Homily for Sunday, 28 April 2013
5th Sunday of Easter: Acts 14:21-27. Apoc 21:1-5. Jn 13:31-32, 34-35.
This 5th Sunday of Easter is calling us to be people of hope and love that the world can see. Therein will the risen Christ be seen. It's the 5th of 7 Sundays between Easter and Pentecost.
Christ died on the Cross, but the Good News doesn't stop there. Rather, it begins there! We all have problems, but we're happy because God will make all things new (Apoc 21). He could even make of us a decent bunch of Christians! From a bunch of fishermen, He forms Apostles. From a persecuter of Christians (Saul), He forms a St Paul! And from us, what will He form? It's up to us. On their initial missions, Paul and company bear fruit... as you may, the first time you openly tell someone of your faith – maybe even helping the Church in preaching! And of course it needn't be alone. Note that it's along with Barnabas that St Paul evangelises Antioch. The Bible doesn't hide the fact that they had problems (Acts 14:22), but they were happy! The resurrection of Love overcomes problems! If we face up to them with faith, hope and love. then we'll make it into Heaven with Jesus. We'll enjoy the 'new heaven and the new earth' (Apoc 21).
But will there be a new missionary Christian today? There will if we open up to the call! The image of the bride preparing for her wedding makes me think of the profession of 'vows' of us missionaries. Jesus is asking us today if we live our vows as a cold fulfillment of regulations, or with a loving heart that's off to the wedding? The Gospel today describes how to dress-up well: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). Missionaries often have to prepare their preaching and study theology, but it's important that the motivation not be just to fulfill rules or to give people a good impression, but in order to truly love God. Let's not base our Christianity on superficial appearances. We can all take communion at mass today with hearts like people getting married. Then we'll love all people generously, and Jesus says “they'll know then, that you're my disciples”. Missionaries try to love by preparing preaching, but all acts of love in themselves, in their many different forms, are forms of 'preaching'.
Hopefully, our hearts 'convert' this Easter season. What we call 'conversion', isn't just about seeing our mistakes in the past, but about seeing the potential we have for doing well in the future. I can't think of any more beautiful plan in life than to become living replicas of Christ (male and female – young and old), and that's precisely the plan to which He calls us! When Saint Agustin was imagining how the 'devil' must feel to see us coming back to Life after conversion, he imagined the devil regretting having got us to sin in the first place! One thing is to realise that God created you, and another is to appreciate that he intends to continue his work. Appreciate and support it. Maybe you've become accustomed to many things in life and you've closed the door to changes, but God keeps 'planting his seed of love'. I think that St Peter writes well for anyone who lives Easter as if it were the first time: 'You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed.' (1 Pt 1:23).
So let's not just ask God for forgiveness of our past faults but for a new beginning of our lives from here on. The place in which Christ wants to live now, is in us! I like the example of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb. A young lab helper broke the first bulb and Edison made a second. Then in order to have it carried, he asked the same helper! Perhaps he reckoned that the guy would be extra-carefull because he realised his first mistake. I like that as an example to describe the way Christ asks us all to carry his Life inside of us in spite of past mistakes that we remembered on Good Friday.
It's natural for us to doubt that we'd be able to engender Christ, but that's O.K.. From that humble position, we realise that it's Christ himself who intends to do the engendering through us! He just wants us to participate and thereby we're opening the door for Him! To answer the call is challenging and needs effort, but at the end of the day, the words of Jesus are true: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Mt 11:28).
The founder of our Community says that as a 14 year old, he wasn't sure of what he wanted for life but he was pretty sure of what he didn't want: to be a priest! But the day he realised that the cross wasn't just another statue and the sacristy isn't just a fancy box, things changed. He meditated how Jesus gave his life volunterily. It's a cry of love that moves our hearts. But it doesn't end in Jerusalem many years ago. The image of the crucified Christ and the Eucharist in a box is like a call to us: “Any chance you'd let me use your lives now?”.
So many in the world are enjoying nice things, but maybe they're really only half living. The call of Christ is to live life to the full. It involves curing our vision – our vision of others as brothers and sisters who need Love and our vision of ourselves as people who can help. The sister of Thomas Aquinas asked him "What do we need to do to be 'saints'?", and he replied: “You need to want it”! Do you really want it?
This brings challenges, but I like what Martin Luther King said in 1963: “If a man hasn't discovered something for which he will die, then he isn't fit to live.”. On the cross Jesus said “I'm thirsty” – can you recognise Him saying “I'm thirsty for you”?! The 'good thief' on the cross asked Jesus “Please remember me when you come into your kingdom”. I think Christ is asking us all back: “Please remember me when you get back to your life in the world”. The marvel is that He calls us precisely so that we'll make it up to his kingdom!
It's not a question of deserving the call of Christ out of some kind of sanctity in your life up to now. It's a question of lifting yourself up now and beginning anew. Saul of Tarsis, who became St Paul, is a good example. He had been a leader of the Jews persecuting Christians – as the Bible says of St Stephen being led away: 'They threw Stephen out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul' (Acts 7:58). And that Saul, later on, became St Paul!
It's good to be ambitious in life, but only God really knows how high we can climb and how far we can reach. Abraham really got going at the age of 65! So it's worth paying attention to God's plans. And the more we pay attention, the more He lets us know! That's where a life begins which will never die.
Allow Christ to rise in you! We'll make it to eternal happiness together. Happy Easter!