A priest goes see his doctor for annual checkup. He complains about his chest pain and arthritis. The doctor examines him and asks, “Father, do you smoke?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Do you drink?”
“Yes, I do drink.”
The doctor says, “You need to change your bad habits, quit smoking, and stop drinking. You are also way overweight, so you need to change your eating habits and go on diet as well. Are you ready for a change, father?”
“Yes, I think I am.”
He goes home and changes his doctor!
This morning someone brought to the rectory a big jar of pure protein powder for one of my assistant priests. The label says the powder will help to build muscle strength. He read the label carefully and took some of the protein powder and mix with milk to drink for his breakfast. I hope it will help to strengthen his muscles. We are living in a very health conscious society. It is almost impossible these days to go an entire day without hearing something about health. Turn on your computer and any internet site; you often encounter a flash of commercial on some products that says it is good for you. Eat this, or drink this and it is going to enhance your life with joy, happiness, and fulfillment. Or turn on the television and no matter what you watch, there will be a commercial about some product that is good for you. You see all kinds of things that are necessary for your well-being. They have all kinds of vitamins: vitamins for men, vitamins for women, vitamins for the elderly men and women, and multivitamins for everyone. They even have energy drink filled with caffeine for teenagers. I don’t understand why teenagers need energy drink. But they are making good business on the teens. There is that repeated commercial to persuade you to take these products for your health. There are also warnings everywhere. Don’t use salt. Don’t use sugar. Don’t use fat. Don’t eat high cholesterol food. Don’t eat red meat. They are bad for your heart. We are living in a very health awareness culture; but at the same time, we are also living in a very care free indulgent society. Healthy or not healthy, you are going to die someday. It is also important for us to have a healthy spiritual life. It is important that we have a healthy soul. But sadly, not many people care to have a healthy soul.
At the beginning of creation, God declares that everything He has created is “good”, but human goodness doesn’t last long. Soon the first man and woman betray God by their own sin of disobedience. And their oldest son Cain murders his younger brother. Humanity continues to disregard God and commit sins against God and against one another. In today’s First Reading, we hear the story about the people and the world that God created have forgotten their Creator and become so corrupt and disrespectful that God has to destroy them. God sends the waters of chaos to destroy the sinful world. The only exception is Noah and his family. God spares them because they respond with obedience to God’s order to build an ark as a means of saving them and every earthly creature. The flood eventually subsides and Noah and his family as well as other creatures start over again. God makes a covenant with Noah. He promises never to destroy the world by water again. The sign of the promise is the rainbow. It is a reminder that God is giving humanity a second chance.
After the Great Flood, the children of Noah multiply. They are spreading to all over places in different directions. As the Book of Genesis tells us, “a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood resolved to build a city with a tower “with its top in the heavens to remember themselves. God came down to see what they did and said: “They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withholding from them which they purpose to do.” So God said, “Come, let us go down and confound their speech.” And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel “because God there confounded the language of all the earth.”(Genesis 11:5-8). But it seems that humanity never learns. The world continues to degenerate. And unfortunately humanity continues to forget God and falls apart morally. God takes Abraham and says to him, “I am going to separate you from the rest of this corrupted and sinful world, and I will make this covenant with you. You will be the father of the chosen people. “I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing -- all this because you obeyed my command” (Gen 22:17).
This is a great covenant, but the descendants of Abraham begin to disobey God again. They continue to sin. Then God promises to send the Messiah, his Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us, to bring us through the water of Baptism, and he makes another covenant that if we remain faithful to the teachings of Christ, obey His Commands, we will share eternal life with God. Jesus’ obedience to the Father through his death and resurrection makes the new covenant. And there will be no more covenants. Now it is up to us to decide. The agreement between Jesus Christ and you and me is to repent and believe in the Gospel. God’s love is to flood the earth and Jesus’ death on the cross is the rainbow of God’s promise of forgiveness and fidelity. Repenting from our sinful living and believing in Jesus and following his teachings are the conditions to participate in the new covenant. Noah obeys God; so he and his family are saved. Abraham obeys God; he pleases God and he becomes the father of great nations. Jesus Christ obeys the will of the Father; therefore he is able to open the gate of heaven for us. Now it is our turn to obey God’s command to listen to Jesus in order to enter heaven.
But what are we seeing in the world around us? We find people disagreeing, and breaking the covenant. People drift away and disobey. They are saying that there is no longer any such thing as morality. There are no sins anymore. You can do this. You can do that. You can do anything you want. Abortions, free contraceptive, same sex marriages are becoming the laws of the land. Pornographies, divorces, pre-marital sex are protected by the Constitution in the freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Many Christians including many Catholics are getting wrapped in this mentality of the world that we fail to realize that the world is taking us away from the covenant, the agreement that God has made with us. Many of us who profess our faith in Jesus Christ are failing to fulfill the commitment that God expects of us. Like people of the past, the modern world and people of our time are forgetting God, ignoring God’s teachings, disrespecting God’s commands, and rejecting his existence as well.
The word of Jesus again is speaking to us, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” We pray with the Church today “That we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ.” Our prayer during the Season of Lent is to understand Christ’s life, death and resurrection. The repentance Jesus is calling for in today’s Gospel is a recovery of sight. This Lent is a time to take off the bandages from our eyes and earmuffs from our heads so as to see and hear again more clearly the message of the covenant. There is loud voice out there to tell us to “shut up.” They are saying that we should not impose our religious morals and values on others. But our faith in Jesus Christ does not allow us to shut up. Our covenant with God and our love for God and our love for humanity do not allow us to shut up. For the sake of love, we need to cry out louder the message of Jesus Christ, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Repentance and believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ will lead us to salvation. To believe in Jesus Christ, accept his teachings and the teachings of the Church are necessary for our redemption and the redemption of the world. We cannot shut up but we have to shout louder, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”