Saturday, March 14, 2015
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Homily by Archbishop Thomas Wenski at Vigil Mass for the fourth Sunday of Lent at the chapel in Key Largo’s Ocean Reef (under the care of St. Justin Martyr Church). Saturday, March 14, 2015.
I’m sure you might have heard the expression “So and so is a piece of work”. And it’s usually not said as a compliment, is it? Yet, in today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us essentially the same thing – but with an entirely different context. He tells us that we are God’s handiwork. In other words, each one of us is a piece of work, God’s piece of work. (And, we could add, since God isn't finished with us, some patience is needed by all concerned.)
But, let’s listen again to St. Paul: “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”
Now, sometimes when I read a passage from the Scriptures and the meaning is not totally clear, I’ll pick up another translation or even read the passage in another language. That can help sometimes to get to the meaning behind the words. And so, here is another translation of that same sentence from St. Paul.
“We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to have the good life as from the beginning he has meant us to live it.” That good life, of course, is what Jesus came to restore to us since we have obscure the image of God we are through sin.
God’s handiwork, God’s work of art – that’s a beautiful way of looking at ourselves, and a beautiful way of looking at other people. Wouldn't our image of ourselves – or the image we have of others – improve if we imagined ourselves, and other people, the way that God sees us?
Too often we see ourselves or others as “mistakes” – we forget that while we make mistakes we are not mistakes. As Pope Benedict once said, “Each of us is the result of a thought of God, each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” Each of us is a masterpiece, a work of art made by God.
And this is the point that Jesus is trying to make to Nicodemus in the gospel reading today. (And this gospel reading contains that famous verse, John 3: 16. All of us have seen people at football games holding a placard with “John 3: 16” written on it: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son”.) God loves us – that is the Good News. He loved us when he created in his own image and likeness; and even when we soiled that image he keeps on loving us. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone that believes in him may have eternal life.” He makes us a “new creation” through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.
Now Jesus is trying to explain to Nicodemus that as God’s handiwork we need to be in the light. A masterpiece should not be shut up in the dark – shut up in the dark it can just rot away, neglected and unseen. Now if a work of art has been abandoned in such a way, it will need some restoration if it is to be saved and brought to life again.
And so here we are at the mid-point of Lent. We are God’s masterpieces but we need some sensitive restoration if our true beauty is to be appreciated as it should.
That work of restoration is not done in the dark. To bring out the best in us God needs to shine his light on us. Now that light can be a bit uncomfortable, especially if you gotten used to the dark. Sometimes we behave like Adam and Eve: after they ate the forbidden fruit, they hid from God. We sin and we hide from God (or we try to); but, Lent with its call for repentance and conversion is an invitation to come out of the dark and into his light. During Lent we should all try to make a good confession. It is through the confessional – and in the light of God’s word, that God can restore his masterpiece, the masterpiece that we are.
So trust him – come out to where he can see you – and let him do his work. God isn't about punishing us or condemning us but restoring his image and likeness within us. And to the extent that we allow him to restore us we might begin to see once again more of God’s handiwork or art both in ourselves and in other people.