Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Sacrament Of Penance, The “Sultan Of Swat”, And Our Lord Jesus Christ

+ From The Holy Gospel According To Saint Matthew [Mt. 4:12-23]
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled:Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,Galilee of the Gentiles,the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by deathlight has arisen.From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.

I came across this true story, recounted by Father Mark Link, SJ, who wrote a homiletic reflection about it in 1990. Thought I'd share it with you, our esteemed Academicians!

Ever hear of a guy named George Herman Ruth, Jr.? 
He was also known as "Babe" Ruth
-- The Bambino, The Sultan Of Swat, The Caliph of Clout, The Behemoth of Bust --
One of the most colorful and famous names in the history of Major League Baseball.

The words of Our Lord Jesus -- "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" -- took on a special meaning for Babe Ruth one cold December night in 1946. He explained why in an article in The Guideposts Magazine in August 1948. This is what he wrote:
"While I drifted away from the church, I did have my own "altar," a big window of my New York apartment overlooking the city lights. Often I would kneel before that window and say my prayers. I would feel quite humble then. I'd ask God to help me not make such a big fool of myself and pray that I'd measure up to what He expected of me."
On that cold December night in 1946, however, the Babe was lying in bed in a New York hospital, seriously ill. The Babe realized that the Kingdom of God was, perhaps, at hand for him. He knew he had to take seriously Jesus' words: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Paul Carey, one of the Babe's oldest and closest friends was at his side. After a while, as Babe Ruth tells it, 
In December, 1946 I was in French Hospital, New York, facing a serious operation. Paul Carey, one of my oldest and closest friends, was by my bed one night."They're going to operate in the morning, Babe," Paul said. "Don't you think you ought to put your house in order?"I didn't dodge the long, challenging look in his eyes. I knew what he meant. For the first time I realized that death might strike me out. I nodded, and Paul got up, called in a Chaplain, and I made a full confession."I'll return in the morning and give you Holy Communion," the chaplain said," But you don't have to fast." [It was the practice in the 1940s to fast from midnight when receiving Communion the next day.]    "I'll fast," I said. I didn't have even a drop of water.  As I lay in bed that evening I thought to myself what a comforting feeling to be free from fear and worries. I now could simply turn them over to God.
Babe Ruth's experience of profound peace after receiving the Sacrament of Penance is a common experience among Catholics. It's a peace that must be experienced to be appreciated. It's a peace that comes only from the Sacrament of Penance. 
A peace that Our Lord Jesus gave to that Sacrament when He instituted it on Easter Sunday night, saying to His Apostles: Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.[John 20:21-23]

However, the peace of the Sacrament of Penance comes at a price. And the price is a humble admission that we are, indeed, sinners -- who want to reform our lives.

I think the explanation as to why so many people experience deep peace in the Sacrament of Penance is because they experience the Sacrament for what it really is: An encounter with the merciful Jesus.

  • It's an encounter with the merciful Jesus who dealt so gently with the paralyzed man, saying, "Your sins are forgiven." [Luke 5:20]
  • It's an encounter with the merciful Jesus who dealt so tenderly with the woman caught in the act of adultery, saying, "Neither do I condemn you." [John 8:11]
  • It's an encounter with the merciful Jesus who dealt so compassionately from the cross with His enemies, saying, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." [Luke 23:34]
Right now, Our Lord Jesus is saying to us, "Reform your lives! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." This is our invitation to encounter the merciful Jesus in the Sacrament of Penance, and to experience for ourselves the peace that filled the heart of Babe Ruth on that cold December night in 1946.

May the prophet Isaiah's words [Is. 8:23—9:3] be fulfilled for us: 
Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing ... .

Recalling Our Lord’s Parable of The Prodigal Son [Luke 15:11-32], let us return to the Father of mercy and say,

Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your child.
Purify my heart,
And help me walk as a child of light.

Babe Ruth [1895-1948]
Buried in Gate Of Heaven Cemetery, Mount Pleasant, New York

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Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
Take a moment and visit the MOSJ website.