Sunday of Meatfare Homily

Christ is “a merciful and loving god” and He constantly gives us opportunities for repentance. Here, and now, as we prepare for this new Great Fast, we are reminded of the very binary decision that will be made in response to our earthly works. Christ will return with all His angels, and He will sit on His glorious throne, and will publicly judge every person that lived from the beginning of time. And in this judgement, the actions of our lives will be visible to everyone, and we will then be separated into those on the left, or those on the right. There is no other category in which we will reside, it will be eternal fire, or eternal joy.
In Gods mercy and love for us, He has told us this reality, He has told us what to expect, so that we are not caught off-guard, so that we will not be confused or unimaginably sorrowful at our judgment. Christ has given us His plan, and He has given us all of Scripture, and all of the teachings of the Church to help us make the active decision to become a sheep on the right, a sheep of the True Shepherd. Jesus gives us a set of criteria in this parable: He says that if we generously offer hospitality to the least of our brothers and sisters, then we have given that hospitality to Christ Himself. But He likewise says, that if we have neglected one of these in turn, then we will be held liable to judgment. If we are hospitable to one, we will be saved, and if we neglect one, we will be dammed. How then, can we know if we are on the right track or not? How can we possibly know if we have helped as many as we can?
Because of Gods mercy towards us, He constantly gives us opportunities to help our brothers and sisters. God puts people in our lives, and in our path, so that we can rise to this challenge of hospitality. It can be one person at a time, or groups of people at other times, but we find ourselves faced with a decision: will we help this person? Can we see that this person of small stature, of little means or education, of no social or economic power- can we see that they are an image of Christ? Can we see that they are not a homeless drug addict, but they are a broken image of Our Savior? “As you do it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.”
Unless we feel God calling us in a special way to seek-out those in need—which may be your personal calling—but if it is not, then we do not have to fill-up all of our free-time or spend all of our money to help others; but at the very least, we are asked to recognize the situation before us, and to give help when we have a personal encounter with Christ- through the image of our needy brothers and sisters.
We are all still alive, which means that in Gods mercy, we have been given more opportunities to live out our faith in Him, and to secure our salvation as sheep at the right hand of God. The Great Fast begins the following Monday, the 12th; which means that we have been given another season to devote ourselves to a deeper form of prayer, a sacrificial form of fasting, and to gladly give alms, assistance, or visits to those in need. “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.” Likewise, when we help those in need, it is not to puff up our self-esteem that we triumphantly helped someone, because that will be our reward, but in humility, to freely give of ourselves, so that it truly is a gift, with no expectation of receiving anything in return. And we will find ourselves, as sheep at the right hand of God.

Sunday of The Publican and Pharisee Homily

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is in line with his first, in that he is affirming Timothy in his faith, and reassuring him of what is necessary to be a true Shepherd of Christ’s flock. Paul is writing from his imprisonment by the Romans, and exhorts Timothy to hold to the true doctrines that Paul has taught him. Paul assures Timothy, and assures us, that when we hold to these true doctrines of Christ, and to the true doctrines of the Church that have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we will experience a variety of effects: we will teach others these truths, we will live well according to God’s commands, we will have faith, patience, love, & steadfastness, and we will endure persecutions and suffering. Paul says, “indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
But who wants to endure suffering? Who wants to offer their lives to God as a sacrifice? Who wants to give up the comfort of simple faith, the comfort and social stability of acquiescing to the notion that our faith can be only a private matter? Who wants to put targets on themselves, by saying that they believe in One God, Father Almighty, and in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and all that it teaches? Who wants to do this, especially when the prevailing voices of our society are vehemently against these beliefs? In the next paragraph Paul says, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and will wander into myths” (2Tim 4:3-4). Who wants to listen to the truth, when they could more easily be affirmed and encouraged to sin? Who wants to listen to the truth, when the truth will bring persecutions and earthly suffering? Those, who desire with all their heart, “to live a godly life in Christ Jesus,” will have no doubts about their belief in the absolute Truth of God, and will willingly suffer persecution in order to receive a crown of righteousness in heaven.
But to live a godly life, we must continue what we have learned, and not push it aside because of fleeting emotions, or worse, disordered passions. We are called to adhere to each commandment of Christ: to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind, and our neighbor as ourself (Lk 10:27). We are called to boldly preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins, and everything that we have learned from Sacred Scripture that directs us to salvation. We must adhere to all of this, but if we are unsure about exactly what God wants of us, if we are unsure about God’s plan for our lives, if we are unsure about this One truth that leads to salvation, then we must embark on this journey ourselves, we must read the words of Christ for ourselves, and allow God to transform us and to give us courage through Him.
When we read the Word of God with faith for ourselves, then we can easily see how the humble repentance of the Tax Collector is more acceptable to God than the boastfulness of the self-righteous Pharisee. When we humble ourselves, and sacrifice our time and our pride, to personally read these words of salvation, then we will be exalted by God and fully equipped for the task ahead of us, and will not be afraid of the persecution that will come our way. For Paul says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2Tim. 3:16-17).