- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

Homily for February 24, 2021

Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO

Wednesday of the 1st Week of Lent

Jonah 3: 1-10, Luke 11: 29-32

As we ponder the response of the people of Nineveh to Jonah’s preaching, we can’t help but be overwhelmed by the working of God’s grace. The people heard the prophet’s message and took him seriously. The light of God’s grace enabled them to see the danger of rewriting morality. In a moment, they were able to admit that they were not God and needed to humble themselves before the One who is. Thanks to God’s merciful grace, the people of Nineveh no longer needed to burn themselves out trying to justify their behavior. Basking in the Light of Truth, they could admit that they had sinned and done wrong. That admission was the first step on the path of repentance and reform.

Lent is the acceptable time for us to put our faith in God who is rich in mercy. The restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic have given us time to take a serious self-reflection. The words of Psalm 51 may resonate with you. “I am conscious of my transgressions and I acknowledge them. Try as I may, I cannot forget the burden of my guilt” (Ps. 51:3). The people of Nineveh can serve as role-models. Having heard the words of the prophet, they realized that they were being given the option to change their lives. Lent is the acceptable time for us to lay down our best attempts at self-improvement and to surrender ourselves to the love and care of God.

Come and lay your burdens down
To the place where freedom is found
At the feet, at the feet of Jesus
Come and lay your burdens down
(Jamie Kimmett)

There’s nothing like a worldwide pandemic to reveal the burdens we have been carrying. With so many unknowns and the “new normal” continually changing, we are being forced to acknowledge the hurts and resentments we have been nursing. Lent is the acceptable time to admit our brokenness. Looking to God’s greatness and mercy, we have only to confess our sins, ask forgiveness and seek reconciliation.

The Theme of the Rule of the Master
Our journey through this world has burdened us with many sins of negligence.  The running sweat of labor, with our shoulders weary from the weight of this baggage, has made us aware of the proximity of death and we gasp with a burning thirst threatening destruction. Suddenly, to the right, toward the east, we see unexpectedly a spring of living water, and while we are hastening to it the divine voice issues from it and on its own initiative meets us, calling to us and saying: ‘All you who are thirsty, come to the water!’,  And seeing us coming loaded with our heavy baggage, it again says: ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest’. And hearing this loving voice, we throw our burden to the ground and, impelled by thirst, fall down greedily at the spring, drink long, and rise refreshed … “After having been refreshed by such a spring and having heard the voice of the Lord inviting us, let us not take up again the burden of our sins which we have thrown off.”