This is a photo of a parish group who today prayed the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet for the protection of the unborn. We gathered at the site where the local patron St Naul is said to have first met St Colmcille, one of Ireland’s most renown missionaries in the mid 6th century. What you can see are the ruins of a 15th century Franciscan abbey.
Here is my homily for today.
Earlier on in Lent I said that this special season isn’t primarily about giving up chocolate biscuits and getting ashes on our foreheads. Rather it is a time of conversion, a renewal of our faith, a re-focusing of lives on Jesus and his gospel. I also said that to help us in this regard we commit ourselves to the 3 practices mentioned in the gospel of Ash Wednesday: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
As good as prayer, fasting and alms-giving are, they are only a means to an end, they are not ends in themselves. So when our faith is renewed, what will it be, what type of relationship will we have with God?
The principal word from the Bible that describes our intended relationship with God is COVENANT. Salvation history is a long series of covenants that God made with his people. What is a covenant? We get a good sense of what COVENANT is about from marriage where two parties – husband and wife – belong to each other, live a common life of intimacy and friendship. In the first reading today we heard a prophecy of a NEW covenant that God would establish with his people: “the days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah… Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people… I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind.”
This promise of a new covenant which occurred about 600BC in the time of the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is mentioned specifically by Jesus in the Last Supper and we hear the words each time we attend Mass: “This is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT, that will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.” Our entry point into this covenant was baptism when we were received into the family of God and were grafted onto the Body of Christ.
When we consider this very special type of relationship, one of the first qualities that comes to mind is faithfulness. The response to today’s psalm was “A PURE HEART create for me O Lord.” We all know too well that because of our frail human nature, that we are never 100% faithful to anything in our lives. So what do we do when we are unfaithful to this covenant? This was predicted and answered in what was said as we received our ashes: REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL. We refocus our lives on Christ and his gospel by going to confession.
The main point I want to make today is that this repenting and confession should be a really big part of our Lent and preparation for Easter and thus restore the purity of our heart. To this end, please consider this beautiful quote of Pope Francis: “In Confession, Jesus welcomes us with all our sinfulness, to give us a new heart, capable of loving as he does.”
Of course, this type of transforming confession doesn’t happen by accident. It calls for a sincere and thorough preparation: we need to invoke the Holy Spirit to shine his light within us, pointing out any blocks there may be to a true love of God and neighbour. As one modern Act of Contrition puts it: Help me to live like Jesus and not sin again.
Here in Ardaghey, confession is available after all weekend Masses. Furthermore next Sunday I will be present in the Confessional from 4-5pm if anybody would like to come in more anonymously. If there is anything else I can do to help you with this beautiful and important sacrament, please let me know. Don’t worry if it has been a long time since your last confession. Just say when you start: “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been – 2,5,10 or whatever years – since my last confession.” If you don’t know where to go from there, just ask for help. Making a general confession is to be commended at least a few times in our lives. In this instance, one does a detailed examination of one’s life with respect to the Ten Commandments and brings to the Lord whatever failures there may have been. Any priest is also happy to help with this. There are many helps to this on the internet. Just Google CATHOLIC EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE.
In Summary: To renew our faith this Lent is to renew our covenant friendship with God. Making a good confession – preceded by a sincere examination of our lives – is key to this.