19 May 20195 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
5 Easter
John 13:31-35

Do you remember the tale of the dreadful accident on the battleship USS Iowa. It occurred in the spring of 1989. Forty seven young men were killed in a still unexplained explosion in a gun turret. There is much tragedy in the sad story. But also one can find strong threads of glory. The storyteller reminds us the glory belongs, paradoxically perhaps, not to the survivors but to the casualties. The heroes were not the men who may have kept the battleship afloat after the accident. Rather, the heroes were the sailors who died.

They shall ever be numbered among the Navy's honored dead. Writes the poet, "They shall not grow old...At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them."

As it was for these young men, so it was for Jesus. So can it be for you and me if of course we have spiritual courage and discipline.

Today's Gospel takes us back to the Last Supper. We listen to the opening strains of the Teacher's last talk with His closest followers.

If you listen even with your hearing aid turned down to low, you will detect no anxiety and no fears in the Christ. Clearly He is not running scared. This is remarkable. Remember He knows of the impending betrayal of one of His own. He sees His fast approaching crucifixion with its dreadful pain. The Teacher is circled in majesty. He is the original Mr Cool. He does not require blood pressure pills. This is not a prisoner sitting in a death cell ready to eat the traditional last meal. Rather, He is a King hosting a sumptuous victory banquet.

Let me support my statement with irrefutable proof. In the opening two sentences of today's Gospel, you will find the word glory mentioned an extraordinary five times. Does this sound like a Man who feels He is a loser? Quite the contrary! You would not be surprised to discover this Host pouring aged Napoleon brandy in Baccarat snifters for each of the apostles. Then He would pass around a box of the finest Havanas. No doubt, He would say, "Take a second one for the celebration Sunday."

One scholar sums up the situation succinctly. In John's Gospel, the passion, death, and resurrection of the Teacher are not told as distinct tales. Rather, they are part and parcel of one large story. And the thought that runs throughout the narration is supreme glory.

The greatest glory in life, says William Barclay, is glory which comes from sacrifice. Following long-standing traditions, the crew members of the USS Iowa will come together for regular reunions. Their first toast will not be to the survivors but always to the fallen forty seven. Whenever we Catholics and Christians come together as today, we salute not the apostles who survived that Good Friday but our Leader who sacrificed Himself for us.

John argues today that the more one puts out, the more one will receive in turn. Thus, the generous giver happily finds himself the subject of Bunyan's riddle, "The more he threw away, the more he had."

For example, who was the hero of Charles Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities? The beautiful Lucie Manette or Sydney Carton who allowed himself to be guillotined to insure that she might live a life of bliss? Most would answer Mr Carton.

Thus, if you and I can somehow break out of the confining envelope of our own selfishness, if we stop hoarding our time, money, and energy, the bigger will the payoff be for our own Christian selves.

If we take this Gospel message with the seriousness that John intended, we might well become different men and women.

When you grow weary, bring to mind the tested advice of William Ward. "When we are unable, God is able. When we are insufficient, God is sufficient. When we are filled with fear, God is always near."

Reflect daily on the dictum which advises Christianity is not just Christ in you but Christ living His life through you. It goes on to say our love for Christ should be faith with working clothes on, So, we must tell everyone about Someone who can save anyone.

Your sacrifices will someday bring you much glory. That is both the teaching of history as well as a chief principle in life.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
5 Easter
Fifth Sunday of Easter: Behold, I Make All Things New

It was extraordinary. No one could have ever expected it to happen. People whom the Jewish people normally referred to as the dogs, the gentiles, were listening to the preaching of Jewish missionaries and were flocking to become members of the New Way, the Way of Jesus Christ. So many people throughout the various lands were becoming Christians that Paul and Barnabas had to establish Christian communities in these foreign lands. They called each of these communities Churches, not just referring to the building but to the people united in the New Way. Extraordinary. The gentiles were receiving the Word of God and responding. This was beyond the comprehension of the ancient Hebrews. They were the Chosen People. How could others also receive God's choice? Who would have thought? When Paul and Barnabas reported all this to the Christian Community of Antioch, they were convinced that God had done this. He had called the gentiles to himself. The world was being transformed. It's all new.

"Behold, I make all things New," the One who sits on the Throne said in the second reading from the Book of Revelations. The old order has passed away. There will be a new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem.

This theme of newness is continued in today's Gospel where Jesus says, "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

There is to be a new relationship with God, and a new relationship with each other.

Who do we think that we are that we can just talk to the Almighty Creator of the Universe every day, all day? The young mother with two screaming children and one more getting into some sort of trouble in the house, prays, "Lord, get me through this." The woman or man in business fighting to be honest when he or she is surrounded by so many who cheat on their jobs, and on the spouses, prays, "Keep me faithful, Lord." The Teen who is confronted daily with the temptation to give in to what so many others are doing simply to be accepted by the in-crowd says, "Lord, help me to make good choices." Who do we think that we are that we can just talk to God all day and that He will hear us and respond to us? Who do we think we are? We are who He made us to be. We are His Daughters and Sons. Daughters of God, Sons of God, we are sacred, holy to God. He loves us as a Father loves his children. Of course we can talk to Him all day. And just as good parents love it when their children confide in them, God loves us when we confide in Him.

Over 27 years ago when then Bishop John Clement Favalora told me that he needed me to leave the parish I founded, St. Matthew in Largo, and return to my family at St. Ignatius as their pastor, one of the many concerns that I had was that I would not be good enough for the people of Fr. John LaTondress' parish. There were a lot of holy people up there. Would I be good enough for them? The answer was, "Of course not." At least, not on my own. None of us are ever good enough on our own for the various ways that God calls us to serve Him. I know that there are many Moms and Dads here who wonder if they are good enough to lead their children to God. I know there are many Moms and Dads here who wonder if they are good enough to create a holy home. But God, who has made all things new, also makes us good enough to do His work, or, in the very least, cleans up the mess we make so we can try again. Let me re-iterate: folks, we all feel that we are not good enough. But God makes us good enough. He makes us better than we are, infinitely better than we are. He makes all things new.

Last summer I spent a week, as I do every summer, being a priest at one of the Life Teen Retreat Camps. Along with leading liturgies, what the priests at the camp mostly do is hear confessions, all day every day. On Friday, at the end of the camp week, I was on my way to our final staff meeting, when a Teen stopped me and asked if she could go to confession. So, I ended up getting to the meeting late. Something was very clear to me, though. When I got to the meeting and apologized for being late, I said that I was stopped by a saint. And that is how I view the Teens as well as all of you. Now, if a saint has to go to confession is he or she still a saint? Absolutely. A saint is someone who is set aside, made holy for the Lord. We have all been set aside for the Lord. That is why St. Paul routinely refers to the members of the Christian communities as saints. We are all saints. That is part of the newness of Easter, of Jesus Christ.

Here is something else that is new: there is a new way of living experienced in the way we Christians treat each other and reach out to those in the world around us. "This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." The greatest proof of our faith is not a theological or philosophical argument that can be made to defend the faith or some individual dogma, or belief of the faith. The greatest proof of our faith is found in the way we treat each other and the way that we reach out to all others. The vast majority of the people whom I have witnessed coming into the faith, have done so because they want to be part of this Community of Love. The Eucharist is certainly a great draw for them because they want to share this special presence of God with the Catholic community, but the sacramental presence only makes sense to them when they experience the sacrificial love of the Lord in the way that Christians treat each other. Before he gave them the Eucharist, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and then told them to do the same thing. People experience others being kind, loving and good and say, "I want to be part of that." This type of love is not the way of the world. It is the Way of Jesus Christ, the Way of the One who has made all things new.

Our faith is ever ancient and ever new. It began 2,000 years ago when the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son, empowered the disciples on Pentecost Sunday to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the whole world. It is renewed every time each of us renews our relationship with God and lives this relationship in the way we treat others.

"See, I make all things new." Thank you, Lord, for making us your Daughters and Sons. Thank you, Lord, for making us sacred, holy. Thank you, Lord, for leading us to make your love real in the world by loving one another. Thank you, Lord, for Easter. Thank you, Lord, for making all things new.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
5 Easter
The Only Cure for Fainting Faith

Bottom line: "The Eucharist sustains us in face of hardship and discouragement. 'The only cure for sagging or fainting faith,' Tolkien says, 'is Communion.'"

You and I are on a journey - and we have a goal. As John tells us in the Book of Revelation we are headed to, "the holy city, a new Jerusalem". In that New Jerusalem, God will wipe away every tear, no more mourning or death. The old has passed away. We hear God declare, "Behold, I make all things new."

So that's our goal - the New Jerusalem, the holy city. To get to that goal St. Paul tells us that we have to face tribulation. There's no smooth road to the New Jerusalem. "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships," says Paul, "to enter the kingdom of God."

The question this Sunday is: What sustains us in the journey? To reach the New Jerusalem, God gives us a special food. A famous story can help understand the food God gives us. Some of you have read The Lord of the Rings or seen the movie. It's about a journey. Frodo, accompanied by Samwise, leaves his home, the Shire, to take the evil ring to Mordor, Mount Doom. There, a consuming fire can destroy the one ring. The journey seems impossible - so many obstacles, vicious opposition and suffering. What sustains Frodo and Sam on the journey? You probably remember - a wonderful bread called Lembos. A small piece gives renewed energy and strength.

So it is for us. Like the Elves gave the hobbits Lembos, God gives us a wondrous bread. It sustains us as the Lembos sustained Frodo and Sam. In a few minutes some people will bring some unleavened bread to the altar. I will then pray over the bread and wine. I will ask God to send the Holy Spirit so the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. When you receive this Bread, it unites you intimately with Jesus - and with his Church which has two dimensions: the visible Church governed by Pope Francis and the invisible Church. As we hear in the Eucharistic Prayer, the invisible Church includes Mary our Mother, St. Joseph, the Apostles, together with all the saints and angels.

This Bread unites us with Jesus and his Church, visible and invisible. It sustains us in our hardships. J.R.R. Tolkien - the author of Lord of the Rings - speaks about this Sacred Bread, the Eucharist. He actually received Communion daily. When his son was struggling with his faith, Tolkien wrote: "Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament....There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth..."

Tolkien describes how the Eucharist helps us in face of hardship and discouragement. "The only cure for sagging or fainting faith," he says, "is Communion."

During Easter time we are following Jesus' two-step program. First: faith, an act of trust in Jesus. Second, touch his Body. Connect with Jesus in a physical material way. I invite you to take home this word from Tolkien: The only cure for fainting faith is Communion. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
5 Easter

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
5 Easter
Fifth Sunday of Easter

This Sunday the Church invites us to look back at the Last Supper to the words Jesus spoke to the Apostles after Judas had left the room. The words he speaks to them are words of tenderness and affection. He calls them little children; an expression which has a very gentle and endearing tone to it. Presumably he means that in comparison to his own complete knowledge of how things really are the Apostles only have a hesitant and partial knowledge of what is actually going on.

This concept of being like innocent little children in the face of an experienced adult is a good analogy for our relationship with God. We are like children who are only beginning to understand how things really are and who remain in a position of dependency; while God is like the parent who has complete knowledge of the world and who protects his children and gradually unfolds the world to them.

In these verses of scripture Jesus talks about love. In the context of his great love for them he tells the Apostles that they should love one another and points out that it is the depth of their love for one another which will allow all the other people in the world to recognise that they are his disciples.

Here we are at the Last Supper, at the most crucial point in the whole story of salvation, and Christ uses this most important occasion to stress to his Apostles that love is what he is all about. As Julian of Norwich so beautifully expressed it, 'Love was his meaning.'

If we are to understand anything at all about God then we must understand that his driving force is nothing else other than love. Love is what God is all about and there could be no greater sign of this than the fact that Christ gave his life on the Cross of Calvary for our salvation.

This is not any merely human love; this is not emotional sentimentality; this is not attraction or infatuation. No, this is love in its truest and deepest and fullest sense. Our human love can only ever be a faint shadow of the tremendousness of God's love. If we could only begin to appreciate just what love means to God it would take us far beyond anything we could possibly comprehend.

For us love means freely giving our whole selves to another, and this finds its best expression in marriage where we normally find the couple living their lives in mutual and lasting fidelity to each other. But for God, love, which finds its source in the great mystery of the Trinity, goes far beyond what the human mind can comprehend. It is deeper, wider, vaster that anything that we could possibly understand.

This means that it is only by living lives wholly committed to love that we can ever grow in our appreciation and knowledge of God. It is only by deeply devoting ourselves to our partners in marriage and by finding ways to express our love for the whole of humanity that we can ever even begin to understand what Christ means when he talks about love.

Christ tells his Apostles at the Last Supper that it is only by demonstrating their love for each other that outsiders will begin to come to know and appreciate God. He tells them that this is the best way that they can preach the Gospel. Not to use words but simply to love one another. This is Good News because we know that it is only in living lives of love that we can ever find our true fulfilment in life.

We see around us people who are bitter and twisted, people who are turned in on themselves, people who are materialistic and superficial, people who are violent or nasty. There are plenty of people like this living all around us. We see such people and instinctively we realise that to live our lives in these ways would mean that we were heading for disaster.

We understand very well that the only wholesome way of living is given to us in the pages of the New Testament and through the words of Jesus. We recognise that it is only by pursuing such things as goodness, truth and beauty that we can live truly worthy lives; lives which bring real fulfilment and satisfaction.

The obvious conclusion for anyone who takes the words of Jesus seriously is that if we want to be his followers then we have to acquire the virtues. Among the virtues we find things such as kindness, generosity, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, patience, perseverance, courage and so on.

In theological terms charity, which is another word for love, is the greatest of the virtues and anyone who regards themselves as a Christian would assiduously acquire this virtue. The virtue of love has two aspects: the love of God and the love of man which includes the love of neighbour and oneself. We therefore need to cultivate this virtue of love in these two areas. Most obviously the best way to express and deepen our love for God is to pray. This provides us with an open line of communication between us and God.

A good way to think about the various aspects of prayer is to compare it with how we would communicate with a lover. The person in love expresses a whole range of attitudes towards their beloved. They praise the one they love, they tell them how grateful they are to even know them, they immediately apologise for every trivial offence they may have caused, they listen carefully to them, they are constantly offering gifts and so on. In relation to our communication with God all these things constitute the various aspects of prayer.

In fact you can see all these different types of prayer in the mass. At the Penitential Rite we say sorry, at the Readings we listen, at the Intercessions we make requests, at the Offertory we present gifts, in the Eucharistic Prayer we offer praise and thanks, and the Communion becomes a consummation of all that went before.

We should then think of the Mass as a microcosm of our entire relationship with God, for all the modes of our communication with him are present in it. It is the best place therefore to express our love for God and, of course, also the best place to deepen our relationship with him.

By constantly celebrating the Mass, by participating in the Eucharist, we are able to deepen, widen, strengthen and open up our relationship with the supreme being in the most intimate way imaginable.
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