This homily was for the school children. I recorded a Liturgy of the Word for them to see during the time when they’d usually have a school Mass, but can’t now because of COVID-19.
When I was a young person – many years ago now! – in my town, it mattered where you lived. If you were on one side of the tracks, it meant you had money and people thought that was impressive. If you lived on the side of the tracks that I lived on, though, you weren’t rich and so people sometimes looked down on you. Thankfully, years ago, they tore up the tracks, but I think that kind of thinking still happens: not just in my home town, but all over.
We kind of see it in today’s Gospel reading. The people of Jerusalem see Jesus walking about openly, and they look down on him. “But we know where he is from.” Kind of like, we know what side of the tracks he lives on, so why should we think he is the promised Messiah? Jesus sets them right: he is “from” God the Father, who sent him into the world. That’s his true home, and because that’s his true home, he can offer the Father’s forgiveness, the Father’s mercy, the Father’s love.
The people’s attempt to write Jesus off because they knew where he was from was their attempt to deal with the change of life he called people to. Yes, he offered the Father’s love and mercy, but he also called them to change their lives, to live the right way, so they could live forever in the kingdom. That’s real love and mercy there: calling people back to the way that leads to heaven. But people don’t like to change, so they scoff at where he’s from.
In our first reading today, a group of wicked people do the same kind of thing. They say, “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us, he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.” They don’t like that the “just one” professes to be a child of God. But he is. In fact, even though this is the Old Testament and the book of Wisdom didn’t specifically speak of Jesus, it is, in fact, talking about Jesus. Jesus is the just one, the Son of God, who calls us to turn around from what we are doing and turn toward the way that leads to heaven, that leads to life.
So that’s what our readings are calling us to do today. It’s a great message for Lent, because Lent is about repentance, about “turning around” and walking in the way that leads to eternal life. We all want to go to heaven one day. Lent, and today’s readings, show us the way to get there: we just have to follow Jesus, even if what he asks us to do isn’t easy.
Now, I want to say a word or two about what’s going on these days. I know it’s hard for you to understand why you can’t come to school, why you can’t be with your friends. I know that because it’s hard for me to understand too. I miss you all and your families so much. But what we are doing right now is what is best for everyone. We want everyone to be safe and healthy, and this is the best way to do that, for right now. I look forward to the day when you’re back here and we can celebrate together. Until that day, I want you to know that I am praying for you, and that I love you.
And please don’t ever forget that God loves you, always and forever. Nothing can change that. I’ve been encouraging everyone to do three things so that we can be together soon: stay well, stay safe, and stay home.