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We hear in the Acts of the Apostles that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43).
That’s what I want to talk today about in terms of the resurrection and what that does to us. That when we enter into this resurrected life with Jesus, we experience forgiveness of sins. A lot of us today kind of take that for granted. We think I’m a good guy, God forgives my sins, but to truly be forgiven of our sins is to let go of everything that would keep us from clinging to Christ. So, in the resurrection and the passion, He suffered, and He died, and He rose. For us to experience the resurrection, we must go through that same process. We must suffer in life, we must die completely to sin, and when we have died completely to sin, we will rise. I want you to think about a sin in your life that you know needs to die. What sin do you need to let go of and be forgiven of? Because if we enter into this mystery, this paschal mystery of His suffering, dying and rising we can be forgiven of our sins.
A good example of this, I do not know if you have seen the previews for Father Stu yet, but Mark Wahlberg’s latest movie, Father Jeremy got a signed letter from Mark Wahlberg saying, “Go and see this film.” They sent it to every pastor in the country, I think. I do not know that it was signed but he has got it. He is very proud of it. I did not get one because I am not a pastor yet.
I went to see the film and it is a beautiful story that talks really about what it means to be forgiven for our sins; what it means to let go of a sinful life and experience here on earth the life of the resurrection.
Father Stu, when he was young Stu, got into a lot of trouble much like Mark Wahlberg himself. They both had very bad histories and as the film goes on throughout this the perpetual sin continues. He lives in a pretty dysfunctional family. There is a lot of abandonment and abuse and alcohol and drugs. So, Stu, this young man, is living a life of sin. He does not know it and he does not know that there is anything better. He does know that he is pretty miserable. In high school he had a coach that said, “Hey, why don’t you try boxing?” and he introduced him to boxing. Stu loved boxing because he could throw himself into it. He could take out all of his anger and aggression. He loved boxing. The difficult thing is that he was not very good at boxing, so he got beat up quite a bit. He was physically beaten up a lot through this movie. When the mother tells him, “You’re getting kinda old to be boxing. Most people your age are not just starting their careers. Most people are coming to retirement. You are not there yet. He did receive the Golden Gloves for his state but that is as far as he went. She says to him, “Look kid you have to go a good face, go to Hollywood.” He goes to Hollywood, and he tries to act and takes up acting and as he is doing that, he is taking all these lousy roles and doing sponsorships for vacuums and things like that.
Working at restaurants and any place he can find a job and he meets this girl. She is beautiful, Mexican, and when he meets her, he falls in love with her instantly. He grew up having no faith, this is a true story, more than no faith like an adverse reaction to faith. He did not like any of it. His parents did not like any of it. But he meets this girl, and she is a Catholic and one of the lines is “she is as Catholic as the cross” one of the friends tells him. He decides that he is going to pursue her, and he goes to Mass just to impress her. Over time, they begin to develop a rapport and she makes it very clear that I am a Catholic and I wait until marriage. This is just not going to work between the two, but he keeps trying, keeps trying, keeps trying. So, he decides that he is going to go through RCIA, the rite of Christian initiation. He is going to become Catholic for this girl. He goes through this whole process of initiation, and he begins to know Jesus. By the end of it, he wants to be baptized for himself. When he is baptized, as the priest is pouring water over him (I laugh at the movie because Mark Wahlberg just took off his shirt. I do not know who does that for Baptism) he receives the call to the priesthood. At that moment he knows that he is supposed to be a priest and like anything else, he is going to throw himself into it.
So, he breaks the girl’s heart and goes to apply to the seminary. The Monsignor, director of the seminary, looks at him and looks at his file of all the crimes he has committed, all the DUIs and everything, and says, “Listen you are not fit for the seminary. We cannot accept you with this.” He did not give up. He kept going back and kept going back and he said, “I am changed, and did not the greatest saints have conversions? St. Augustine, St. Paul.” They began to learn his face so that he could get into the seminary. He gets in and things are going great. He is still this tough, cocky, funny, funny seminarian.
One day he is driving his motorcycle, he gets hit by a car, rolls over in the street and while he is rolling another car runs him over. All he remembers from that moment is Mary appearing to him. So, the Blessed Mother came to him and appeared to him to comfort him at that moment. He goes into the hospital and after the hospital, there is a long recovery. Then, the doctors discover that he has this degenerative muscle disease. The doctor tells him, “From this point on, your muscles, you are going to lose everything. Even your ability to stand, your ability to speak, all of it is going to be lost.
When the Monsignor finds out about this, he says to him, “You know, we cannot ordain you under this situation,” He gives it all up. He walks away. But something cool happens. His parish rallies for him and they write letters to Rome begging that he could be let back into the seminary. Rome responded and let him in. He went back into the seminary. He gets ordained and he turns out to be this amazing priest who can relate to people. People in prison, people in normal life because of his brokenness, because of his past he can relate to people. His sins had been forgiven and he began living the life of the Resurrection.
There is a cool scene towards the end of the movie where he is in a nursing home, and he is bound to a wheelchair he can barely lift his head and there is a line of people waiting to come him into the nursing home for confession.
That is what it means to live the resurrected life. No matter what we go through, no matter what suffering we go through, anything that happens, it means truly that we want to be who God wants us to be and we are willing to let go of the sin that keeps us from that.
I want to end with just another message from Jesus. Jesus appeared to a saint called St. Faustina and He appeared to her numerous times. One of the times that He appeared to her was on Easter Sunday. St. Faustina was given this message by Jesus. She would become what is called the Missionary of Mercy. That would be her vocation in life. What Jesus gave to her was His desire to share the mercy of Jesus and He promised that the most hardened sinner who comes to Him on Divine Mercy Sunday, the sins will crumble away, and they will experience His love and mercy. He said to St. Faustina, “I want you to dedicate the Sunday after Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday. It is kind of confusing that He would make that after Easter and not during Lent, but this is why.
I think because a lot of us that come to church today have not been in a while and maybe there is sin in our lives that need to be crumbled and needs to be broken down. So, He promised St. Faustina, “If a hardened sinner comes to me and the worse his sins the more mercy I will show. If he comes to me on Divine Mercy Sunday, having gone to Confession and receiving the Eucharist, they will receive complete forgiveness of all of their sins and any punishment due to sin.” He says, “My flood of mercy will open up on Divine Mercy Sunday.
I invite you if you have been away from the faith if you are struggling with any sin in your life if you feel hardened and you just want to live this life of resurrection, to go to Confession next Saturday at any church and then come to Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday. You can receive that powerful grace because The Resurrection for us, means walking without sin. We cannot experience the resurrected life until we have died to sin so that we may rise to new life with Christ.
Father Stu is a wonderful example of that happening to a person in our time. His whole life was converted, and he went on to be this amazing priest. This Easter God wants to do the same with you. He wants you to live the resurrected life. He wants to forgive you of your sins, and He wants to raise you from the dead so that we can truly be an Easter people.