the grace of forgiveness, he went from the cold dark winter of sin into the bright warm light of spring. He found the grace to say I forgive you because he had worked on his relationship with God. He went to Mass every Sunday. He came to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He was active in leading youth retreats.
Finally, his relationship with God matured enough for him to forgive. He experienced a new springtime in his spiritual life. He was amazed by the gift of new life. The only work that we have to do is to open ourselves to grace.
Let the Father’s love re-create you this Lent. St. Paul says, “We are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works God has prepared in advance” (Eph. 2:10). When that young man let God re-create his heart with the gift of MERCY, then he could do the good work of forgiving his mother.
Take time to marvel at the miracle of Spring while new life is poured out as pure gift from God. Sit in quiet by yourself in nature. If you are a farmer or rancher, take ten minutes just to be quiet and take in the beauty of spring.
Then realize that God wants you to have a spiritual springtime. Marvel at the miracle of new life given to you this Lent. Pray the Stations of the Cross or go to confession, and receive the Life flowing from the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). That gift is renewed at every Eucharist. Let it refresh you. Receive it as pure gift. Let God re-create you in Christ Jesus for the good works of God.