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4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare), Year B

Back when I was at primary school, we had quite a large field (or at least it

seemed rather large when I was so small), and looking through one of the

fences, there was a sign that said “NO TRESPASSING”. Somebody asked me

what it meant. Being a young child, but also a Catholic who knew my prayers,

the only time I had come across the word “trespass” was in the Our Father, so I

said that it meant no sinning, or not to do bad things. I think a teacher later

explained that it meant not to go onto that person’s property. In a sense, I

suppose the two ideas are connected. Trespassing, in the property sense, is to

go too far and to stray onto someone else’s territory. In the sense of sin, to

trespass can be to go too far, to excess. For example, if we think in terms of

virtues and vices, the virtuous path is the middle way in-between two

extremes. Courage is the virtue which is in-between the two extremes of being

too timid or too foolhardy, over-courageous, if you like, a bit like a soldier in

ancient times thinking he didn’t need a sword and a shield – “I’ll finish them

off with my bare hands!”


We can all be guilty of trespassing, and also of claiming one thing, but

preferring another. We often pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done”; but

sometimes, the way we act seems like we actually prayed: “my kingdom come,

my will be done!”


Three people in the parish discovered on Monday that I have a working video

recorder, and I discovered in the presbytery garage recently a box full of

videotapes, including all three films of The Lord of the Rings. A bit like the

Narnia books, The Lord of the Rings also shows the corrupting influence of

evil: despite the harmful effects, people are still enthralled by it as they don’t

have the strength to fully resist it, and there’s the example of a wizard in the

first film who has changed sides, taking the attitude of, if you can’t beat ‘em,

join ‘em.


In the Gospel, Our Lord references a similar thing in human society:


“though the light has come into the world

men have shown they prefer

darkness to the light

because their deeds were evil”


We have only to look at society and see how people have become enthralled by

various evils, including theft, drug dealing, selling of pornography and so on.

The thought of the money they can make has blinded them to the damage they

are doing to themselves, as well as to wider society. But we also need to look

at ourselves:


“Everybody who does wrong

hates the light and avoids it,

for fear his actions should be exposed;

but the man who lives by the truth

comes out into the light

so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.”


Which one are we?


This Lent, we have the opportunity of allowing the light to shine into our

hearts, to illuminate those areas of darkness, and bring them to the Lord, who

came, “not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be

saved”.


For quite a few of you, the experience of using aftershave is not part of your

regular experience. But when you apply it on broken skin, believe me, it can

hurt a bit, just like when we were expected to keep on constantly applying

alcohol gel to our hands during the pandemic – it could be a sharp experience

in the winter. Going to confession can seem a bit like use of aftershave or

alcohol gel, and we might want to avoid it. But it is the remedy God gives us

to get rid of our sins, to put us right with Him, and to give us the grace to do a

better job at resisting sin in the future. In the second reading, St Paul tells us

that God’s forgiveness is not an external legal declaration that our sin is gone;

instead God’s grace works within us to get rid of that sin, to heal us and restore

us, “to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it”, in

other words, to give us the grace to live as we should have done from the start.

Confession is a sacrament that transforms us from within, helping us to form

new, good, habits, and break the old ones.


So, from now on, no trespassing! And I want to see you all lining up for

confession.

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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