4th Sunday of Lent (March 15, 2015)
2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
Since this is Lent, I’ve been reflecting a lot about sinfulness and repentance. I’m trying really hard to live a life that is holier and learn from my past mistakes. In order to do that, I realize that I have to first acknowledge my past sins so I can try to avoid doing them again. So, if it’s ok with you, I need to get something out in the open. So bear with me as I proceed with a little “public confession” session with everyone here today.
I was either in 7th or 8th grade and was at a friend’s house for a sleepover. There were probably around 8 or so of us there, we all played together on the same baseball team. He lived out in the county and his closest neighbor was probably ½ mile away. We were bored and we were teenagers, which is never a good combination. Someone may have brought up the idea that it would be fun to toilet paper a house. For those unaware of this, it’s when you take perfectly good toilet paper and throw it as to make streamers on someone’s house and in their trees. None of us could drive so, you guessed it, we decided to TP the closest neighbor’s house. Did I mention we were bored teenagers? We at least had enough common sense to wait until dark to lessen our chances of getting caught. So after nightfall, dressed in black and with ninja-quiet-like skills, we snuck over to the neighbor’s house with armfuls of toilet paper. Because it was dark I didn’t see a low hanging tree branch and ended up running right into it leaving a nice cut across my right cheek. We turned the neighbor’s trees and bushes into a winter wonderland made out of toilet paper and got away with it. I’m not proud of my actions and hope you, my church family, can forgive me for my past transgressions against my neighbor.
I believe this story speaks to today’s Gospel passage. In it we hear that, “the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.” We didn’t toilet paper the neighbor’s house when the sun was out because we didn’t want to get caught. We knew that what we were doing was wrong, so we tried to hide in the darkness. Isn’t this the root of deciding what is sinful and what is not? If you are on the internet but you have to keep looking over your shoulder to make sure nobody can see what you’re looking at, chances are you looking at the wrong site. If your parents don’t approve of an outfit because it’s too revealing and immodest so you only wear it when they’re not around, chances are it’s the wrong outfit. If you only live your faith on Sunday’s because you know that’s when you’ll see your priest, but then push your faith to the back burner the other 6 days of the week, chances are you’re not living a life for Christ.
And this, my brothers and sisters, is the ongoing struggle we have with being Christians. Jesus Christ is the light that came into the world to illuminate it. That means that the darkness that we think we’ve been hiding in is no longer actually there. All of your actions…good and bad…can be seen by Him. We can continue to fool ourselves and think that we can live with no accountability, but with Christ that is no longer the truth. We will all one day have to face our Creator in heaven and will have to answer for how we lived our short time on earth. So I’m asking you now…what are you doing with the gift of life that God gave you? If I told you that you are going to die exactly one year from today, how would you start living your life differently? Will you continue to listen to the world that proclaims, “If it feels good do it” and “there is no right or wrong” or will you start giving your life to Christ and His Church. Will you start “living in the light?”
Many of you are aware of the persecution of Christians currently happening in the Middle East. I was sickened when I saw the news feed of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian men who were beheaded this past month by members of ISIS who also videoed the event and posted it on the internet. This is about as pure evil as it comes. Just recently, I read an interview with a Coptic priest named Fr. Anthony from Arlington, VA. He said that for Coptic Christians, “They’re not as shaken by these things as we (Americans) are, because they count every day as a gift from God.” He went on to say that “Their public faith could mean the end of their life.” Fr. Anthony said that the “differences between Egypt and the U.S. are striking and the hardship for Christians in Egypt is difficult for Americans to truly grasp. Faith for the Copts is everything, a life that they’re willing to lose for the sake of their faith.” He explained that, “for us (Americans) you can get by with a Sunday-only faith. They can’t, because every day of their life they see in front of them, the decision to follow Christ does impact the grades they get in school, it impacts which customers will come in their stores. And in some cases, their public faith is met with death.” (“Cross Roads”, Volume 25, Number 20, Feb 22, 2015 pages 3, 8).
These 21 martyrs lived their life in the light…everyday of the week. And in the end, they gave their life for Christ so that they could be with Him in heaven. A family member of one of the martyrs said in an interview, “When we saw the video we were filled with joy. They were like lions, none of them left their faith. We thank God.” I personally couldn’t bring myself to watch the video, but it was reported that the men, right before they were killed, we seen mouthing the words, “Ya Rabbi Yasou” translated, “My Lord Jesus.”
Making a decision to “live in the light” is not always comfortable. But in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”
Live in the dark or live in the light….the choice is yours…