Deacon Newton’s Homily — 5th Sunday of Lent (B)

We are at an important point in our Lenten journey. This is the 5th Sunday of Lent, and we are only one week from Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. We still have some time but the big question is; Are we ready? Some might say; Ready for what? Easter? Yes of course.  We have been waiting all Lent.


We must be honest with ourselves. Are we just anxious for Lent to end so that we can go back to eating the chocolate we gave up, or for what Easter personally means to us? How does Jesus’ triumph over sin and death personally affect us?


The fundamental question is; Are we in the same state of spiritual readiness like the Apostles were on Good Friday? Are we ready to run and hide like them when faced with standing up for our faith when challenged as they were when Jesus was arrested? Are we ready like Peter was, to outright deny our faith when faced with the fear of societal backlash or have we learned from their failures and ours?


Have we made spiritual progress this Lent? Are we ready to stand up right now like the Apostles and Peter did after the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, even if that means giving up all that is dear to us? Where are we spiritually right now, right at this moment?


We have spoken during Lent that our love of God must trump anything else in our earthly life for this life is only temporary and our real home is heaven. These words may make sense at an overarching high level but truly living them is what we are struggling with throughout our lives and called to look closely at during Lent to see how well we are doing.


In the Gospel today it states that: “… unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Do you remember the saying that we must die to ourselves? Many may ask what that really means. Luke 9:24 states: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”


Dying to oneself is about letting go of the things that separate us from God. But dying to oneself is not easy. Look at the Apostles and Peter. Their road to everlasting life caused them to face their greatest fears. We see in Peter that when he faced his sin of denying Christ, putting himself ahead of God, he wept uncontrollably because he realized that as he himself had stated in John 6:68: “… Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. …”


Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:33: “…whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” Those are very strong words and a bit unnerving. To attain eternal life with Jesus, we must stand with him. We must pick up our cross and carry it as he did. We must face our fears of rejection and ridicule for standing up for what we believe. We must make the choice each and every day. Do we choose Jesus or not?


There is no true life without putting God before ourselves. So back to the question and be brutally honest with ourselves. How are we doing as we have reached the last week before Palm Sunday? Are we still in the camp of the Apostles fleeing or in the camp of the Apostles ready to live a life of faith in Jesus Christ no matter what?


If you feel the weight on your soul of the sins you have committed, you still have time to go to confession. Only through the Sacrament of Reconciliation can you receive the Sacramental grace gifted to you by God to help strengthen your resolve to turn away from sin.


We cannot rely on ourselves, only through the grace of God can we conquer our sinfulness. As St. Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10: “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God [that is] with me.”


Don’t you sometimes feel like St. Paul, least among the disciples of Jesus because of your weakness to sin? Paul understood that but also realized that only through God’s grace will we succeed, only through His grace will we find the strength to overcome our sinfulness and follow the will of God and not our own will.


This is the foundation of our faith journey. We must face our sinfulness, acknowledge it, and take action to overcome it. As long as we have breath in us, we have the opportunity to make the changes we need in our lives. Lent helps us to refocus and realize that we should not put this off until later. We do not know the day nor the hour that God will call us home. Now is the time, there is no time to waste. Are you ready for Holy Week? Are you ready to follow Christ no matter where he leads you? Can you pick up your Cross and walk to Calvary with Jesus? Would you repent of your sins so that you can enter into heaven with Christ like the thief that was crucified alongside him?


If you want to say yes but still don’t trust that you will have the strength to face your sins and repent, don’t despair. Jesus knows we cannot do it on our own. He knows that only through God’s grace can we find the strength. Acknowledge your sins to Jesus openly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation as did the thief and receive the grace from God to help you overcome your sinfulness and attain everlasting life. Then live what time you have left in this earthly life as Jesus has taught us no matter the societal backlash.


We must risk all that we are to become all that we can be. Only through striving to follow God’s will for us will we reach our potential. So make the choice now to repent, be filled with the grace of God, die to yourself and be the face of Christ in this world producing much fruit.

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