Chaplain’s Conference: If You Wish, You Can Make Me Clean

Chaplain’s Conference
Sacred Heart Catholic High School
Thursday, February 15, 2018


7 deadly sins

This past Sunday, the Gospel laid out for us the story of a leper; a leper who ran up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said “If you wish, you can make me clean.”

Leprosy – the word means “to peel off”.  Lepers were separated from family and society so they could not infect others.  They were sentenced to a living death…a fate worse than death.

If you wish, you can make me clean.

Jesus looks at him with pity. He looks at him with love. I do will it. Be made clean.

The Lord gives us Lent because he loves us. He loves you and he wants you to be all you can be. He wants you to become the saint that you are meant to be. He wants to free you so that you can live fully and love deeply.

He longs to speak those words to you. I do will it. Be made clean.

But if he is to speak those words, he must speak them in response to your request. If you are to hear those words and have them take effect in your life, you must make your request.

If you wish, you can make me clean.

And so, every year, the Church gives us the season of Lent. A season for days of reflection. A season that provides us the opportunity to stop, to step back and to examine our lives. A season that provides a space for us to ask the question:

What is the state of my heart?

How am I doing in my relationship with God and with those around me?

Where have I allowed habits of sin to creep in and close the doors of my heart?

This is the purpose of Lent: it is a time to examine the state of our hearts. Once we have examined our hearts and see where we need Jesus to make us clean, then we are to direct our Lenten practices toward overcoming that habit of sin and growing in the opposite virtue.

What are some of these habits of sin that may be affecting us? What is the leprosy that infects your heart? Let’s look at the 7 deadly sins. As I describe them, I ask you to reflect on which of these you currently struggle with the most.

Pride. Pride is a puffed up view of myself. I’m the cock of the walk. I have all of the answers and don’t have anything to learn from anyone else. Pride is the chief sin. It is also a blinding sin. People who are prideful often don’t see that they are prideful. But everyone else sees it. They live in a castle of illusion, thinking they are the center of the universe. Do you suffer from pride? If you quickly said “no” or just rolled your eyes, I would encourage you to ask yourself the question again…

Anger. Anger is often caused by impatience. There are times that anger is justified if it moves me to stand up for what is right. But habits of anger turn the heart bitter and prevent us from loving as God calls us to love. Do you suffer from anger? Is anger turning your heart bitter?

Gluttony. Gluttony is eating or drinking to excess. My body needs proper nourishment to function well, and my body is a gift from God. A habit of gluttony enslaves me to my desires – if I want it, then I will have it, regardless of whether or not it’s excessive or unhealthy. Gluttony weakens my will power and my ability to choose. Do you suffer from gluttony?

Lust. Lust is a disordered desire for sexual pleasure. Lust sees other people as objects to be used for my pleasure. Lust sees body parts and not the whole person. Here, I would draw a distinction between attraction and lust. Attraction is recognizing beauty in another person. Lust focuses on the physical attraction and begins to fantasize or make demeaning comments about the other. Do I find myself looking at pornography or engaging in sexual acts with myself or with others? Do I regularly give in to lust?  Perhaps the Lord wants to set you free from lust this Lent…

Sloth. Sloth is a laziness of spirit. Sloth takes away my zeal. It saps me of my energy. It makes me waste my time doing nothing instead of putting my energy into serving others. How much time do I spend sitting around all day, doing nothing? Do I spend countless hours watching TV or playing video games? Do I set goals for myself? Perhaps the Lord wants to free you from sloth this Lent…

Envy. Envy is jealousy – wishing that I had what others have. It makes me think badly of others for what they have and it prevents me from being grateful for what I have. Do I often find myself jealous of others? Cultivating a spirit of gratitude is the opposite of envy.

Greed. The love of money is the root of all evil. Not money itself, but the love of money. Do I find myself always wanting more? Will I use other people to get more for myself? Is my heart attached to things that really don’t matter? Your heart it made for God and he is ultimately the only One who can satisfy the desires of your heart. Do I suffer from greed?

Out of those 7 deadly sins, which one affects you the most? Pride, anger, gluttony, lust, sloth, envy, or greed? Lent is your time to approach the Lord with that sin, to kneel down, and to say, Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.

What if we did that?

What if we directed our Lenten sacrifices toward tearing open our hearts so that the weed of sin that we struggle with could be plucked out?

What if we directed our Lenten sacrifices to uprooting these sins and replacing them with the opposite virtues: planting humility in place of pride, patience in place of anger, temperance or moderation in place of gluttony, chastity in place of lust, diligence in place of sloth, gratitude in place of envy or jealousy, generosity in place of greed?

What if we did that?

What if our penances were directed toward a purpose?

What if we actually expected to grow this Lent…to change this Lent?

How would your life be different? Would it be better?

Where is Jesus inviting you to grow? Where is Jesus calling you from death to life?

Pray for the grace to grow in that area. Pray for it on your knees, daily on your knees imploring the God of all grace for the grace to be made clean. Pray for the grace to return to confession if it’s been years. Pray for the grace to rend your heart – to experience true contrition for your sins. Pray for God to do within you what you cannot do for yourself.

St. Augustine offers this piece of wisdom:
Do you want your prayer to fly to God? Then give it the wings of fasting and almsgiving.

Prayer gives God permission to do his part.
Fasting and almsgiving is your part.

Pray and then fast.

Fasting builds spiritual muscle. We have one will. If you strengthen your will in one area, it will strengthen it in other areas where you struggle. Giving up chocolate or pop strengthens your will in the area of food, and that carries over into the areas of anger, drink, and sex among others. But you have direct it toward that virtue you are trying to grow in. Don’t just give up pop and chocolate for its own sake. Give up pop and chocolate and offer that as a sacrifice to God, asking him to free you from the sin you struggle with. Direct your penance toward a purpose. Know why you’re doing it.

Pray, fast, and give alms. Almsgiving atones for sins. It returns to God from a grateful heart, and in turn it makes the heart more grateful. It focuses your heart on others – it stretches your heart so that it can be filled with the love of God. Find a way to give of your time, your gifts, or your money this Lent. Practice charity. Focus on the needs of others.

Pray, fast, and give alms – direct all of those practices toward rooting out the habit of sin that plagues you and toward planting the opposite virtue will give you the freedom to live more fully and to love more deeply.

Don’t put off to next year what you can do this year. Approach the Lord with the words of the leper. Lord if you wish, you can make me clean.

He wishes to make you clean.

You are his beloved Son. You are his beloved daughter. He want to make you free. You have only to ask him in prayer and then to commit to fasting and almsgiving, and you will see a transformation happen.

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Homily for Ash Wednesday (Year B)
February 14, 2018
Holy Trinity, Tabor – 6:00 PM
St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher – 7:30 PM

Focus:                   It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Function:             Live Lent intentionally.


Ash Wed

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
There’ll be ashes and fasting
no chocolate nor candy
this Valentine’s Daaaaaaay!

Maybe I should stop before I’m thrown out…

After all, we’ve been fasting all day. No meat. We’re hungry. It’s cold and dark outside. It’s been a long day.

We’re all a little cranky.

This isn’t the time to be messing around. Let’s get on with it…Mass is going to take long enough since we all have to come forward twice…

Repent and believe in the Gospel.
Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.

Real cheerful.

It is certainly not the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time of drudgery, a time of penance, a time where we wallow in our guilt, or at least pretend to wallow in our guilt. We take up arbitrary penances for the sake of punishing ourselves for no apparent reason other than it’s what we do. A little bit of Catholic guilt is supposed to be good for the soul.

We watch as our co-workers eat their juicy cheeseburgers and then listen as they taunt us for our outdated traditions.

Penance services abound and the priests are cranky because we’ll drive 20 minutes in the cold, dark night to offer our 8th penance service of the week and two people will show up.

The readings are woeful as they urge us to be reconciled to God, to turn away from our sins, to rend our hearts with repentance to such a degree that they are torn open and new spiritual muscle grows.

It’s Lent. The most wonderful time of the year…

Uh-huh. I don’t know about that.

It’s a time, alright, but what type of time is it? Our second reading gives us a clue:

Behold, now is a very acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.

The day of salvation…the day of salvation will be a wonderful time.

The day of salvation when there will be no more suffering, no more pain, where we will experience new life and live it to the full. And, of course, the Good News of the Gospel is that we can begin to live this new life here and now. Jesus promises us this new life here and now. The Kingdom is among us.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time! Behold, now is the day of salvation!

Behold, now is the time to begin anew. Now is the time of conversion, the time for new life, for new life in this life, for a life lived to the full, a resurrection experience in midst of the winter of life.

Now is the time of opportunity, the time of struggle, yes, but also a time of great growth that comes in the midst of the struggle. As they say, no pain, no gain…

Behold, now is a very acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation!

Now is the time to become who you were meant to be. Now is the time for breaking out of the humdrum and ho-hum of everyday life.

Now is the time to end the endless cycle of cynicism and mediocrity and lukewarm Christianity and to begin to live our faith, our life, our love of God and neighbor with boldness and with zeal. Now is the time to become fully alive in Christ. Now is the time for cold hearts to be rent open and set ablaze with Divine love.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year if we seize it. It’s the most wonderful time of the year if we make the most of it.

It can indeed be the most wonderful time of the year if we make this Lent different from the Lents of the past…if we take up our Crosses daily and follow after him…if we direct all of our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving toward rending our hearts of the vices that plague them and replacing those vices with the opposing virtues.

What if?

What if we directed our Lenten sacrifices, our prayer, our fasting, and our almsgiving…what if we directed them toward tearing open our hardened hearts so that they could be emptied of pride or greed or anger or lust or sloth or gluttony or envy or…?

What if we emptied our hearts of these vices and sins and then filled them, filled them with the virtues of humility or generosity or patience or chastity or diligence or temperance or gratitude or…? What if we did that?

What if our penances were directed toward a purpose?

What if we actually expected to grow this Lent…to change this Lent?

What if we actually tried to seize this acceptable time, this day of salvation, this wonderful time of the year?

How would your life be different? Would it be better? Would it be more…wonderful?

Where is Jesus inviting you to grow? Where is Jesus calling you from death to life?

Pray for the grace to grow in that area. Pray for it on your knees, daily on your knees imploring the God of all grace for the grace that you need to seize this acceptable time. Pray for the grace to return to confession if it’s been years. Pray for the grace to rend your heart – to experience true contrition for your sins. Pray for God to do within you what you cannot do for yourself.

St. Augustine offers this piece of wisdom: Do you want your prayer to fly to God? Then give it the wings of fasting and almsgiving.

Prayer gives God permission to do his part. Fasting and almsgiving is your part.

Pray and then fast.

Fasting builds spiritual muscle. We have one will. If you strengthen your will in one area, it will strengthen it in other areas where you struggle. Giving up desserts strengthens your will in the area of food, and that carries over into the areas of anger, drink, and sex among others. But you have direct it toward that virtue you are trying to grow in.

Pray, fast, and give alms. Almsgiving atones for sins. It returns to God from a grateful heart, and in turn it makes the heart more grateful. It focuses your heart on others – it stretches your heart so that it can be filled with the love of God.

Pray, fast, and give alms – direct all of those practices toward the pursuit of a virtue that will bring about the day of salvation, a virtue that will give you the freedom to live more fully and to love more deeply.

Don’t put off to next year what you can do this year. Don’t waste your time – your acceptable time.

Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.

It is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year.

If You Wish, He Can Make You Clean

Homily for 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
February 11, 2018
St. Henry – 7:30 AM Eastern Time (St. Henry, Indiana)

Focus:              If you wish, he can make you clean.
Function:        Will it – be made clean!


Pope Francis

It was the most dreaded of all diseases.  Leprosy.  The word means “to peel off”.  For someone who lived during Old Testament times, leprosy was a living death.  One was separated from family and community.  They were kept outside, away, apart, at a safe distance, where they would not be able to infect others.

Today we meet one of them.  We meet a leper.  He comes to Jesus, kneels down, and begs him:
If you wish, you can make me clean.

Last week, I found myself in the chapel at Saint Meinrad for a time of Eucharistic adoration.  As I sat there, I was aware of my own need to go to confession.  It had only been two weeks and yet I knew that I needed to go.  There was something bothering me, sin weighing me down and getting in the way of my relationship with the Lord, something for which I knew that I needed to ask forgiveness…a leprosy of the heart that needed to be cured.

And I sat there.

I sat there knowing that I needed to go but not wanting to go.

Perhaps you can relate.

So often, we think of confession as our once/year obligation that needs to be met.  We hate to go.  We think we don’t need to go.  We’d rather pretend we’re fine.  I haven’t been that bad, after all.  I’m a good person. 

I’m sure the leper was a good person too.  He still needed to be healed of his leprosy.

All of us experience this leprosy of the heart in its different forms.  There’s the leprosy of a heart puffed up by pride, a heart embittered by anger, a heart soiled by lust or soured by envy.  There’s the leprosy of a heart weakened by gluttony, paralyzed by sloth, or poisoned by greed.

The leprosy of the heart plagues us.  Sometimes we are all too well aware of it and at other times we try to pretend it’s not there, but we can’t escape it.  We know it’s there.

And like the leper, we can’t cure it on our own.  Like the leper, we need to come to Jesus with a simple request:

If you wish, you can make me clean.

Sin makes us want to hide.  We try to hide it like Adam and Eve tried to hide themselves in the Garden.  But, like leprosy, sin doesn’t get better by hiding it.  We must bring it into the light.

The leper had to show himself to Jesus Christ, the true priest.  And, brothers and sisters, so must we.  We must show our leprosy to the priest.

Just as leprosy disfigured the body, so sin defaces the soul.

Just as leprosy caused pain, fear, and depression, so sin destroys interior peace, creates remorse and instills fear of judgement.

But the good news of the Gospel is that we are not to be left in our sins.  Our leprosy is not incurable.  It can be healed!  God sent his Son to die for us so that it could be healed!  God wants to dwell in our hearts – he wants to make his abode in our hearts, but he can do so only if we allow him to first heal our hearts so that they can become a fit dwelling place for him!

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”  If we are to be pure of heart, we must allow him to clean the leprosy from our hearts.

We must approach him with the words of the leper on our lips:
If you wish, you can make me clean.

I finally got up.  I walked into the confessional and showed my leprosy to the Lord.  If you wish, you can make me clean. I allowed him, in the person of the priest, to stretch out his hand and to speak the words that he spoke to the leper in today’s Gospel: I do will it, be made clean

The invitation works both ways.  The leper said to Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”

Jesus extends the invitation to you: “If you wish, I can make you clean”

Do you will it?

Do you want to be made clean?

Lent begins this week.  Confession is a great way to start Lent.  Then, we can direct our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving toward overcoming a particular leprosy of the heart.  We can direct our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to the Lord, asking him to heal us of the particular leprosy that we struggle with, be it pride, anger, greed, lust, envy, sloth, or gluttony.  We can focus our Lenten disciplines toward asking the Lord to overcome these vices in us and to help us to cultivate the opposite virtues.  He will do it.  He wishes to make you clean.

When the leper was healed, he couldn’t contain his joy.  His living death was over.  He experienced resurrection.  He experienced new life.  He experienced redemption.

If you wish, you can make me clean.

Jesus wills it.

Do you?