This Fourth Sunday of Lent Father Kim began his homily by giving the example of five children: two teens, two grade school students, and one new born. In his story, the father took his children out for ice cream. Upon arrival, the two teen children, a boy, and a girl found their friends, left their father, and joined their friends. One of the grade school students ordered ice cream, her favorite flavor. The other ordered as the first, even though he did not like that flavor. The father last asked for a sample of ice cream and fed his baby. The baby was excited having the flavor of any ice cream in her mouth.
Father Kim related how our faith works in much the same way. Those new in the faith are happy just to take in the flavors, the sites, and the sounds of their new faith. As we become older, some follow peer pressure and want new flavors, not because we like them, but because others do. The grade school child does this when he asks for ice cream. We need to learn to be ourselves. Not everyone can be a business manager, or owner, or carpenter, or plumber. We need to follow our own vocations.
The teen children are extreme examples of the grade school child. As the article, “Are you Samuel, Israel, or Benjamin?” points out, we trail off to the right or to the left and leave the road leading to The Promised Land. In the pursuit of our new promised land, we become ashamed of our faith, our family, and our father who is in heaven.
When we read our first reading, from II Chronicles, Chapter 36 and our Psalm, Psalms Chapter 137, we see examples of this. The complaint in II Chronicles is that the Chaldeans destroyed the temple. The temple and the temple service were central to the Jewish people. When in Babylon, the love of the Jewish temple is what united the Jewish people as a people, as it does to this day. In Father Kim’s story, God still loves us and still offers us the fruit of his ice cream, the bounties of the world to come through the Eucharist. He also cares for us in this world.
The oldest child is the extreme example of the wayward children. He becomes so involved with the world of high school friends, when her father asks what flavor of ice cream she wants, she refuses to respond. Some no longer go to church and remove all signs of their Catholic faith from their lives. God still loves us when we drop all signs of our faith. God still feeds us and is our great provider.
Father Kim noted from the Gospel reading, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must Ben Adam be lifted up, so everyone believing in him may have eternal life.” The Gospel refers to the incident in Torah where God sent Seraphim to torment the Jewish people in the desert. Our Seraph is the cross of Jesus Christ, representing death, our death to the world.
We are no longer babies in the faith. We need to be ourselves, following our own vocations. We must resist the temptation to follow the baby, our older sister, or our friends at school or at work. We must be Catholics, always looking to the cross of our past faults, and the cross, leading us to the Promised Land.
Our Lenten Gospel last tells us, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned; whoever does not believe has already been condemned.” We must not condemn each other, or ourselves. We must be ourselves, one Catholic Community, one family, under God and Our Blessed Virgin. Those not believing have already been condemned, not by God, but by themselves. They separate themselves from the family. God keeps calling them to return. Do we condemn others and in the process ourselves, or do strive to be community, family with God.