Monday, March 3, 2014

Is sin still relevant?

The Gospel - John 1:29-34

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

The Homily

There is a story about President Calvin Coolidge who was well-known for being a man of few words a man who went straight to the point.  It seems that after attending church one day someone apparently asked him what the preacher preached about. “Sin,” Mr. Coolidge replied. “And what did he have to say about it?” the questioner persisted. After pausing for a moment’s thought Coolidge replied:
“He was against it.”

There was a time in our Church when the homilist at Mass would preach against sin. Today, you might even ask: “Whatever happened to sin?”  We don’t talk about it much anymore. We live in a day in which man minimizes the seriousness of sin. Sin has been trivialized.  Everything is relative. The whole idea of sin has been dismissed.

For example: 
·         People don’t lie … they “juggle the facts” or “stretch the truth”
·         People no longer steal … they “borrow” or “file share”; somehow downloading pirated films or music isn’t stealing
·         People no longer commit adultery … they “fool around” “hook up” or have “casual sex”
·         People no longer cheat … they “pad expenses” or “fudge figures”; or say to themselves “the government gets enough of my money already.”

The media today – movies, television, the Internet – try to make sin look good, to look glamorous, to make it look like it is the “in” thing to do.

There was a time when sin was something we talked about at Church.  We had homilist we called: “hellfire and brimstone” preachers, because their emphasis was always on the consequences of sinning.  They would warn us of the punishment of hell.

Thankfully, today the emphasis is on the love of God, and that is how it should be.

John called Jesus “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” We Christians believe that Jesus came into the world for one purpose, and that was to take away our sins.  So we are preaching today from the correct place emphasizing God’s compassion - God’s love - God’s forgiveness.

But … I’m not sure we appreciate it much anymore!

Do we really feel our greatest need is to be saved from our sins?  We don’t seem to worry about it anymore.  Humanity seems totally focused on information, on technology, on money and on pleasure.

But … If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.
            If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.
            If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.
            If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.
            But our greatest need is … forgiveness … so God sent us … a Savior.

The bible says:                                                                                                                                                      “If we say we have not sinned that we make a liar out of God and his word is not in us.”  1 John 1:10

We are fools if we think that sin is on longer relevant.

We live in a time when it seems fewer and fewer people recognize Christ.  Perhaps that is because they do not recognize that they need a Savior.  If we have no sins that need forgiving, we have no need for Jesus Christ.  There is no need to come to Church on Sunday to celebrate the mystery of Christ in joy, if you don’t first recognize in sorrow that we are sinners who need a savior.

All of us are fragile human beings. 
All of us fall victim to various sins at various times in our lives. 
All of us stand in need of Christ’s forgiveness. 
All of us stand in need of Christ’s salvation.

Instead of downplaying our sinfulness, or denying it, we should admit it and seek out Jesus – “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  We should admit our sinfulness and seek God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (another neglected feature of our Catholic faith).

Today’s readings are calling us all to ask ourselves a few questions:

·         When was the last time you went to confession?
·         What does Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for your sins mean to you?
·         Do you believe He died for your sins?  That it was personal?
·         What difference does it make in your day to day life?

Maybe it’s time to stop taking his sacrifice for granted.  Perhaps we should view his sacrifice for us like the young person in this story:

The story goes … that a man dove into a raging river and saved a drowning young person.  A few days later, after recovering from the shock, the young person visited the man and said, “How can I ever thank you for what you did for me?”  The man looked at the youth and said, “The best thanks you can give me is to live the rest of your life in a way that will have made it worth saving.”

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 
He came to save us from our sins. 
His sacrifice was personal.  
It was just for you … your sins. 
And the best way that you can thank Jesus for what he has done for us
is to live the rest of your life in a way that will have made it worth saving.

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