Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Middle

This homily was prepared but never preached, since I've been down all weekend with a severe bug of some sort. As they say, "Beware the Ides of March!" I hope and pray you're germ-free...

   Fourth Sunday of Lent   B 

Having recently turned 40,
I’ve been wondering just how a guy knows
when he’s entered “middle age."
So I went to the undisputed source 
of all wisdom—the Internet—
to gain some insight.
There I learned that middle age starts
when a man chooses his breakfast cereal 
for its fiber content,
instead of the free toy…

The middle.

This Sunday,
we find ourselves smack in the middle of March.
Here in the North Country,
we’re at a turning point between the seasons:
any given day—or even any given hour—
we can take a turn back toward the cold and snow of winter
or forward toward bright warmth of spring.

Our first reading finds God’s Chosen People at a turning point:
having heaped infidelity upon infidelity,
God has allowed Israel
to be brutally conquered by the Babylonians—
feeling the weight of its sinfulness.
But God takes what appeared to be punishment
and turns it into a means of purification.
When time enough has passed,
and important lessons learned, important changes made,
the Lord gives his people a fresh, new start—
and by the hand of a most unexpected agent:
another foreign king.

Here in the middle,
we’re reminded that our lives are always turning—
either more toward God, or away from him.
Our actions have consequences—to be sure—
and we must accept them…
…but the Lord also has great compassion
in the way he guides the course of history.
When we were dead in our sins,
God raised us to life again in Christ—
not as a reward for our good deeds,
but because of sheer grace.
God can draw out good
from the worst of our failures.
Here in the middle of March,
we learn that even the most punishing of winters
will yield to the new life of spring.

This Sunday,
we find ourselves right in the middle of Lent.
This fourth Sunday of Lent is Laetare Sunday—
a Sunday for rejoicing.
It’s meant to be a glad pause
in an otherwise quite sober and somber season.
The liturgy takes on a bit of a cheery tone
to encourage us as we continue with our Lenten disciplines,
heightening our anticipation as Easter comes into sight.

Here in the middle,
we’re reminded that, even when it calls us to penance—
to embrace self-denial, generous acts of charity,
and deep, soul-searching prayer—
the Gospel message is always abundantly good news.
Here in the middle of Lent, we learn again
that Christians should be a people
constantly marked by hope and joy.

And this Sunday,
we find ourselves hearing once more
the very middle of the Gospel—
not when measured by chapter and verse,
but when you get down to what it’s all about:
For God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
might not perish but might have eternal life.
A single inspired sentences sums up
what lies at the middle, the pivot,
the hinge of all human history:
the heart of the divine plan.

We find ourselves here in the middle,
in what St. Paul describes
as the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4, Eph 1:10),
believing that all things prior to Jesus
were leading up to him;
that all things following Jesus
are different because of him;
that nothing before or after Jesus
makes any real sense without him.

“Middle age”—according to Bob Hope—
“is when your age starts to show around your middle.”

I haven’t figured out when middle age really begins.
But I know that here,
in the middle of March, in the middle of Lent,
again hearing the middle of the Gospel,
is a really good place to be.
Make Jesus the true heart, the center, the core
of everything you are and everything you do—
keeping him right in the middle of it all—
and your life, at every turn,
will be filled with joy.

No comments: