Last weekend in my homily, I quoted from a book by Ronald Rolheiser called The Passion and the Cross, and in particular a section of the book in which he addresses what we mean when we speak of Jesus as “taking away the sin of the world.” Recall last Sunday’s gospel in which John the Baptist sees Jesus approaching him and says “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). What does this mean exactly? Rolheiser in his book writes the following: “Jesus does not take away the sins of the world by somehow paying off a debt to God for Adam’s sin and ours. He takes it away by transforming it, by taking it inside him and not giving it back….Jesus took away the sins of the world by taking in hatred and giving back love; by taking in anger and giving out graciousness; by taking in envy and giving back blessing; by taking in bitterness and giving out warmth; by taking in pettiness and giving back compassion; by taking in chaos and giving back peace; and by taking in sin and giving back forgiveness.” Rolheiser goes on to write, “What is most important is that this is not something we are asked to simply admire. We are asked to imitate it. Our task too is to help take away the sin of the world. We do this whenever we take in hatred, anger, envy, pettiness, and bitterness, and hold them, transmute them, and eventually give them back as love, graciousness, blessing, compassion, warmth, and forgiveness.” (p. 54-55).
Isn’t this beautiful? It moves us beyond simply admiring what Jesus did from afar and invites us to meditate deeply on the life of Jesus and how his life, and death, transforms everything. It invites us to reflect deeply on the words of the Mass just before communion: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, blessed are those called to the supper of the lamb.” That’s us, and that’s our call to go out and live as disciples in our modern world.
There is an Open House for our school this Sunday after the 11:30 Mass. Both of our schools are gems of our parish and all are welcome to attend our Open House. And finally, a word of thanks from the friars for the kindness you have extended to us as we now move into a period of transition to new parish leadership. Bishop Zarama has begun a process of discernment for a new pastor here and we ask that you pray for him in his discernment and pray also that this parish receive a new pastor – probably sometime this summer – with grace and hospitality, as you have received us over these years. That is our most important task in these coming months. I am away this weekend at St. Francis Springs retreat center in Stoneville, NC, 30 miles or so north of Greensboro. Sometimes it’s good to have some quiet time out in the woods. If you have not been there, it’s available to anyone for quiet days away.