Easter – The Homily
A priest was recently meeting with several marketing types and they were discussing the “branding” of the Catholic Church. Consider what comes to mind when you mention such products as:
- Ivory Soap
- The Philadelphia Eagles (Ok, we won’t go there)
They discussed “the marketing link” that comes to people’s mind, especially people who have been away from the Church for awhile or people unassociated with the Church, when you mention the words “Catholic Church”:
- Against abortion
- Against contraception
- Against marriage equality
They NEVER make the connection to:
- Forgiveness, ESPECIALLY of yourself
Why is that? Because THAT IS the message. THAT’S the real product.
In his book, Transformed, A New Way of Being Christian, author Caesar Kalinowski tells the story about Greg with his wife Mary. Greg came back to his faith through playing Texas Hold’em with a group of men from the parish. He had a special heart for what Pope Francis calls, “the people on the fringes.” Years later, Greg and his wife led “Network Tacoma” which owned and managed 34 units of transitional housing in and around Tacoma.
One day they met Kristin and her widowed mother Julianna. Theirs was a life of multigenerational drug abuse, addiction and violence.
- Julianna was a functioning alcoholic.
- Her husband committed suicide by hanging himself in their garage.
- Kristin failed a necessary drug screening required to get into a government-sponsored apartment.
Greg and Mary got them housing and invited them to dinner. Over several years, as the author relates, Kristin and Julianna realized, that this crazy group of Jesus people were more interested in them being part of the family than “getting them to church.” Julianna did, in fact, become an active member of the worship community and Kristin, with the help of the parishioners, eventually went back and got her GED.
In a fractured and divided world:
- What if the brand of the Catholic Church was forgiveness instead of “sin management”?
- What if reconciliation was central to the message?
- What if Julianna and Kristin appeared at your door?
- What if they took a chance and are here today, right now, sitting next to you?
- Do you see them? Do you want to get to know them?
Maybe this is why Pope Francis called for a “Year of Mercy” to begin on this coming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, and ending on November 20, 2016, The Feast of Jesus Christ King of the Universe.
The Holy Father’s message seems to echo the call of author John Paul Lederach in his book, Reconcile by John Paul Lederach.
Based on His work in war zones on five continents, the book tells stories of what works – and what doesn’t – in entrenched conflicts between individuals and groups. One reviewer said, “Beware: though this book is biblically grounded and thoroughly practical, it is not safe. It will mess with your life.”
I was speaking to a group of men at my Scripture Study and we were discussing this very message. One man said, “As Catholics we tend to suppress the significance – and importance – of ‘mercy’ especially mercy towards ourselves. We don’t forgive ourselves, sometimes for YEARS!” We have this incredible desire for control and self-sufficiency. In the car we’re on 3 conference calls and listening to 2 books.” We don’t hear the message of mercy from the Lord through the noise. In order to receive, you need to be still and you can’t be “self sufficient.” You need another person to be involved.
That is what Easter is all about. It is the difference between:
- An event
- An encounter
- A relationship
Jesus did not come to make you religious; Jesus came to make you live.
Living our eating- and-drinking-existence differently.
Living a life that, except in the belief of a risen Lord, makes no sense.
Belief that, in the midst of the anxiety and unforgiveness and anger and pain and shame and disappointment which threatens to bury us and cover it all with a huge boulder, there is still someone who will provide a break with sin and an entrance into a new life of grace.
Who will separate us from the weight of the past and have us enter into an entirely new dimension – a new path to the future?
Someone who will come and “roll away the stone.”
Audio version of the homily is here: