Posted by: Fr Chris | April 6, 2019

Do I want to live with Christ? Do I want to live with God here and now?

Today is given over to the remembrance of St Mary of Egypt – and the question to be asked of us is the question that she had to ask herself: Do I want to be with Christ? Do I want to live with God here and now?

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This is one of the most famous stories of repentance in the history of the entire  Church – a woman who became wealthy through a life of sin, who felt driven to commit sexual sins and entice other people into those sins, went to Jerusalem in order to commit more sins. At the doors of the church of the Holy Sepulcher, which encloses Mount Calvary and Jesus’ tomb, she was stopped by an invisible force. Only after imploring the intercession of Our Lady could she go in, and she repented of her many offenses against God. She went out into the Palestinian desert to lead a life of prayer and penance, meeting the priest Saint Zosimus for confession and Holy Communion once a year at Holy Week. Her only companion was a lion. When Mary did not show for her appointed time, Zosimus was led to her body by the lion, who dug her grave and then lay down to mourn her. Zosimus returned to Mar Sabas monastery where St. Sophronius of Jerusalem, wrote her life. That’s the Cliff Notes version.

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St Zosimus and the lion who dug St Mary’s grave 

There are five main points in the story that apply to each of us, no matter our age or sins, or whether we live in the fifth century as she did or today.

  1. When she first meets Zosimus, Mary simply tells her life and her sins – no excuses. She is not like Adam who answers God’s question about what did he do by blaming God for giving him the woman in the first place. Mary knows what she did was wrong, and admits it.

2. She repents of her sins when she is hit by God with the revelation of what she has done when He stops her from entering the shrine. God said to Cain after he murdered Abel, Where is your brother? Cain responded with Am I my brother’s keeper? rather than confess to his sin. We know that when we eat the wrong thing, or drink or smoke or watch porn or cheat on a test or gossip or make a racist joke or or make fun of another child who is not popular or spend too much time on social media that it’s wrong – but we can easily excuse it. It’s my parents’ fault, it’s my boss’ fault, it’s somebody’s fault that I’m like this. Mary does not, and she knows she must repent and asks God to heal her.

3. For Mary, she had to leave human society and get away, so she went into the desert. My repentance might be extreme, and probably has to be extreme. I drink too much – get rid of the alcohol. I smoke – toss the cigarettes. I watch porn – block it, sign up for a program to be freed from it. I curse – change my language. I let others lead me into sins – find new friends who are healthy and faithful. Whatever my sin, the opposite is the only thing that will cure me.

4. Penance requires separation from the sins and conquering the passions inside me that keep from embracing Christ on the Cross. She stayed in the wilderness, with only wild animals as her companions. She had to, she had a lot to atone for, and she was bitterly sorry for the wasted years. Now her years were given to God. When I am given a penance, when I make my resolution, I have to stick with it. A sin that is 30 years old is not going to be fixed by a couple of prayers. We have to stick it out. We have to keep trying. Lent is not six weeks just because – psychology tells us it takes six weeks to dig out a bad habit and replace it with a healthy one. God’s grace is needed to help us do so, and I won’t have grace unless I commit to wanting to be cured.

5. Do I want to be with Christ? Do I want to live with God here and now? Mary wanted to encounter Jesus, and she did so. I cannot root out that sin in six weeks – or six years! – if it is not motivated by WANTING to be with Jesus, WANTING to live in the presence of God constantly – at work, at school, at play, in the house, on the bus, in the car, on my bicycle, when serving others, when being served by others, at prayer, at worship , in the hall, leaving the parking lot, entering my home. Saint Augustine said so well, You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. I said once in a homily that we live in an abnormal world and abnormal way, and we forget that this is a fallen world. Genesis shows us God walking in the garden with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening, and that is what we were made to do: to be with God, to live in companionship with the Holy Trinity.

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We have to retrieve that.  We can only do so, we can only become spiritually normal, if we are able to face our faults, do penance, and pray to be delivered from them. We are made to live with God, for God, in God — all while working, studying, loving, praying, eating, sleeping, exercising, helping, being helped.

Do I want to be with Christ? Do I want to live with God here and now?

Next week is Great and Holy Week, Passion Week, the week in which we walk with Jesus from His triumphant entry into Jerusalem all the way to His bloody Crucifixion and burial in a borrowed grave. Do I want to be with Christ? Do I want to live with God here and now?

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We must  resolve now to end Lent with Christ. On Friday night there were a lot of people here, but once you removed the Explorers who came because it was First Friday, there were only about 20 parishioners from a parish of 85 households. Really? On a Friday during Lent? The Church created the Presanctified Liturgy so that people could be fortified by Jesus’ Body and Blood during the time of fast and penance and be absolved in confession. Do I want to be with Christ? Do I want to live with God here and now? How long do I think I have before I meet Christ as my Judge? We had two funerals last week – two in a small parish. Did either of those men say, Hmm, I’m going to die soon? Jesus warns us in Matthew 25: You  do not know the day or hour of My return.

How much time do I have to root out my sin? Not much!

Do I want to be with Christ? Do I want to live with God here and now? Each of us has to answer that question. And we have to answer today, so that we can be with Him in the future.

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