What Have I Done? 3rd Sunday of Advent.

What have I done? Third Sunday of Advent.
I’m on Leo’s mailing list and he sent me an email the other day with a link to YouTube and a list of 100 famous one-liners from some of the great movies of all time.
Thanks Leo. And I thought I’d share some with you today in anticipation of the next trivia night coming up.
OK, name the movie.
(I click my heels and say;) “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” Got it? Of course it’s the Wizard of Oz.
OK how about this one? Name the actor: STELLLLLA. STELLLLLLLA.
Marlon Brando.
One last one. Name the movie. “ May the force be with you!” Star Wars.
It was said by several characters but my favorite was the one by Obi-Wan Kenobi. For an extra point, what famous British actor played Obi? Sir Alec Guinness.

A one-liner that did not make the list was from a movie that sir Alec played in at the very beginning of his career. The Bridge on the River Kwai. ( Best pic of 1957) There were actually two-one liners in that movie that came back to back and I want to use them as the basis of my homily today.
Today is one of those two days in the Church year when I preach about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Advent and Lent. Our communal penance service is coming up on Monday and I always like to prime the pump little bit. To try to generate a little bit of interest, especially among those who may have been away for a long time, or maybe don’t really appreciate the sacrament as much as they should. Or maybe even those who are afraid to come back after so long. What will Father think?

But anyway, let me set the stage. In the movie Guinness plays Colonel Nicholson, commander of a group of prisoners of war. They’ve been captured by the Japanese and they’ve been told that they are to make a bridge, over the River Kwai. Now we know from all the World War II movies we watched that the good guys are not supposed to cooperate that much with the bad guys. But if you’re threatened with beatings, well, maybe you learn to cooperate, at least a little bit. Well the problem is that Nicholson cooperates a lot. So much so, in fact, that Major Clipton, his second-in-command, warned him that if they make it through this whole thing, well, he could be accused of treason. Consorting with the enemy.
But Nicholson has a big ego and a lot of pride and he says will make the Japanese the best bridge they’ve ever seen. It’ll be an example of British know-how and ingenuity and engineering skill.
So they make the bridge and, sure enough, it is a wonder to behold. On opening day, just before it was to open, commander Nicholson is strolling along the river below the bridge admiring his work. He looks down at some point and sees a wire protruding from the sand. “Whats that? That’s not supposed to be there!” He pulls it up and as he does he’s beginning to think that somebody is out to destroy his bridge. How dare they?
Well the commandos up in the hills who have set the charges on the bridge the night before, are beginning to ask, “What is he doing? Whose side is he on?”
And so a firefight begins and all chaos breaks loose they send the man down to detonate the charges. But right there in front of commander Nicholson he is killed.

Suddenly the commander has his revelation. His eyes widen, his jaw drops, and he asks the big question. The big one liner; “What have I done?”
At this point he is shot and falls over on the detonator, destroying the bridge and the movie comes to an end with a giant boom echoing down the valley, with the train falling into the river below.
As I reflected on the one-liner, the question “what have I done”, I wondered how it might be applied to the sacrament of reconciliation. I found three separate ways.
The first way is very simply is to ask the question, in a matter of fact fashion, as in, “well, let me see, what have I done?” And we go down the list. The first three commandments have to do with our relationship with God. Do I love him? Do I show it by the way I speak and act? Do I misuse his name in anyway. Do I attend mass so as to keep the day holy? Do I love my neighbor? Do I lie, cheat, or steal? And as you know there are many subcategories. Deacon Jim last week spoke about the examination of conscience. That’s what we’re doing here. We have them here today and you can take one home. Its also on our parish App. Or Google it.
How else can the question, what have I done, be understood?
Well sometimes a person acts in a certain way that they realize is wrong. Sinful . Nevertheless they don’t give it much thought. Maybe they suppress it, or maybe they think they can get away with it. But at some point in time their house of cards comes tumbling down and they say, What have I done? I’ve got to go to confession. I got to get a fresh start. And God in his great mercy, through the action of his priests, is ready to forgive.
The last way that I think the question could be asked would be for those who have indeed been away for a long, long time. They’ve hardly given a second thought to confession. It’s become a distant memory. Nevertheless, by several different paths, including a tap on the shoulder by the Holy Spirit, they come to a moment of revelation. And they stand there on the beach, so to speak, their eyes open wide, the scales come off, their jaw drops, and they ask the big question: what have I done? , as in what have I done with my life?
Maybe it like the parable of the Prodigal Son. Maybe like in the movie they suddenly realize that they have consorted with the enemy, and have become a traitor. That pride and ego has driven their life. That they’ve mis-treated everybody along the way, serving only themselves and their own self-esteem.
This last category is the one that give us confessors the greatest amount of satisfaction. When the person comes into the confessional and says “bless me father I have sinned, it has been a long, long since my last confession”. And I always personally like to ask, “well, what brought you back? It’s always fascinating to hear their stories. And I can’t help but think that the Holy Spirit, again, had something to do with this. I see the hand of God at work. And I say, welcome back.
Now do you remember that I told you earlier that there were two one-liners back to back in the movie? Well the last one was uttered by Major Clipton, who had warned commander Nicholson that he was skating on thin ice and could be charged treason. Well, at the end, as he watched the chaos of the gun battle, the commander dying on the beach, and the bridge being blown, he spoke his one liner. A single word. Repeated. “ Madness, madness!”

Stop and think of it, sin is madness. Think of the madness in the world right now. It began with two individuals choosing to follow their own path and not God’s path. It’s pride, and ego that first led Adam and Eve, and it continues to potentially lead us to our downfall.

And so, please, ask yourself the question, what have I done ? And ask it seriously, with great concern and introspection. And then choose to reconcile and seek God’s mercy.

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