Homily by Fr. Ed Doran
The first reading told us that Almighty God established a new covenant with his people. Moses had gone upon to the mountain to receive the first covenant for the people of Israel wanted to know how to relate to their loving God. And Moses came down with the 10 commandants, and even before he stepped foot on the ground, they were worshipping the idols of gold and silver. They were forgetting the very God that they sent Moses up on that mountain for. The devil and sin had grasped them in its arms and they forgot all about God.
God is not to be undone. He established a new covenant — not on stone tablets, but in the hearts of men and women. He wanted to cement that covenant; he wanted to open up the gates of paradise to us. But there was a problem. The corruption of sin had so sullied our bodies that we could not be brought forth. Thus in the consummate act of God — in the most amazing act of love — he surrendered himself, and for that he was mocked, he was derided, he was whipped, he was scourged, and a crown of thorns were placed upon his very head. He not only said that he loved us, he gave it to us in the most graphic and vivid way humanely possible. Thus it is that every church is to have the image of that cross, that very cross right there, put up by the first pastor of this church, around World War I, given and dedicated by the people, because that cross speaks of the loving dedication of the men and women of this parish. That cross speaks of the generations of firefighters, the generations of police, and the generations of medical personnel which have served us. But their service cannot relate to this Service. It is the consummate and ultimate act of service.
At the foot of this cross, there is a prayer that I would like to share with you. This prayer was composed by Pope Pius XI – that was before I was born. But anyway, I read it at the bottom of the cross, and here it is:
My good and gentle Jesus, I kneel before you, asking you earnestly to engrave on my heart a deep and lively faith, hope and charity with true repentance for my sins and a firm resolve to make amends. As I reflect upon your wounds and dwell upon them with deep compassion and grief, I recall, good and gentle Jesus, the words of David the prophet: “They pierced my hands and my feet; they have numbered all of my bones.”
You know, when I was a child, I used to look at that cross and I said, “Those terrible people who did that to him.” Now that I am older and wiser, it is this terrible person, and the sins of this terrible person that did it to him. He died on the cross to free you and I from the burden of our sins — the sins that pull us under, the sins that warrant condemnation are wiped clean, through that consummate act of the loving Jesus upon the cross. All we but need to do is to humbly go to Him and say, “I have sinned.”
Yet, our pride makes us very reluctant. We skirt around the foot of the cross looking up at him, but his arms are outstretched, he wants up to get up there with him to accept the burdens that are on our shoulders, and offer them in union with his offering on that cross.
One of the things that our diocese is doing after next Sunday (Palm Sunday – get here early: there’s going to be no places!) The following day, the Diocese of Brooklyn, the Archdiocese of New York, and the Diocese of Rockville Center will have a day of penance and Reconciliation. Every priest from 3 PM until 9 PM is to be available to hear confessions. I myself will go at approximately 9:30 in the morning to St. Francis in Manhattan, where I will partake in confession, and then I will return here and be available. This is because we need to unburden ourselves of the weight that is on our shoulders. We need to humbly kneel at the foot of that cross to acknowledge that we are sometimes vulnerable and weak. He wants to reach out and embrace us with his love. But he will not do it unless we allow him to do it.
Today’s readings summon us in these 40 days of fasting, of prayer, and of almsgiving. Come forward – come forward, give your heart. In order to give our heart we must be washed clean and made whole. Lent is the time of reconciliation, the time that we humbly go to the Lord. And I pray that this Lent be for me and for you the time that we journey in humility to ask for his pardon and forgiveness. It is there unconditionally and abundantly. All that we need do is to humbly ask, and it will be ours.