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Homily for 3rd Sunday of Lent, 3 March 2024 - Deacon Jim Curtain

We are blessed in this parish this year. We have two catechumens, Ellie and Tillie, who are experiencing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and who will be joining our church community at the Easter Vigil. As part of the Rite, they today will be responding to the first Scrutiny.

When I read the description of the first Scrutiny the book spoke of ‘the mystery of sin’ in our lives.

‘Mystery of sin’ - what does that mean? When I was a child I certainly didn’t think there was anything mysterious about sin. When I prepared to go to confession, as the sacrament of reconciliation used to be called, it wasn’t terribly mysterious. Standard list - disobedience to a teacher, or Mum or Dad, told lies (probably to get out of trouble), fought with a brother…I won’t go into any more details. Some of you may have had similar lists, or maybe you were so good as children that you had to make up sins to have something to confess!

Well, as St Paul points out, when I was a child, I thought like a child, now that I’m an adult I need to think like an adult.  In our first reading we heard the Ten Commandments. There’s a list of sins there, and we can either treat them as a checklist, or look into our own hearts and ask ourselves where these various sins come from.

The commandments begin by calling us to put God first, and not to worship an idol. All sins come from putting something other than God first. It might be the idol of material possessions, or the idol of  physical pleasure, or the idol of feeling superior toward others through malicious gossip. There are many different idols. Whatever the idol is, if we continue worshipping it, there is a danger we forget the God of love. Then, when our idol lets us down, which idols always will, we are left facing despair and futility. If I haven’t got rich, or I’m not famous, or my body has broken down, there’s no point to life.

So sin, worshipping an idol rather than the God of love, in the end leads us to futility and despair. So where is the mystery?

For me, a clue as to what the mystery of sin might be comes in our second reading today, where St Paul writes of the cross of Christ, that that’s where we see that God’s weakness is mightier than human strength.  What is humanly weaker than a crucified person? Not just physically weaker, but think of the words of despair that Jesus utters. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? How weak is that! Jesus there experiences the power of sin, the temptation to despair and futility. Here I am, on the Cross, suffering a horrible death, it seems a pointless death.

And Jesus comes through that to forgiveness and trust. Forgiveness of those who crucified him, and trust in the Father to whom he commended his spirit, the Father who totally loved him, and whose life he totally shared. Having experienced the temptation to despair, having faced it, having trusted in the Father, Jesus comes through it to the resurrection, to new life.

Tillie and Ellie, you are making a tremendous act of trust. Trust in us, this Christian community, that we will be a place where you will find the love of God, and also trust that by putting God first, you will share in the life of Christ. In your new life as Christians you will certainly be faced with temptation, with the power of sin, with the idols our society often worships. At times you may feel the anger that Jesus felt as he saw the Temple, his Father’s house, being corrupted, but remember that our Lord will look on you as he looked on the Samaritan woman, as I hope he looks on me, on all of us, knowing everything about our lives, and offering forgiveness and love, and leading us to the loving Father.


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