My dear sisters and brothers,

Since we are in the Lenten season, I have a short story to share with yours: The girl kneels down in the confessional and says: "Bless me Father for I have sinned." "What is it? child" "Father, I have committed the sin of vanity. Twice a day I gaze at myself in the mirror and tell myself how beautiful I am." The priest turns, takes a good look at the girl and says: "My child, I have a good news for you. That is not a sin. It is simply a mistake."

In the message for Lent 2015, our Holy Father - Pope Francis reminds us that: "Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each community, and every believer." The questions we should ask ourselves are: "how are we going to renew ourselves? and what do we need to renew the most?

In this Lenten season, our beloved pastor, Fr. Cliff will help us to do exactly that... to find out the answer for how? and what? and then apply to our life. Last week, we went over what is the nature of sin? This week we go over the good examination of conscience.

There're a saying: "The unexamined life is not worth living" (Socrates). This is why Lent is my favorite liturgical season since the Church invites us to reflect & examine our 40 days journey with Christ into the desert of our life. Just as the Holy Spirit led Christ into the desert to be tested, We are also led by the Holy Spirit into our life's desert to be tested.

This 40 days journey determines for Christ once for all that he would have to face the evil force, even unto death but he will rise and triumph at the end because the Father is with him and the Father's love, which is the Holy Spirit is with him. This 40 days journey determines for Christ once for all humanity the way back to the Father because Jesus comes from God and he experiences firsthand the Father's infinite love and mercy.

Do you know why the devil failed to tempt Jesus 3 times in the desert? It's not simply because he is the Only Son of God incarnated into our human flesh, but more precisely because he knows the Father's infinite love for him. We heard God, the Father reveals to the Apostles such an infinite love for the Son in today's Gospel: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."

My dear sisters & brothers, Love is the main force & foundation for Jesus to be such an obedient Son to the Father. Let us ask Jesus to show us the Father's infinite love for each one of us because his love is our only hope to conquer our sins & temptations & to bring us to true joy and happiness.

This reminds me of what our Holy Father, Pope Francis recently writes in his book, title: "The Church of Mercy" that "Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and possesses a profound joy and hope in his & her hearts. This is the greatest revolution ever for transforming our hearts since the time of Moses, Abraham, and even Adam & Eve.

How many of us try so hard for so long on our own battle against our sins. How many of us fail to keep the 10 commandments? How many of us end up repeating the same sin over and over again? Why? Because, according to our Holy Father, Pope Francis, we haven't encountered mercy, we haven't been caressed by the tenderness of mercy.

St. Peter is the greatest example of experiencing God's mercy. When he denied not knowing Jesus 1st time, 2nd time, and then the 3rd time, he felt very normal & comfortable with himself. It was only when the Lord was carrying the cross bypassing him and turned around intentionally gazing at him with the love of the Father. St. Peter was running out to weep & weep & weep. How many of us run out of the confessional and weep because we encounter Jesus' gazing at us?

My dear sisters & brothers, let this Lent be our first and also our last. For our first, if we haven't encountered Jesus' mercy & love for us, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, let us pray that we can encounter Jesus' gazing at us when we make ourselves available for him in the sacrament of reconciliation, in the Words of God, and especially in the Eucharist. For our last, if we already encounter Jesus' mercy & love for us, let us grow ever in love with our Lord by deepening ourselves into his infinite ocean of love & mercy.

I'd like to conclude today's homily with the message from our Holy Father, Pope Francis: "During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: "Make our hearts like yours." In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful; attentive & generous, a heart which is not closed & indifferent."

Pt Hoàng Thương

© 2015