2 May 20215 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
5 Easter

Fifth Sunday of Easter - Cycle B - John 15:1-8

Michelangelo enters his studio. He examined the canvases of his pupils. A few he complimented. He advised some to keep their day jobs. Finally he came to his star disciple. The man was working on a small canvas. Michelangelo took up a brush. Across the picture, he wrote the Latin word "amplius." It means "larger." The maestro felt his pupil was playing it safe. He was not working up to capacity. He wanted him to start all over again. The artist did and he painted an exquisite canvas.

Psychiatrists argue we leave this world with large portions of our brains woefully undeveloped. But there is no argument that this is entirely true of our spirits. Spiritually we are capable of being more interesting Christians than we are. What we lack is boldness. Had we chutzpa, we could become spiritual masterpieces. Jesus must often be tempted to write the word "amplius" over the lives of so many. We are good as far as we have gone. But we have not gone far enough. Our spiritual canvases are too small. We are capable of so much more in the spiritual life. The lives of our spirits need constant repainting. The Teacher would tell us the larger canvases and brushes that we need are sitting on the benches before us. They are ours for the taking. "The greatest tragedy," wrote Leon Bloy, "is that each of us is not a saint." Is there anyone who thinks Christ would disagree with that judgment? Saints, we are told, make Jesus real. The same Christ who in today's Gospel says, "...every branch that does bear fruit He prunes to make it bear even more." Our limited vision, says Christ, needs constant updating.

But He does not tell us to grow fruit. In five verses, He tells us eight times to abide in Him. That's the secret.

A saint said, 'Aim for the stars and you at least reach the mountain. But aim only for the mountain and you never get out of the mud." The goals of many of us are too limited. We remain spiritual pygmies. Jesus tells us, "Launch out into the deep."

Too often we attempt to go it alone in the spiritual life. This is not brightness personified. Take the geese for openers. Check them in flight. You will notice they fly in splendid formation. Centuries ago they learned the hard way that they could fly more easily and at greater distances as a group. We would do much better at our faith if we acted in concert with other believers. Think of the use of spiritual directors, reading of the spiritual masters, retreats, days of recollection, etc.

A second trick that the clever geese have to teach us is about leadership. When the leader of the famous "V" formation gets tired from fighting the strong headwinds, he or she drops back for a breather. Immediately, another goose comes forward to lead the pack. How much more effective our parish and we as Catholics would be if everyone carried his or her share of the burdens. As the geese would be the first to tell us, the age-old cry "Let George do it!" is not good enough. There are some of you reading these lines who have great contributions in leadership to offer the Nazarene. You must come forward and take risks. Christ needs you and wants you. Hey, so do we.

But the geese have more to teach us. They encourage and support each other. When they fly in their formations, they honk away. This is especially true if they fly through storms. The honking keeps the group in tight formation and serves as a beacon for strays. Would that we might learn to support and encourage one another - but especially our strays. Mark Twain reminds us encouragement is oxygen for the soul. He said he could live for a month on one good compliment.

We all believe in booster shots to protect us against physical diseases. Why then do we not indulge in booster words? They are the compliments that will pick up the spirits of others.

We need one another's help. The Christian life, said one master, isn't hard to live. It's impossible. Only one person has pulled it off - Jesus. But He has sent the Holy Spirit to help us. The master reminds us the Holy Spirit can make a great finish out of a slow start. He can make us run well even in mud.

Some misguided strays say, "I'd be a hypocrite if I started going to church again." To them Fulton Sheen said, "Come back. There's always room for one more."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
5 Easter

Fifth Sunday of Easter: Mary and Molly and the Experience of Christ

Mary tried too hard, but she didn’t try hard enough. Let me explain. Mary grew up in a Catholic family that took their faith very seriously. Only sickness kept them from Mass. They even said bedtime prayers together most nights, calling them family night prayers when the kids got older. Mary was quite active in the Youth Group when she was in high school. She joined the campus ministry program in college. But during her sophomore year she found herself too busy to be a regular attendee at Mass. By her senior year, the only time she went to Mass, or prayed at all, was when she was home.

Six months out of college, Mary finally got a job in her field. She always wanted to help others, make a difference in people’s life, so she had studied to be a social worker. After a number of unsuccessful interviews, an agency in a big city up north hired her to work the phones and occasionally visit some of the elderly poor confined to apartments in the city. It wasn’t exactly what Mary trained for, four days a week she sat in an office calling fifty clients, making sure they had food, heat, took their medicine, arranging transportation to the doctor, etc. One day a week, though, she was able to leave the office and visit the people. With fifty clients, she only could see people once a month, but it was something. It was also a day she enjoyed. 

Except when she had to visit Molly McPherson. Molly was not nice. In fact she was downright nasty and sometimes even rude. The first time Mary visited, Molly complained, “They send me a kid with her pretty smile and empty head and think that I should be pleased. And then you say you can’t stay too long because you have others to see. Well, don’t bother with me. I didn’t ask you to come.” That was how the relationship started. It got worse. It became an absolute struggle for Mary to knock on Molly’s door.

Mary went home for Thanksgiving and was able to get an appointment to speak with her pastor. She told him about her problems with Molly. She went on an on. Finally, she stopped and waited for his response. “So, Mary, how active are you in the faith when you are not home?” he asked. “Do you pray every day? Do you go to Mass every week?”

“Typical priest,” Mary thought. “He’s missing the whole point why I’m here.” So she answered, “I don’t know what that has to do with this, but I’m still looking for a Church.”

“It has everything to do with this, Mary,” the priest responded, “how do you expect to bring the love of Christ to others if you are not overflowing with it yourself? You see, Mary, you are trying hard, but you are not trying hard enough. In some ways you are doing too much, thinking that you can do it all yourself. You need to be thoroughly united to Christ and then let Him to the work.”

Mary didn’t expect to get that sort of a talking to, but she did take the priest seriously. She started praying every day, and found a parish near her apartment. Actually, it was just down the block, but she never bothered to notice it. She went back to her younger days, and became active there, lectoring at 

Sunday Mass.

One day at the end of January the temperature had raised up to 45 degrees. Now that might seem cold to us Floridians, but when you are living in 20 to 30 degree temperature for months, 45 degrees feels like summer. They call this the January thaw. Mary visited Molly and decided to use the warmer weather to try to get off on a pleasant foot. “It sure is nice outside, Molly. Why don’t you take a stroll before winter kicks in again. I’ll walk with you.” That just started Molly up again. “You think that just because you have a coat and scarf and gloves, that everyone can go outside. I haven’t been out since September. And here’s why.” Then Molly took out a coat that was so threadbare it couldn’t even serve much use as a blanket. Molly then hissed, “Why don’t you just go back to your fantasy land. I’ve had enough of you for today.” As I said, Molly was not nice. Mary ran to the Church in tears and asked God to help her not be bitter to the elderly lady.

The next day was Mary’s pay day, a whole $800. She could barely pay her rent and food out of that. Mary cashed her check and then she had a wonderful thought. She still had a little graduation money in the bank for emergencies. She could use some of that to get by. Mary thought about Molly. She put $200 in an envelope, and sent it anonymously to the bitter old lady with a note, “Please buy yourself a winter coat.” A few days later the agency received a letter addressed to young Mary. The letter contained $50 and read, “I know that you must have sent me the money, because no one else knew about my coat. I’m sorry for being so mean. I was able to find a coat for $150. Please give the other $50 to someone else who has needs. Looking forward to your next visit, Love, Molly.”

Mary thought that Molly could have used that extra $50 herself. She also thought that Molly could have continued her mean streak, but instead she wanted to be generous to someone. Mary realized that Christ had indeed worked on Molly. Molly had been touched by the love of Christ. Molly now felt the love of Christ in her own life. Now this love was flowing through her and needed to touch someone else. Molly wanted someone else to have that $50.

We hear the message of the vine and the branches every year at Easter time. It seems so obvious to us that we need to be united to Christ to bring him to others, but then we get so busy in doing things for our family, our spouses, or others, that we forget where the real Power of Love comes from. Like Mary, we try too hard, but we don’t try hard enough. Instead of strengthening our union with Christ and letting Him work though us, we go about a myriad of tasks without spending time on the work that really matters, growing in the love of Christ. We have God’s life, God’s love within us. When we are united to this love, even the mean old Molly’s of the world, or the mean old Molly’s of our families, will come in contact with the Love of Christ. And once the Love of Christ flows into them, it will flow through them to others.

What really matters in our lives? Is it the way others treat us? Often that motivates us to return negative for negative. But what others say and do is really secondary to what really matters in life. What matters is the Love of Christ that we have been empowered to make real in the world. When that love becomes our focus, then we really don’t care about ourselves. We just want others to experience this love. 

During Easter time we celebrate the gift of the Lord’s life we received at Baptism. We need to be determined to strengthen this life within us. We need to be more faithful, more prayerful. We need to try harder in our prayer life. That is how we are called to bring God’s love to others.

He is the vine, we are the branches.

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
4 Easter
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