EVERY ST. HAS A PAST; EVERY SINNER A FUTURE



Today on Day 3 of our pilgrimage we had the special privilege of celebrating Mass right at the tomb of St Francis of Assisi.  Here's my homily for the Mass (readings can be found at usccb.org: MONDAY 6/29/15 - Sts. Peter and Paul)

HOMILY

 

          Have you ever felt like a failure?  A screw-up?  A time when despite your best intentions to excel or succeed -  or even simply to fulfill the basic expectations you somehow came up short?  Whether it was in academics or sports; or it happened on a job or among your family and friends – when it happens there’s that overwhelming sense of frustration that we’re often left with when we’ve been unable to do what it is we set out to do...  

 

          Depending upon the circumstances, the people involved in the situation, these experiences have the ability either to destroy a person - deteriorating   their self-confidence; making them question their self-worth, their dignity as they believe the world sees them as a loser... 

          or it could be a catalyst of change.

 

          As it was for St. Peter & St. Paul whose feast day we celebrate today... 

          As it was for St. Francis of Assisi - whose tomb we are priveleged to celebrate this Mass at. 

 

          As we saw in front of the amazing St. Peter’s Basilica those massive statues of Peter and Paul - as we’ve walked around Assisi and seen equally impressive images - statues, mosaics, paintings depicting Francis - thesworks of art have the ability to make us admire, appreciate - even be in awe of these men.  Which is a good thing.  So long as we recognize the full picture.  That these weren’t perfect individuals.  These weren’t some pagan gods.  What makes them great, what makes them admirable isn’t a “what” it’s a “Who”.  As St Paul said in the second reading:   it was “the Lord who stood by me and gave me strength... to Him be glory forever and ever...”  Or as we learn from Peter’s testimony in the Gospel, being the first to proclaim Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” – that came not from any human source, but from the Heavenly Father.  It’s By God’s power, and activity in their lives that any measure of greatness is ever achieved.

 

          Because we know the stories - Both men had failed miserably in their own dramatic ways on their own accords before they had an encounter with Jesus Christ.  Peter because of his being impetuous, thick-headed and fearful at times - Paul in his stubbornness and arrogance.  They both knew their failures before they met Jesus - and were even more pained by those failures after they met Him.  Yet the Lord was able to lovingly guide them, correct them to not be weighed down by those missteps and to continue along the path God had for them...

          Same is true for St. Francis of Assisi.  Reading his testimony’s - after his conversion, he often mourned his life prior to renouncing all his worldly possessions, his living a very hedonistic life - and he was often overly-scrupulous of not being more selfless, more sacrificial as he tried to imitate Jesus perfectly.

 

          The difference these men recognized in their failures was Jesus Christ.  While it pained them to fail Jesus... while guilt and shame discouraged them when those failures came to light, when they fully realized and recognized what they had done - their faith, their trust, their knowledge of the immense love of Jesus Christ for them personally is what profoundly made the difference in each of their cases.  They were enabled to re-focus on the gift of His Mercy - so lavishly, generously offered to them; they knew that was greater - His love - than any sin, any failure they could have committed.  And because they didn’t just hear that, they weren’t just told that this is who Jesus is - but they believed that themselves because they experienced that themselves in their hearts and souls that made the difference.

 

          For you and I - who are called to the same thing as Peter, Paul and Francis – called to Holiness, called to be Saints in our day, in our places, in our time and in our own particular ways – we too need to let that gift penetrate our consciousness.  

Not to believe the lies we tell ourselves that we’re defined by our failures.  

Not to believe the lies others tell us - that because no one is perfect, there’s no use in trying... to not believe the lie of the evil one who is constantly looking to deflect, deject, demean us from aspiring to what God created us to be.  We are always one good, complete confession away from being reconciled with the Lord - to be spiritually as perfect as we were after our Baptism – in some ways even more so having known and experienced and come to know and trust in God’s promises to us in a real and practical way that we hadn’t previously.  

 

          It is often said “Every Saint has a past, every sinner has a future” - as we continue on our pilgrimage, may these witnesses, these life testimonies from these heroes of our Church continue to inspire us not let our failures prevent us from seeing our futures but that they will serve as a catalyst for join, inviting us to join them in running the race in pursuing holiness ourselves.

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