† Opening Hymn
† Opening Prayer. Let us pray;
Almighty, ever- living God, it is your will that in your beloved Son Jesus Christ all creation be made new and restored to joy. Grant to us your wayward children such a lively awareness of our failure to be Christ’s core workers in so great a task that we may be seized by sorrow for what is past and alive for the work which lies ahead.
- Luke 22 v 31-34
- Luke 22 v 54-62
- John 21 v 15-17
There was a hospital for the dying in New York, America. There a holy sister worked all her life, helping and consoling the dying. She retired but remained in the community and each day she would spend sometime with the very sick the hospital.
One time a man came into that hospital who was very ill. This man was dying. He was very depressed and refused to speak to anybody. It was as if a mountain of ice had been placed on his spirit and heart. The man was in a very serous situation. The sister noticed this man and felt great pity for him. She wanted to help him. Each day she fixed his blankets, she greeted him, she gave him a newspaper, she brought him a cool drink, and in the evening she fixed his blankets and pillows so that he would be comfortable for the night. But the man never responded. He simple looked at her with sad and hopeless eyes.
Sister noticed that each Wednesday two young women came to visit the man. They sat by the bed. As sister watched there was no communication between them. The man was totally lost, he never smiled, he never acknowledged. He just lay there as if he were a pillar of ice.
The sister followed the two young women one day. She said; “ I see you visit this man, I wish to help him, please tell me about him if you know him.
The women told sister that this man was in fact their father. Twenty five years ago he had killed their mother. He had been in jail ever since. He was released from jail now because he was dying. They came but there was no communication between him and them.
The sister now knew the history of the man. And she continued to care for him with even greater love, friendship and kindness than before. She did everything she could to make him comfortable, to make him welcome.
The man was drawing close to death. One day he indicated to the sister that he wanted to speak with her. Delighted she went close to his bed. He said to her “Sister you have been very, very good and kind to me. But I want you to know what kind of a person I really am. Twenty five years ago I killed my wife and I have been in prison ever since. I am now dying having destroyed my life, my family and I killed my wife. That is the kind of person I really am”.
The sister said; “I know this. I know your story”. The man replied; “You know my story and yet you have been so kind and so good to me, a person like me who is a murderer, a person who is so bad”. The sister said, “Yes, I bring you the love of Jesus. Jesus really loves you. You must have no fear. You mush simply come back to him and he will receive you just like I receive now. But you must go to him with trust”.
Later the man died. Speaking later the sister said that in this man she saw a miracle. When she told him that the love Jesus was like the man burst into tears like a child. He cried and cried. But they were tears of joy, comfort and relief. The mountain of ice had melted. This man became human again. The forgiveness and grace of Jesus and His spirit had transformed his heart.
Yes, sin is a great killer. Sin kills our joy, kills our self belief, it empties life of hope. And it was to save us from sin that Jesus came.
Now if you speak about sin today people will not want to listen to you. It is not a popular subject. It is not politically correct to speak about it. Yet, sin is a terrible reality. You see old people being murdered everyday for their pension. You see old and helpless people being murdered for muthi. We see families destroyed and abandoned because of drink and adultery and unfaithfulness. I remember a young man who said to me; “I will be very happy on the day when I will follow the coffin of my father to the grave”. He hated his father so much. Again we see the abuse of children which has disgusted the whole world. This abuse of children, violence towards women is everywhere and Africa also is filled with this evil.
In fact sin is as Pope John Paul called it a culture of death. And it ruins individual lives, churches , families, sodalities and the political life of our people. Look at how corruption was brought into Israel by King Solomon and he destroyed the Kingdom ultimately. Solomon destroyed the gift of God to his fathers’ house, the house of David, because of his sinfulness. Sin is always divisive, it isolates us, it disheartens our hearts , it makes us selfish, and it destroys our peace and life with other people.
There was a man who lived in Mount Ayliff and he was married to a very good woman, he lived with his parents and they had five children. The man had good work yet, he was dissatisfied to live in a rural area. He wanted to get away and to use all his money for himself. He wanted more women , he wanted to do as he liked and he wanted not to have the responsibility of caring and educating children. This man insisted on leaving his good work and leaving his family. His wife, who loved him, was heart-broken. His children were very sad that the father was no longer at home. He promised to return sometimes from Johannesburg to bring them gifts.
But he never returned from Johannesburg to give them gifts. In Johannesburg he had good work for he was educated. He used all his money on himself. He attended football matches, drank in sheebins, was known to have many lady friends, and was always well dressed. Yet, at home his wife and little children were hungry. His parents wrote to him begging him to come home for they needed him, but he never even responded. And so the years went by.
After twelve years his wife informed him that she was now very sick. She had had to go and become a domestic servant. She had to leave home every morning at 4 o’clock. She got home in the evening at 6. It was she who bought food for children, all her money was used to educate the little children. She cared for his parents. Under the pressure and stress of this the wife was now very ill with cancer. She begged him to come to visit her. She wanted to see him one last time He promised that he would. But he never came nor never sent even one rand to them. Indoda ayibuzwa.
After two years this very good wife died. the was persuaded to come back to Mount Ayliff for the funeral. His children had grown big. But he also saw that they totally hated him. They did not want him there. He had abandoned them. He had left them in his total selfishness, they just tolerated his presence for the funeral. His parents were angry with him and refused to recognize his presence. Yet he attended the funeral and had many drinks later. After the funeral he went back to the home . And there he went into the room which he had shared with his good wife. On the wall he saw beautiful photographs of their marriage and of the early years of happiness together. He looked at these photographs and remembered that time, he was now drunk. He also saw that now he himself was getting old. He felt that his health was beginning to fail. He felt that he had not known the same kind of happiness in Johannesburg with his many prostitutes. Now he realized that he had destroyed the hope of his children. He was a disgrace.
Then deep in his heart he cursed himself. He said, “I have destroyed everything I have touched”. He had to leave and go back to Johannesburg because nobody wanted him. He was alone and isolated in the world among people who ignored him. He died alone in Johannesburg. No one knows where he is buried.
This is what sin is. It comes in slowly and gradually and it destroys us.
It is said that if you drop a frog into boiling water the frog will immediately jump out. But if you put the frog into cold water and boil it the frog stays in. It stays in because it does not recognize the gradual heating of the water.
This is how sin and satan work gradually destroying us. In so called venial sins we are gradually destroying our spirits and our souls.
Yes, sin is a culture of death. How many homes are poor and designate because of drink. How many marriages are destroyed and filled with hatred because of sexual unfaithfulness. How many people are sick and dying from aids because of drugs. How many feel isolated and alone because they are angry people and no one wants to share at them. How many proud persons are the subject of jokes because they do not see their pride. Whole countries are ruined with apartheid, corruption and war. How many young people of promise in school never realize their potential because of habits of sin.
Jesus came to destroy sin. Repentance is at the heart of the message of Jesus. The first word Jesus uses in the first Gospel written, that of St Mark, is the word ‘Repent the Kingdom of God is close at hand’. Jesus told us He came to save the lost. Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted. Jesus reminded his enemies that he came to call sinners not the healthy. He speaks about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son in Luke 15 and shows us the great joy in heaven when these are found again. This He tells us is the joy of God when people repent and come back to him.
Jesus was known as a friend of sinners; we remember some of them, Zachaeus, the paralytic in Capernahum, Peter who denied Jesus, Judas was a friend of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the woman taken the adultery, John 8.
Jesus explained his death by saying that his blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sins. He died for our sins.
Risen from the dead the first thing Jesus said to his disciples was, “Peace be with you”. He breathed on them and said; “Those who sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them. John 20.
Indeed Jesus hated sin. He was very angry in the Temple and with the Pharisees. He told people that if they were tempted by eye, or ear, or tongue they should pluck it out. It is better to enter eternal life without an eye than to die with both eyes. Of scandal He said;” It would be better to tie a mill- stone around the neck of a person who give scandal causes the young to sin.
We look at the crucifix and there we see the image of what sin does.
Jesus spoke like this because He saw the consequences of sin. He spoke quite a few times about hell and possibilities of going there. He told us in Matthew 7, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many”. Then how narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.
For the gospel hell is a reality. There was a person who walked in his sleep. This person walked to a high rise building still asleep and fell to his death on the ground. Hell might be an experience something like that. We wake up and find ourselves lost for eternity.
A retreat then is a time when we are called to repent. To realize that our sins even the so called many small are a great danger to us. It might not be the big sins that are most dangerous but the multitude of small sins. We need examine our lives, our habits, our hearts in responding to people, growing careless in obligations and lives. We could compare the time spent on our -selves and time spent with God etc. We are called to repent.
St Jerome lived in Bethlehem translating the Bible into Latin. Coming to Christmas one year he had a dream. In it he saw the Baby Jesus who asked him what he Jerome would give Him for Christmas.
St Jerome said I will give you my work. Jesus said I want more. St Jerome said, I will give you my prayers, my work, my full day. Jesus said can’t you offer more? Jerome says, “Lord, I offer you my whole life”. The Baby Jesus replied; “Jerome give me more”, and Jerome asked; “ Lord, what else is there to give? Jesus replied: “Give me your sins”.
Jerome began to cry at the kindness of Jesus and said: “Jesus you are too good”.
Yes, Jesus is full of compassion, how often in the gospel did he tell people that their sins were forgiven. Remember the paralytic in Carpenahum, the young man who came down through the roof. Jesus said; “Son, your sins are forgiven”.
There is great mercy in God. There is great joy and repentance. Let us begin a new life and come back to the Lord. In a minute we will examine our conscience.
In England in the 18th century people were punished for crime in a very cruel way. They were branded. That is a symbol was burned on to their foreheads with a hot iron. Two brothers stole a sheep. And they were branded with two letters, S for sheep and t for thief. One brother was very conscious of this and tried to hide himself. Everywhere he went he felt people looking at him. He felt they were judging him as a thief, an evil person. He became so stressed in his mind that eventually he lost hope and killed himself.
The other brother, however, accepted that he had failed. He nnow lived an exemplary life in the village. He became involved in helping others in all kinds of ways. Everyone who knew him came to see him as a man of kindness, reliability and good life.
Many years later, a visitor came to the village and saw this old man with letters s for sheep and t for thief on his forehead. The custom of branding had now been stopped. The visitor asked a child; “What did this mark mean?” The child says, “I don’t know. But this man is so good I think it means saint.
Yes, if we repent of our sins and come back to allow Jesus to take over our hearts realizing that we need him then we too will become saints.
† Examination of conscience
We examine our conscience looking at some verses in the letters of St Paul.
2Timothy 2 , “He should be a good teacher.”
What kind of a teacher am I?
What kind of example do I give to the people and to the parish?
Do I build up people’s faith?
Do I listen to the Lord?
Do I prepare my work and sermons?
Do I neglect the youth who need my guidance?
What is the state of catechetics in the parish?
Do the children and the young children and young people who grow up in the community for which I am responsible, do they know Jesus, have I encouraged them to pray, have I sat down and spoken with them, have I evaluated the catechetical structure and results each year?
“He must be tolerant and gentle so that God may lead them to a change of heart.” Verse 25
Am I impatient, am I rushed, am I rough?
Are people afraid of me?
Do I get angry and insulting with people?
Have I time for people?
Am I there in the parish when I am needed? When there is suffering? When there is death? When there is need for guidance?
Let me listen to 2 Timothy 3 verses 1-5
As Paul describes sins which may sometimes be part of our lives.
“You may be quite sure that in the last days there are going to be some difficult times. People will be self-centered and grasping; boastful, arrogant, rude; disobedient to their parents; ungrateful and irreligious; heartless; there will be unforgiving, slanderous, profligates, brutal and enemies of everything that is good; there will be treacherous, lovers of money, conceited, preferring their own pleasure to God, they will keep up the outward appearance of religion rejected its inner power”.
2 Timothy 3 v 6, “There are men who insinuate themselves into families in order to get influence over silly woman who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires”.
Do I keep my promises of celibacy to the Lord.
Do I read bad literature, watch onsuitable movies, get involved in sexual displays.
Am I part of a clique dedicate to sexual liberalism.?
Do I abuse woman and children?
Do I spend my time with easy women and give bad example to everybody in the parish especially the youth?
Do I believe in celibacy? And am I sure what its meaning and value has?
1Timothy 4 verse 14. “You have in you a spiritual gift which was given to you when the prophet spoke and the body of elders laid our hands on you; do not let it lie unused. Put it into practice and everyone will be able to see how you are advancing, take great care about what you do and what you teach”.
Do I neglect spiritual reading?
How do I celebrate the liturgy, How do I offer the sacraments, Do I invite my people by activity, prayers and devotion to understand that in the sacraments they are meeting God.
Do I care for the outstations and the church for which I am responsible.
Do I visit the sick and console them.
Do I ever do home visitation?
Do I have pastoral care. Am I part of the diocesan policy and programs?
Am I accountable , or do I believe , INDODA AYIBUZWA?
Where is my heart set?
Am I more or is it less committed as the years go by?
† An act of sorrow.
I confess …
Lord have mercy..
I ask God for forgiveness.
The response: Holy God, Holy strong one, Holy immortal one, have mercy on us.
My people what have I done to you, how have I offended you? Answer me.
I came with love to Bethlehem to take you on my shoulders and carry you to Paradise: and you prefer rejection and strife to my peace and good will.
I went down into the Jordan river with your sins upon me, that you might rise from the water of baptism restored; and you fail to recognize my gift when given to another.
I went about doing good, with healing in my hands and comfort in my eyes: yet you have closed your eyes from your own sister and brother.
I guarded you, my little flock, as a mother enfolds her chicks, and the shepherd guards his sheep and lambs. But you have spurned that enfolding and gone astray
I gave myself equally to all, in bread and cup poured out and shared: and even this my precious gift, you made a sign of contradiction.
On Golgota, I died in ransom for your sins, that I might gather the scattered children of the father; And you remain divided. oh my people.
On the third day I rose in glory and breathe on you the Spirit of unity and pardon: yet you continue to grieve God’s Holy Spirit.
Behold I am with you all days that you may be one as I and the Father are one so that the world may believe: my people, hear my voice and follow me that there may be one flock and one shepherd, that there may be unity in the diocese, unity in the parish, unity in all that I do.
Oh shepherd of Israel, hear us; let you face shine on us and we shall be saved. Holy God, Holy and Strong, Holy Immortal One have mercy on us all.
† Final Hymn
† Sign of Peace
Bishop William Slattery ofm