When I was a child, my favorite book was “The Velveteen Rabbit”. Many of you have probably heard this book, maybe you have read this book to your children or grandchildren. This story is about a toy, a stuffed rabbit, who belongs to a young boy. Throughout the whole story the rabbit has one great desire: to become fully alive. During the story we learn that the rabbit can only become alive through love, the love of the little boy to whom it belongs. This story helps us better understand today's readings. As we will see, in our life, each of us should share the desire of the velveteen rabbit, the desire to be fully alive.
In today’s gospel we discover that Jesus restores life out of love. Because of His love, Jesus gives life to the dead man. Try to picture this scene. You are standing on a dirt road outside the main gate of a walled city. You see a large group coming out of the city passing through the gate. You can see that they are carrying a platform on which there is the corpse of a young man. Beside the platform, clinging to it is a woman wailing. She is the mother of the man. She is inconsolable because her only son has died. It is as though her own life has ended because with her son dead she will have no one to provide for her. Suddenly you see Jesus approach the platform. He is visibly moved and goes straight for the grieving mother. Jesus’ love for the woman is evident in the way He speaks with her, trying to console her. Jesus’ words surprises all those present: Jesus tells the corpse to get up. Everyone’s surprise is turned to shock and amazement with what happens next: the dead man arises, he has been raised from the dead. Two points are clear from this scene: 1) Jesus has the power to give life to the dead and 2) He does so out of love, in this case, love for the grieving mother. In today’s gospel we discover that Jesus restores life out of love.
Though each of us here is physically alive, at times we can be spiritually dead. Even though are bodies are healthy, our souls may be sick and dying. We are all meant to carry within us the life of God. We call this Divine life grace. Here on earth, grace fills us with faith, hope and joy. It helps us to be a better person. When we die, it is because of this grace in our souls that we are able to live with God forever in heaven. When we sin, we either damage this Divine life within our soul or banish is from our souls altogether. Sin robs us of life, both here on earth and eternal life with God in heaven. At some time in our life, we have all probably experienced the crippling effects of sin. It robs us of freedom, joy and peace. This is particularly true when sin becomes a habit, a kind of addiction. There are many examples. A work-aholism in which we work so much we neglect our relationships with family members and God. A consumerism in which we find the only way we can feel good about ourselves is by buying more stuff. The internet has made addiction even more common whether it be addiction to social media, gambling or pornography. Because of addiction to sin, we run the risk of being spiritually dying even though in body we may appear to be healthy.
Jesus has the power to restore our spiritual life. Because of His love for us, Christ desires to give us back our spiritual life. As a society we are very much aware of the importance of physical health. We strive to maintain it. If we lose health, we try to restore it by all means, even spiritual. If you watch a program from a tele-evangelist, you find it is full of people seeking to be healed physically. Though we recognize the importance of physical health, we sometimes ignore spiritual health, something that is so much more important. Though we should pray for those who are physically ill and rejoice when healing is given, we forget that to be spiritually healed is much more important than a physical healing. To be raise from a physical death, such as the case we see in the gospel, is nowhere near as important or miraculous as to be given life after a spiritual death. In the second reading we are presented with such a spiritual resurrection. St. Paul had been stuck in a sinful and destructive pattern of behavior through his pride he was persecuting the followers of Christ. His actions brought death to others and spiritual death to himself. All this changed when Paul encountered Jesus Christ. At this moment he was spiritually raised from death to life. His life changed forever. Only Jesus could have worked such a miracle. Jesus alone has the power to restore our spiritual life.
It is up to us to seek the life-restoring power of Christ. Jesus forces His life-changing power on no one. What if I told you that there was a way for each of us to be raised from spiritual death? What if I told you that it was easy and only took five minutes? Would you do it? In His love, Jesus has made his life-restoring powers readily available to us in the sacrament of confession. Sin robs us of the gift of Divine life, it causes a spiritual death in our soul. Confession forgives our sins and gives us back the gift of Divine life. It is truly spiritual resurrection. A huge gift, readily available. Yet we tend not to take advantage of it. Yes I know, confession can be embarrassing and a bit awkward, I feel the same way when I go to confession. But is shouldn’t be this way. In confession we encounter the loving, healing presence of Jesus Christ. No one is judging us. No one is taking notes on what we say. Jesus desperately wants to give us the gift of life through the sacrament of confession. Will we let Him? It has never been easier to take advantage of this gift. You can always come before Mass at St. Matthews. If that is not convenient, you go to the Archdiocese website, rcav.org, you can look at other parishes close by to find times for confession. Christ loves us and desperately wants to raise us from spiritual death to life, but we must seek His help.
The Velveteen rabbit desperately wanted to be alive. In the end, love gave life to the rabbit. Jesus loves us and wants to give us life, but do we have this same desire which motivated the Velveteen Rabbit? Do we want to be a fully alive, both physically and spiritually health? Or are we satisfied to be physically alive and spiritually dead? To be a kind of spiritual zombie? Jesus has both the power and the desire to raise us to life. Let us allow Jesus to restore us to life by going to the sacrament of confession soon.