Monday, May 18, 2015

Homily for 7th Sunday of Easter

Homily for the
7th Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2015
Holy Cross, Fairfield, Conn.                                     

In the Collect a few minutes ago, we prayed that “we, who believe that the Savior of the human race is with [God the Father] in [his] glory, may experience … his abiding presence among us.”  We prayed that we might always know and feel and benefit from the presence of Jesus with us, alongside us, leading us, guiding us, acting as our rearguard, enlightening us, helping us.

The Ascension of Jesus expresses our belief that our Lord is in heaven, body and soul.  Yet we expect him somehow to be present with us.  And he did promise to remain with us always until the end of the world (cf. Matt 28:20).  The gospel verse today quotes from John’s Gospel:  “I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord.  I will come back to you, and your hearts will rejoice” (14:18).

So we might ask how we “experience his abiding presence among us.”

The Eucharist. Window in
provincial house chapel, New Rochelle
The 1st way that we’re all familiar with is the sacraments.  The very Christ who is enthroned in heaven resides with us in the Holy Eucharist, body and soul, humanity and divinity.  He is literally our companion, someone we break bread with (that’s the etymology of companion).  In the sacrament of Reconciliation, we experience the personal forgiveness of Jesus as much as did people in the gospels, like the woman who bathed his feet with her tears, the tax collector Zacchaeus at Jericho, the paralyzed man lowered on his pallet thru the roof.  Jesus abides with us in his priests, who share in the one priesthood of Jesus, consecrating us in Baptism, offering Jesus’ sacrifice that atones for our sins, blessing our activities, consoling us in our sorrows, preaching the word of God so that we might be fully “consecrated in the truth” (cf. John 17:17).

The 2d way that we “experience his abiding presence among us” is thru the Spirit.  In our 1st reading today (Acts 1:15-17,20-26), we saw the “Lord who knows the hearts of all” showing which disciple he had chosen to take Judas’ place in the apostolic ministry (cf. Acts 1:24-25)—and this before the Holy Spirit dramatically descended upon the Church on Pentecost Sunday.  If God was guiding that decision even before the Spirit filled the Church, how much more does God now lead and guide the Church thru the Holy Spirit!  That guidance, that assurance that we walk with God, is vitally important for our “consecration in the truth,” for our knowing how Jesus wants us to live in the 21st century.  We have to deal with immensely complicated moral issues, don’t we?  What is right?  What is true?  We count on the Spirit to help us figure that out and to speak thru the apostolic ministry, i.e., the Pope and the bishops, as the Spirit did when Peter and the others were discovering who should take Judas’ place.

The 3d way that we “experience his abiding presence among us” is thru the love that the disciples of Jesus show toward everyone—not only toward one another but toward the whole world (consider, e.g., how Catholic Relief Services has leapt right into bringing aid to the victims of the earthquake in Nepal, a country that’s 81% Hindu, 9% Buddhist, 4% Muslim, only .2% Catholic.  We try to love everyone!  “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.  God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1 John 4:16).  We reveal that we remain in love by practicing love, that same love that Jesus demonstrated when he walked among us and taught us.

Students from Don Bosco School in Katmandu, Nepal,
bring food and other supplies to earthquake victims (ANS)
That love, of course, can’t be practiced only toward distant people like those of Nepal.  “Charity begins at home,” we say, and that means the 1st people whom we must love are our families and the people whose paths we cross every day.  If we don’t love them in practice, not just in words, then our providing relief to Nepal doesn’t mean a whole lot.

As the gospel reading indicates, love is consistent with truth.  In the gospels Jesus isn’t “lovey-dovey” and mushy; he called a spade a spade; he denounced injustice, hypocrisy, and hardness of heart; he called everyone to repentance (you and me, too, dear friends).  He reminded us that he doesn’t belong to the world, and neither can his followers belong to the world, behave as the world behaves, value what the world values, think as the world thinks (cf. John 17:14-16).  Rather, Jesus taught the truth about God—his universal love for everyone, for example—and showed God’s love for the least in society and forgave his enemies; and he invites us, challenges us, to “go and do likewise” (cf. Luke 10:37).

In his apostolic letter Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis wrote:  “True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others.  The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus said to the apostles, “By this will everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).  By that love shall we know that Jesus still abides among us.

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