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1/27/19 Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI asks a surprising question. He asks “What did Jesus actually bring?” Think about it. We still have wars. We still have famine. People still suffer. People still get sick and die. So what did Jesus actually bring?

And Pope Benedict answers the question by saying: “Jesus brought us God. Jesus brings us God.”

We believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man. He is God made visible for us, and he came to give us life. He came to set us free so that we could be truly alive.

In other words, Jesus is much more than a social worker. He’s not a nice guy who came to teach us a few useful things about living together in harmony. He’s not a philosopher who gives us a theory about life. He’s not a politician who promises to fulfill every wish we could ever have.

Jesus is a savior. The gospel today brings this out with startling clarity. Jesus says that he has been anointed to “proclaim liberty to captives and to let the oppressed go free.”  In the Bible, anointing meant that you were chosen and given a special power by God. So Jesus is very serious when he says this. He is a savior who comes to set us free. He comes to bring us back to God.

Let’s be honest: we can’t save ourselves. Sometimes we find ourselves wondering why we seem to commit the same sins over and over again. Sometimes we all say with St Paul: “I don’t do the good I want to do, I do the evil I don’t want to do.” Caryll Houselander tells the following story in the Reed of God."Through sin we forget what God looks like... I once saw an old, old woman shaking the photograph of her long-dead husband, while tears, which seemed literally to hiss from her eyes, blistered it. 'It won't speak to me', she said, "and I have forgotten his face." Sin is like that. We forget what God looks like.

Who will save us from this? Who will give us the strength to be able to love? Who will remind us what God looks like? Who will give peace and rest to our hearts? Jesus. He is truly a savior.  

Sometimes we can get used to being Christians. We can lose sight of how a relationship with Christ as our savior changes our lives.

When the first Christian missionaries arrived in Britain at the beginning of the 7th century, some of them went to visit the pagan King Edwin of Northumbria. After listening to the monk Paulinus, Edwin asked his chief advisors for advice about how to proceed. Should they become Christians or not?

One of his advisors replied with the following parable. Imagine a cold winter night. Howling gusts of wind tear through the darkness, and snow falls furiously upon the roof of a banqueting hall. Inside the hall a roaring fire provides warmth and light for the merrymakers. Suddenly, a sparrow flies in through one door of the hall and out through another. In the hall the bird is warm and safe, but once he flies out he disappears and no one knows where he has gone. The king’s counselor said that we are that sparrow and the hall is this present life. We don’t know what came before it, and we don’t know what comes after it.

But, he concluded, if this Christ reveals to us what comes before and what comes after, it seems right that we should follow him.

As our savior, Jesus frees us from darkness and doubt. He sets us free from fear.

It’s hard to stay focused on God throughout the day. There are so many distractions: traffic, emails, twitter…It’s easy to forget where we come from and where we are going.

The early monks had a prayer they used to say. It’s called the Jesus Prayer, and it’s a wonderful way to stay in contact with Christ as our savior. It’s simple: “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Just 12 words, but they will change the rhythm of your day. “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.” 

As we prepare to receive Christ in the Eucharist, let’s speak those words from the heart: “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Let’s make them part of our daily lives. In the car, in the elevator, or while waiting in line in the store we can say those words:  “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.” When we’re frustrated or filled with doubt, we can say those words: “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.” When we’re weighed down by our own sins or the sins of others, we can pray those words: “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

And he does. 


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