HOMILY WEEK 29 06 – Year I
Repent, and Live in the Spirit:
Optional Memorial of St. John of Capistrano
(Rm 8:1-11; Ps 24; Lk 13:1-9)
The readings today invite us to repent and live in the Spirit.
Jesus in the gospel stresses our need to repent if we are to live a new life in him. The Greek word for repent is “metanoia” which means not just to turn around, but also to put on our highest mind, to be our best self, to let go of our lower mind or baser self, which is also within us. That is the fruit Jesus wants us to become. We are being called to be willing to let go of an addictive way of life, and open ourselves up to receiving a new life of sobriety, joyous and free.
St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, further describes what that repentance looks like: We are to let go of any and all sin or darkness within us, and allow the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, to transform us from within, to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. To be in Christ for Paul is to be filled with the Spirit and to walk with the Spirit; to let go of things of the flesh and to set our minds on things of the Spirit.
Basically, all this is accomplished by Steps one to three of the A.A. program which can be summed up as: I can’t; God can; I’ll let him! We can come to Jesus, our higher power, for forgiveness of our sins (our wrongdoing) and also for healing of our sinfulness (our defects of character, that which causes us to sin). This is what we cannot do for ourselves, and what our loving God and higher power waits to do for us. As the Messiah, Jesus had a two-fold role – to redeem and to sanctify; to forgive and to heal. What are we waiting for?
The last part of the gospel about a gardener who digs around a fig tree for three years to make it bear fruit brings into the picture steps four and six: a searching and fearless moral inventory of our wrong doing or sin, and becoming ready to have God remove (heal us) of our defects of character or sinfulness, that which made us sin. That is the digging, painful as it might be, that we are called to do which then opens us up to receive the Spirit of forgiveness and healing. We are to “name it, claim it, not blame it, tame it, and then we can aim it” or help others by sharing our spiritual experience with others, which takes us to step twelve of the A.A. program.
The participants in the last workshop on addictions awareness at the Star of the North recently I believe lived these readings today – aware of our need for forgiveness and healing, we were in the process of repenting, of opening ourselves up to the healing power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish in us what we cannot do for ourselves.
The Church today remembers St. John of Capistrano. Born at Capistrano in the Kingdom of Naples in 1386, John trained as a lawyer at the University of Perugia and became governor of that city in 1412. When Perugia became involved in a conflict, John was imprisoned, leading him to a period of reflection and a change of life. At age 30 he joined the Friars Minor and was ordained to the priesthood. For the next 30 years he preached missions in Italy, drawing large, enthusiastic crowds. Meanwhile, he assisted Bernadine of Sienna in re-uniting the divided Franciscans. John was frequently sent on papal diplomatic missions. While his preaching revived the faith of many, some of his methods in dealing with heretics were unfortunately harsh. In 1453 he was called to Hungary to preach a crusade against the Turks threatening to take Vienna and Rome. At the age of 70, carrying a cross rather than a sword, John led a wing of the Christian army in the Battle of Belgrade. The victory in 1456 prevented the Turks from overrunning Europe. A few months later John died of the plague. He is a patron of military chaplains.
The Eucharist is itself a call to repentance, especially through the penitential rite. It is an experience of forgiveness through the power of the Word, and of healing as we commune with Jesus by receiving the humble gifts of bread and wine transformed in his body and blood by the power of the Spirit.
May our celebration today help us to also be transformed into the Body of Christ, forgiven and healed, and sent out to share our spiritual experience with the world.