Homily for May 6, V Sunday of Easter
For the past few days, I have been mulling over these readings in order to prepare my homily for this weekend. I came up with a few ideas, but despite re-reading them over and over, and taking them to prayer, by Saturday morning, I still had writer’s block. So, I did what many people of my generation probably do when they are not making progress on something: I started browsing the internet. (I’m not sure if that’s really a symptom, or a cause, but let’s not go there for now…) I checked the news, I looked at posts on Facebook, and so forth.
As I did this, something struck me: a very large proportion of the posts, articles, and comments on the internet, are dedicated to gossip and criticism, either finding morbid entertainment in other people’s suffering or harshly criticizing other people’s actions, words, or beliefs. And this is not only true on the internet; what appears online is a reflection of what is in print, on our lips, and in our minds and hearts. Humanity has a deep-rooted tendency to negativity. Perhaps this is part of what St Paul was facing when the first reading says he debated with the Hellenists who then “tried to kill him.”
The fact is, we are faced with a real challenge if we want to be truly Christian. As St. John tells us in the Gospel and in the first reading, we who believe in Jesus Christ, are called to love God and one another. That is the only way to keep our connection with Jesus, to “remain in Him”. If we are united to Him, He gives us His Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Love, the love of God the Father and God the Son, which is so real and powerful it is a Person. If we truly have that love in us, it will show itself in all aspects of our lives. You could say that being Christians means being loving people, in thought, word, and action.
That can be very tricky. On one hand, as St. Paul says elsewhere, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing… It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
But on the other hand, it also “rejoices with the truth.” Love implies doing our best to know and to live our own lives in accordance with the truth, and sharing the joy of the truth with others. That means saying and doing things that can be unpopular. Many truths taught and defended by the Catholic Church are countercultural, and can be rejected and derided by those who don’t share our beliefs.
How can we remain united to Christ, being both a loving presence in the world at the same time witnesses to the (often inconvenient) truth? We can take our cue from Christ Himself. He challenged everyone to live a life of holiness, honesty, and fidelity, but He also dined with public sinners and the self-righteous Pharisees. His life was beyond reproach, but He was merciful and forgiving. He treated Judas as a close friend even when He knew that Judas would betray Him. He performed miracles for pagans and the outcasts of His society. He forgave and prayed for those who persecuted Him. In short, He loved so much with His actions, that people of good will, regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle, came to believe in the truth of His words. He even allowed Himself to be crucified by those who hated the truth, turning that into His greatest act of love and the key to our salvation.
That is an incredibly high standard to live up to. We can’t do it on our own; as Jesus says in the Gospel, we cannot bear fruit unless we remain in Him. We draw life and strength from Him like a branch draws sap from the roots and the stem. One of our greatest sources of that sap is the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, which we can and should receive often to keep us strong and full of God’s life.
And let us thank God today for having joined us to Himself in Christ. With God’s life flowing in our veins from frequent and worthy reception of the sacraments, may we bring the truth to everyone we encounter through words and deeds of love.