17 May 20206 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
6 Easter
Sixth Sunday of Easter - A Cycle - John 14:15-21

A sailboat got caught in heavy seas. A rogue wave flipped the boat over. The heavy keel righted the boat, but there was heavy damage. A SOS brought the Coast Guard (CG). The seas were so rough the CG ship could not rescue the crew. So, it placed itself as close as it could to the sailboat. The CG protected the sailboat from the brunt of the 10 foot waves. Finally they made port.
The Holy Spirit plays the same relation to us. He takes the brunt of our troubles. He not only lives inside us but also He walks beside us. He brings us into port. (Unknown) Jesus in this Gospel told the apostles the extraordinary statement He would not leave them orphans. The setting was the Last Supper. He had announced His impending departure. The twelve were wiped out. The Christ had to lift His people off the floor and put them back on their soft cushions. He promised to continue His presence with them through a Helper. He would serve as their eternal Deus ex machina. The Helper would be the Holy Spirit.
Jesus in John's Gospel uses the Greek word menein forty times. It translates as abide or remain or stay. He remains with us through the Holy Spirit or Parakletos. Parakletos is a tough word to translate into English. A popular translation is Comforter. That term is traced to the fourteenth century English reformer, John Wycliff. (William Barclay) The word does a disservice to the Third Person of the Trinity. A comforter is understood as one who stands about waiting till we fall on our faces. Then he slips us chocolate with a sympathy card and tells us, "No problem." The Spirit will do that. But His role as Dutch uncle is but a small part of His assignment.
The Parakletos is one who will be right next to us on our journey as a companion, even a buddy. He will support us so that we seldom fall on our faces. He will be our Knight Protector. It is the Spirit who will lead the rescuing cavalry when we find ourselves surrounded by the bad guys. Much of our lives we looked for God in the momentous while He's been waiting in the moment. (Michael Yaconelli) Waiting patiently for us in the moment is the Holy Spirit.
Many college students I worked with said, "I just can't cope any longer." I told them that I found myself in similar situations often. But then I took ten, sipped a cup of hazelnut coffee, and prayed to the Parakletos. And, more often than not, what had been a stressful situation eased off and sometimes disappeared entirely. I told them I was falling back on that wonderful promise of Jesus, "I will not leave you orphans." In many areas, I am a Bible-belt fundamentalist. I hold Jesus to all His promises. I expect the Holy Spirit to deliver. He is a legal and healthy steroid. I am seldom disappointed.
But I did emphasize for the students that the Helper is not a party crasher. He waits for an invitation. Then He will come and ring our bell loudly with His elbow. His hands will be filled with gifts. They are outlined in the Scriptures. He leads us into truth (Jn 16:13.) He guarantees we are God's children (Rom 8:16). He helps us pray (Rom 8:26). He offers us hope (Rom 15:13). He empowers us to help other believers (1 Cor 12:4). He aids us to be another Christ (2 Cor 3:18). He gives us spiritual muscle (2 Cor 3:18). (Barclay) However, He expects that we will join our physical bulk, intellectual energy, and the gifts He has already given to us at Baptism and Confirmation to His new gifts.
The Parakletos is summed up well in these lyrical words. Eternally the Holy Spirit is love between the Father and the Son but historically the Holy Spirit is love between God and the world. (Daniel Durkin) The Church's historical record over two millennia shows that Jesus did not pull the legs of the apostles. He did not leave them orphans. Nor do people of faith accept that the promise has gone somewhere into limbo in the contemporary Church.
Moving about post-Christian Europe, I met many young Christians. They were working for the Gospel in almost hopeless situations. Yet, each of them assured me, "The Holy Spirit will think of something." None of them showed fear. They were serene. The Spirit had much to do with that serenity. They had not forgotten the promise of Jesus. They did not feel orphans. They are a "creative minority." (Benedict XVI) Their main advocate, the Holy Spirit, stands before them like an unconquerable mountain.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
6 Easter
Sixth Easter: God Hears Seventy-six Trombones

A number of years ago I received the great blessing of being asked to join one of our Jesu Caritas Groups.  Jesu Caritas is a priest support group usually made up of five to seven members and meeting once a month for prayer, reflection on the month and mutual support. We all need people to pray with and support us in our faith, particularly people who face similar challenges as we face.  I remember that one of the priests once shared how sometimes our spiritual lives are broken, but most of the time our spiritual lives are just messy.   Quite often, we go about things in the wrong way.  Quite often we approach God on our terms instead of his.  Quite often, we zigzag in our approach to our final union with Him.  God sees you also as you are, trying your best, but, sometimes, a bit messy in your spirituality.
I want to tell you about an old Broadway musical and movie.  It was called The Music Man.  The story takes place in rural America, a certain River City exactly, in the last decades of the nineteenth century.  The musical begins with a group of salesmen on a train lamenting the success of a scam artist, a so-called Professor Harold Hill.  Hill is a salesman who comes into a town and convinces the people that they have a problem and then he uses the perceived problem to sell his goods.  So Hill goes to River City, and tells the people that they have a big problem, right there in River City.  Their children are on the verge of moral corruption.  A pool hall has been constructed.  Pool halls were notorious in those days as places of corruption where bad language became the norm.  Their children in River City were learning bad things.  However, he, Professor Harold Hill, just happen to have a great solution to the problem.  The children needed something to do. And he had just the thing. He suggested that a healthy release for the kids would be to form a band.  In addition, it just so happened that he could supply the uniforms, music and instruments.  He even offered to teach music to the children.  He would make that offer, but usually after he was paid for the music, uniforms and instruments; he took off, headed out of town.  However, Harold Hill came upon an unforeseen situation in River City.  He fell in love, in love with the town librarian, a certain Marian.  That is right, Marian the librarian.  So he found himself saddled with having to teach music to the children, even though he really didn't know anything about music.  In the final scene of the musical, the children gave their first performance for their parents.  They were horrible.  It was a complete cacophony.  But the parents thought they were wonderful.  To their parents they were a fantastic marching band playing Seventy-six Trombones in the Big Parade. 
God is like those parents.  God hears the cacophony of our lives, but also sees the determined effort. The results may be messy, but the Loving Father joins the parents and saying, "Wasn't that just wonderful."
So, your marriage and family did not turn out as you wished.  So your career took a detour, two, or seven.  So you did not get into that college you wanted.  So we have made bad choices in the past that have left their impact on our lives now.  We all have situations that might lead us to think we are broken, but we are not broken.  We are just messy.  We may not be as grand as the ideal, but when we play the spiritual instruments of our lives, do you know what God hears?  God hears Seventy-six trombones, not a cacophony.
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.
Those words come from the First Letter of Peter, our second reading.  Peter was a buffoon who tried to walk out on water to Jesus but nearly drowned because he lost faith. Peter was a braggart who denied the Lord three times.  But Peter wanted to better.  He wanted to serve Jesus.  Eventually, through God's grace, he conquered his fears;  he controlled his emotions;  he became the first Vicar of Christ. 
We have a reason for hope.  That reason is Jesus Christ.  He loves us more than we can possibly imagine each of us.  He is not concerned with whether we produce the perfect result.  He is overjoyed simply in that we are trying to be the best people we can be.
We are at the end of this very strange school year.  Normally this would be the graduating season, but big commencement ceremonies will probably not take place.  Still, the young people preparing to move on to high school, or to college or to start their careers are full of enthusiasm.  The basic attitude of most of our children, Teens and young adults is a mixture or happiness, excitement, and unlimited potential. It is all infectious.  We see them and know that the world will progress as long as the young keep their enthusiasm for life.  They give us hope. We cannot look at our young, from little children on up, and give up on life.  Life is beautiful. Just look at these beautiful people about to take life by its horns. They know that they their dreams will come at the price of hard work, and they are ready for it.
But their enthusiasm for life will drain and our bright lights will become dark unless the young and unless we all, keep our focus on the reason for our hope, Jesus Christ.
How can we do this? With all the distractions in life, how do we keep our Christian focus?  We do this by dedicating ourselves to truth. That is what the Gospel reading tells us.
Usually when we think about truth, we consider it as simply not telling a lie.  Well, that is not sufficient.  Truth is more than the opposite of saying something that is false.  Truth is a way of life. Living the truth is not just avoiding telling lies, living the truth is avoiding living a lie.  Living the truth gives us the ability to live an authentic life. Here is what I mean by all this.  When we focus in on ourselves, we are living a lie.  When we make self-gratification the goal of our lives, we are living a lie, the lie that we can make ourselves happy.  When we focus on sacrificial love, we are living a genuine, true life.   When we commit ourselves to the sacrificial love of the Lord, we are living the profound Truth that happiness comes from Him alone.
Today's readings speak about joy.  There is the joy that new Christians in Samaria had after Philip baptized them.  There is the joy that St. Peter tells us is the reason for our hope.  There is the joy that Jesus says comes from the Love of the Father. 
We Christians are truly eternal optimists.  We may be dying of cancer, we may be in difficult family situations, strained relationships, financially hurting, what have you, but no matter what the situation, we know that if we are true to Christ, He will always be the source of our joy.
Our lives may be messy at times, but as long as we are trying our best, God does not hear a cacophony.  He hears Seventy-six trombones in the Big Parade.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
6 Easter
How Tremendous Are Your Deeds!

(May 17, 2020)
I offer this homily (and take off my hat) to any brothers who are celebrating Mass or live streaming during this crisis
Bottom line: For today it's enough to lift up our heads and say, "How tremendous are your deeds!" Yes! "He rules by his might forever."
Last Sunday we heard Jesus say: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God. Have faith also in me."
But why do we need faith? When all is said and done, don't we have to take care of our own problems? Aren't we the ones who have to defeat the coronavirus? As one of our politicians said: "The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Faith did not do that."
Bishop Robert Barron wrote an article why that governor may be expert on politics, his theology is weak. I encourage you to read the article or watch Bishop Barron's video. For my part I'd like to share a personal anecdote and then highlight key Scriptures from this Sunday.
Here's the anecdote: When I visited my brother last week, I was amazed my brother had baked a couple loaves of bread. I toasted a slice and put some butter on it. It was quite good. "Louie," I said, "how did you do it?"
My brother explained that our niece had bought him one of those bread making devices. He assembled the ingredients and folded them together. Now, suppose I were to ask my brother for a list of the ingredients and he were to say: "You need flour, oil, yeast, God, sugar and an oven." Well, I think you would see that God doesn't really belong on that list. He transcends all the ingredients and he makes them possible. God also inspired our niece in her act of care and gave my brother the intelligence and patience to carry out the project. God isn't one more ingredient. He's the source, the one who sustains all things and brings them to completion.
So regarding the coronavirus, God isn't someone we call upon when everything else fails. He is that, of course, but we need to recognize his role at every step and to call on him at all times. Our Psalm says to God, "How tremendous are your deeds!" Then it adds, "He rules by his might forever." We are right to see God at extraordinary moments: When matter emerges from nothing, when life emerges from matter, when human consciousness emerges from life. But the truth is that God is involved at every step of the process. He under-girds the whole show and is constantly pulling it forward. We can look at the night sky or at a beautiful flower or at a newborn child and say, "How tremendous are your deeds!"
Besides under-girding creation, God under-girds our lives. As Isaiah says, "You have accomplished all that we have done." (26:12) For sure we did it, but ultimately God gets the credit. When we read the Bible it's like pulling back the curtain and recognizing what's really going on.
Now, we can't ascribe literally everything to God. The fact is you and I turn away from God. We do horrible things to each other - and we bring God's judgment. We saw that last week with the sin of slavery and how Lincoln discerned God's judgment in the Civil War that came on us.
We're in a pretty bad situation today with the coronavirus and the worldwide devastation that has resulted. If we are really thinking, this pandemic should humble our pride. It's not some asteroid or tsunami. It's not some bug, heck, it's not even alive. Yet it has brought us down. We are fragile creatures thrown into a world with dangers on every side. And the dangers from the physical world are like nothing compared to the spiritual dangers that threaten us. It sometimes seems we are on our own in what is ultimately a losing battle. But that is not the case. God does not leave us orphans. We will see more next week as we celebrate Jesus' ascension to the Father's right hand.
For today it's enough to lift up our heads and say, "How tremendous are your deeds!" Yes! "He rules by his might forever." Amen.

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
6 Easter
What wonderful soothing words Jesus speaks to his disciples: I will not leave you orphans. I won't let you down, I won't go away never to return. No, I will be with you. Thus, we move forward in our consideration of the Easter Mystery. We move from the contemplation of Christ's appearances after the resurrection over the last few Sundays to a meditation on the continued presence of Christ in the Church through the Holy Spirit.
It is all very well for us to believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, to believe that through his resurrection he brought about our salvation but that after the Ascension he left us to it and it is up to us to see if we can make the best of it. No, we have not been left orphans we have the Holy Spirit in our midst, leading, guiding and inspiring us.
'You know the Spirit because he is with you, he is in you' These are the words of Jesus in today's Gospel. They are words we should take seriously. Yet many of us feel as though we have no contact with the Holy Spirit, that he is something for others, they feel just like spiritual orphans. They were taught the catechism and received their first communion and confirmation at the appropriate time and in their youth felt very religious and holy. But now in adulthood things have become routine and listless. Yes, they receive the sacraments regularly but God seems far away.
It often appears to them as though there is another type of Christian, one who is alive in the Spirit, one who sees the hand of God in all things, is guided by him in all that they do and experiences the power and love of God in a deep life of prayer. But the feeling is that I am not this type of Christian because I feel more like a spiritual orphan.
See if these descriptions fit you: I feel listless in my prayer life; even though I rarely miss a Sunday it is a struggle to go to mass; although I was close to him once I now feel that God is far away; I try to pray regularly but nowadays I experience many distractions; I am often envious of other Catholics who seem to find faith easy; I feel sad and anxious that I may be falling away from the faith I once loved so much.
There is a name for this phenomenon: it is called the dark night of the soul. And you may be surprised because it generally implies that those who experience it are some way advanced on their personal spiritual journey.
St Teresa of Avila, the great mystical teacher is often quoted for saying to God, 'No wonder you have so few friends when you treat them so badly.' This is often what God appears to do. It is as if he has got us off to a good start in childhood and then when we reach adulthood he abandons us.
It is said that the other St Teresa, St Teresa of the Child Jesus, experienced not a glimmer of light from God once she entered her Carmel in Lisieux. She often prayed for a sign of God's presence but received absolutely nothing. We consider her to be one of the really great saints. Why? Because despite this lack of any evidence of God's love she continued doggedly to pray constantly and to turn her every action into a prayer. She is regarded as having reached the very heights of the spiritual life.
Why does the Lord say, 'I will not leave you orphans' and then appear so distant? I think the answer is put well in many old songs: absence makes the heart grow fonder.
He loves us deeply and he realises that at a very deep level of our being we love him. He wants to increase and develop the love we have for him. If he were to reveal himself to us too soon we would not grow, we would not be able to be heroic in expressing our love for him.
He does not leave us at all, of course. He has given us his Spirit, but his Spirit does not dominate our lives, he is there in a very gentle way prompting our actions, keeping us faithful, helping us to hang on in there even though God seems so far away.
God does this so that we can grow in love, so that it can be stretched to its limits. He gives us these difficulties so that we can overcome them and grow to our full stature in the spiritual life. He does it so that there can be no suggestion that he has won us over to himself by showing us his glory, so that it is certain that our love for him is a totally free act.
If you experience any of those things I mentioned, like listlessness in prayer, or feeling that God is distant, be reassured. Be reassured that you are living the life of the Spirit and that you are advanced on this journey and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The path you are treading is a well worn one and there are many guides, but the best guide is the one within you, the Holy Spirit poured out on you in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
You may have read the book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera, it is set in Colombia in the last century. In it one of the main characters when he is twenty years of age falls in love with a beautiful woman. She is not of his class and moreover she is already engaged to a doctor. She dallies with him, rather flattered to have two men in love with her at the same time, but she is single minded and sticks to her commitment to marry her betrothed.
Our friend won't take no for an answer. He serenades her, writes to her constantly and calls on her with wonderful presents. In due course she is married, she lives the life of a married woman and has nothing to do with him. His letters remain unopened and his presents are returned. He persists in this behaviour for the whole of his life, but his love is unrequited. Even when her husband dies she denies him.
Until one day in her early eighties her eyes are opened to his virtues and she falls in love with him and they are married. Sixty years of unrequited love, during which his love endured and grew until it blossomed in old age. Sixty years of distance and seeming rejection. Time which would have been considered wasted by most people but with hindsight can only be regarded as truly heroic and without parallel.
Except of course if we find a parallel in our own lives.

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