06 May 20186 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
6 Easter
Sixth Sunday of Easter - Cycle B - John 15:9-16

In 1941, the German army began to round up Jewish people in Lithuania. Thousands of Jews were murdered. But one German soldier objected to their murder. He was Sergeant Anton Schmid. Through his assistance, at least 250 Jews were spared their lives. He managed to hide them, find food, and supply them with forged papers. Schmid himself was arrested in early 1942 for saving these lives. He was tried and executed in 1942. It took Germany almost sixty years to honor the memory of this man Schmid. Said Germany's Defense Minister in 2000 in saluting him, "Too many bowed to the threats and temptations of the dictator Hitler, and too few found the strength to resist. But Sergeant Anton Schmid did resist." Name a person who better obeyed the admonition of the Christ in today's Gospel. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." The hero Schmid went beyond what even Jesus encouraged. He laid down his life for strangers.

What a welcome the court-martialed Anton Schmid must have received from Our Lord when he entered the Kingdom.

Being a Christian requires all the character we can summon up. However, in the face of people such as Sergeant Schmid, we should not grow weary and give up the quest. When our Master returned to His Father, he sent to us the Holy Spirit. It is He who increases the spiritual marrow in our Christian backbones. It is He who empowers us to stand up and be counted as Christ followers. As one pundit says, "What Jesus accomplished for us in His lifetime, the Holy Spirit accomplishes in ours." With the Spirit, we can face the might of hell and win.
William Barclay suggests the Teacher has chosen each one of us to be advertisements for Himself. Our lives should be billboards for Christ. He is most anxious that we produce abundant good works. The only authentic method of spreading the Gospel message is to be oneself a genuine Christian. History proves we waste our time arguing or forcing other people into becoming Christians. They do not want to hear about Christianity. They want to see it work. Our lives must attract them to the truth of the Gospel. It was Socrates who told us that the greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.

When the Catholic Al Smith, later four time Governor of New York, was a member of the New York State Assembly in the 1920s, he roomed with a fellow Assemblyman, Robert Wagner, in the state capital. Wagner, who was later to be a distinguished member of the US Senate, became a convert to the Church. He was asked what prompted his conversion. He replied simply, "Watching Al Smith get down on his knees every night to say his prayers." Like Smith, each of us is an ambassador with portfolio for Christ. Oftentimes, we are completely unaware of the role we are playing. But the non-Christians watching us do not forget that we follow Christ. Frequently we disappoint them. Said one agnostic, "I expected nothing and he did not disappoint me."

You have tried many times to be a Christian only to fall on your face. Do not grow tired. Reflect, as an historian tells us, that the first electric bulb was so faint that a lit candle had to be used along with it. Thirty-two hours were initially required to make the trip by steamboat from Albany to New York - a trip of but 150 miles. The initial flight of the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina lasted but 12 seconds. The top speed of the first car was anywhere from two to four miles each hour. We know what those inventions can do today. Remember the aphorism that God makes a great finish out of a slow start and nothing can be done until we take the first step. Be patient. It takes an oak fifty years to produce an acorn. Once you have begun to make progress, speak that prayer of the old man: "Lord, I am not yet what I would like to be. But thank you, Lord, because I ain't no longer what I used to be." Jesus gave up His life for our sins. We must give up ourselves for His service.

Finally one person can make a difference. If you have any doubt on that point, check it out with any of the 250 people whose lives Sergeant Anton Schmid saved. 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
6 Easter
Sixth Sunday of Easter: Love and Mercy

This Sunday's second reading and the Gospel reading speak about the command to Love. If you notice the reading from 1 John reminds us that God has first loved us. He has showered His Mercy on us. He has chosen us to be the recipients of his love. In the Gospel reading we hear that we are to love one another as Jesus loves us, with a selfless love, a love willing to give His Life for us. We are called to sacrificial love. Those of you who are married know that sacrificial love is the only love that keeps a marriage together. It is the way that a marriage grows. You know that you will always care for your spouse and that your spouse will always care for you. You know that you have something in your marriage that can better be described than defined. Maybe it is better to say that you have Someone, not something. You have the sacrificial love of the Lord. You have Someone. You have the Lord. But there are some people who profess a deep love for their spouse and who even shower him or her with expensive gifts, but whose marriage is built on a foundation of selfishness.

These are the people who are concerned with what they are getting out of the marriage. Their marriage will crumble when they realize that it takes more sacrifice than they are willing to make. The most horrific example I have come upon was a young husband who deserted his wife when she entered into the last stages of cancer. She pleaded for him to come and see her in the hospital. She even had a priest call him and ask him to go with him to the hospital. He responded that he had moved on. The marriage from his side was built on selfishness. Most of the priests that I have met take their ministry extremely seriously. They know that they have to deal with stress, from the routine stress such as preparing homilies and dealing with all sorts of different personalities, to the extraordinary stress such as presiding over the funeral of a child. Most of the priests that I have met embrace their stress as their way of giving themselves to God through their people. However I have come upon a few priests who treat their ministry as a job with set hours. They act as though they are only priests during office hours and are not available when their people need them the most.

I have also come upon priests who seem to be more concerned with others knowing that they are priests than they are with serving others. There is a definite selfishness in the ways that they are viewing their vocations. Certainly, they are not loving their people as God called them to love. Most parents put the greatest amount of their energy into leading their children to become good and decent Catholic men and women. They are raising children for the Lord. This takes sacrifice after sacrifice. I've seen some of our parents come to Church in the morning a bit worse for the wear after a few battles with their kids in the early hours. I had one mother ask me to do a better job in blessing her children this week because last week's blessing didn't stick. I have also come upon a few parents who have decided that the work of bringing up a child takes too much effort. As their children get older and really need their parents the most, these parents are absent emotionally, psychologically or even physically.

None of us here are as extremely selfish as the examples I presented, but there are times that each of us is more concerned with ourselves than we are with those we are called upon to love. There are also those times that we haven't loved like Jesus loves. And then the married here might reflect, "Perhaps our marriage would be stronger if I wasn't selfish so often." Or I might reflect, "Perhaps I could have brought many more people to God if I wasn't so concerned about myself." And perhaps all of us might reflect, "Perhaps there would be so many more children growing into warriors for the Kingdom of God if we were all more determined to guide them through adolescence and the Teen years." We reflect on our own selfishness and then we realize how very much we need the Mercy of God. And the Mercy of God is always available for us. God does not give up on us even when we have not loved as He has called us to love. Pope Francis often says, "God does not tire from extending his mercy to us; we are the ones who get tired of asking for His mercy." We come before God's mercy today and we ask him to forgive us for our selfishness and help us start anew. We can't give up. We won't give up. The Mercy of God wipes out our past selfishness and leads us to respond to the Lord's command to love others as He has loved us.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
6 Easter
Organized Love
(May 6, 2018)

Bottom line: The Appeal is a form of organized love.
We just heard Jesus say, "This is my command: love one another." Pope Benedict has an encyclical about love that I find helpful. He makes three surprising moves.
First, he speaks quite favorably about the love called eros. It's a type of love that seems to impose itself. It doesn't require great forethought. It just happens: The love of parent for their child or a young man for his beloved. They make a pledge of fidelity that seems irresistible. Their love will last forever and by comparison all other loves seems pale. After saying good words about eros, Pope Benedict makes a second move. He observes that as powerful as eros love seems, it has a tendency to wane and even become destructive. Few people fight more fiercely than those who have fallen out of love.

Pope Benedict shows that eros love needs purification by a different kind of love: agape. While eros is an ascending love - it rise from within - agape is a descending love. It come from above. As St. John tells us, "In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us." We cannot love God unless he first loves us. Ultimately we cannot love each other - in a way that lasts - unless we accept God's love. When a couple attends Mass and prays together, their marriage tends to last and flourish. Agape, the descending love, makes possible self-giving and self-sacrifice.

After explaining the two loves - eros and agape - Pope Benedict makes a third surprising move. He insists on "organized love".* I know it sounds jarring to put "love" and "organized" together. We live in a romantic age that values spontaneity. Still organization has its place. It's when individuals and families band together to effectively help others. A few weeks ago we heard how the early Christians voluntarily entrusted part of their earnings to the apostles - so they could help those in need. That tradition continues today in the Annual Catholic Appeal. The Appeal is a form of organized love. This Sunday I have asked a young family to witness to how the Appeal benefits them and how they see our rebate project: a renovated playground for our parish. Please give your full attention to _________________________________. **********

*"The Church can never be exempted from practising charity as an organized activity of believers, and on the other hand, there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love." (Deus Caritas Est #29)

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
6 Easter
Sixth Sunday of Easter, Classic
John 15: 9–17

Gospel Summary
This gospel passage is filled with beautiful statements about the ever-popular subject of love. Jesus tells us that the Father loves him, and that he in turn loves us, and that we should love one another. Perhaps we have heard these sentiments expressed so often that we no longer realize how profound and dramatic they really are. When Jesus says that the Father has loved him, he is correcting a very common concept of God. Many people at that time (and perhaps ever since) pictured God as someone very transcendent and therefore very distant from them. He was surely all-powerful but, like most powerful ones, he seemed to be cruel as well. Is God not in some way responsible for famine and natural disasters? Does he not at least permit the death of young parents and innocent children? But Jesus tells us that he knows God much better than we do. As eternal Word, he dwells in the lap of his heavenly Father (John 1: 18). This is body language, which tells us that Jesus hears the very heartbeat of his Father. He assures us that God is a loving Father who wishes only good for us. Most of all, he knows that this loving Father offers us a love that can enliven and nurture and energize us, just as the sun energizes plants and trees. Jesus invites us to experience and to trust this life-giving love, to live in the presence of it, and to yearn for it, just as the sunflower follows the sun across the sky in our human gardens. Then we will know how to become sunshine in the lives of others. We will also know how to deal with mysteries in our lives. We will also want to share our treasures with others and thus become part of that divine love that overcomes all darkness and evil.

Life Implications
The implications of this vision of reality are not hard to see. Most people who do not love, or do not love enough, are usually persons who do not feel that they themselves are loved. It is futile to tell people that they must love others when they have not really been made free to love by experiencing love in their own lives. Too often it is a case of impoverished people trying desperately to give more than they have. That is why it is so important to hear and to trust the words of Jesus about the love of the Father for us. This love is found in Jesus himself, who gave his life for us, but it is also found everywhere in life: in loving family and friends, in the blessings and successes of life, in every flower and gentle breeze. Today's gospel challenges us to acknowledge the dark evil in life but it asks us to notice especially the luminous good that is also there. And as we pay attention to the good in life, we will be able to let the evil go by or, at least, to keep it in its place, which is never at the center of life. This is exactly what Jesus did and, with him, we too need to feel the warmth of the Father's love and to share that warmth with all whom we meet in life.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Modern
John 15; 9 – 17

This Gospel for today is part of the Last Supper Discourse of Jesus that is found in the Gospel of John. It is a lengthy instruction that covers four chapters of the Fourth Gospel. This discourse does not include all that Jesus said and did at the Last Supper but begins after the washing of the feet, the revelation that one would betray him, the New Commandment "As I have loved you, so you should love one another, and that Peter would deny him. The discourse begins with Jesus telling them that he must go to the Father's house, He will send the Holy Spirit, and that we are connected to Jesus as the branches of a vine are connected to the vine. After all this Jesus Returns to the commandment he began with, Love one another.

The love that surrounds us is easy to talk about. Both the word love and its' meaning have been so trivialized that love has been reduced to a feeling, infatuation or craving about or for someone or something that is often merely for one's own satisfaction. True love, which is the love Jesus speaks of, is quite different. It is does more than surround us, it fills us and touches us at the very core of our being. It's the love that consumes our heart. True love involves first and foremost our giving of ourselves totally to another without expecting anything in return. True love is given without condition. In the 23rd chapter of Saint Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he describes love as being, patient, kind, not jealous or pompous, not inflated or rude, not selfish, quick tempered or brooding over injury, it rejoices in the truth and not wrongdoing. Love never fails.

When we hear Jesus speak of this love in the Gospel he does so while giving us the example of what true love is. Saint John describes this in his First Letter; "In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” (I JN 4: 10) In order to truly understand the love that Jesus speaks of and calls on us to live, we must first be open to being loved by God. One always falls short in trying to analyze and explain God's love, for it is something that only takes on meaning when we experience it. This is the experience each of us is called to have as a beloved son or daughter of a loving, Heavenly Father. God's love for us is not affected by our acceptance or rejection, our Godly living or Sinful living for God's love is the perfect and unconditional love that never fails.

During the Easter Season we are reminded over and over again of the great love God has for us in sending his Son, Jesus, to die for us to forgive our sins, and to rise for us so as to lead us to heaven. It's a message we need to hear over and over again so as to continue to be open to the experience of God's love which is unlike any other experience of love that might touch us. In two weeks we celebrate Pentecost. Let us take these final two weeks before we end the Easter Season as a time during which we prayerfully and intentionally open our hearts to receive and be renewed by a deeper experience of God's love in our lives. It is in this way that we can truly understand and live the command Jesus gives to us to Love one another as he loves us. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
6 Easter
Sixth Sunday of Easter

For our reflection this Sunday we are presented with the very heart of the Gospel message: Love one another as I have loved you. We are all familiar with love. We all experience love in our lives both on the giving and the receiving end. We know what love is and it is something that we all probably feel qualified to speak about. We have grown up feeling love towards our families and being loved in return by them. In our teens and early twenties we have all of us surely had strong feelings of love towards someone we were particularly attracted to. This has frequently blossomed into marriage, and in marriage that love has deepened and matured. We might consider that we are even more expert in this area because at times in our lives we have been unhappy in love. We have known the pains of love. It might be that our love was unrequited or that we were deceived or betrayed in love, or a long relationship went sour. We have experienced the hurts that love can sometimes cause us. However, as in all things, what we humans know about love pales into insignificance in comparison to love in God’s understanding. Jesus chooses his words very carefully when he says: Love one another as I have loved you.

He doesn’t say: Love one another as you think you ought. No, we are to love in the same way that he loves. Jesus presents himself as the example and model of how to love. And this is just as it should be because Christ is, of course, the very embodiment of perfect love. We have already noted that that the love we normally experience as human beings frequently has its basis in either attraction or proximity. We love the ones we are attracted to and we love those with whom we live closely and with whom we were brought up. The opposite of love is hate. And we usually hate those we are repelled from or those who are foreign to us. But with Christian love we are asked to go beyond these human limitations. We are challenged to love everyone regardless of whether we like them or not; regardless of whether they have hurt us; regardless of whether they share our beliefs, or customs, or way of life. Each human being is created out of love by God and in his own image. Each human being is loved by God even if they are mired in the very depths of sin. And God will never alienate himself from that which he has created. If God loves everyone and he asks us to love one another just as he loves us, then we must love everyone regardless of unattractive qualities or any other obstacles. This is not easy. But this love we are talking about is not about going gooey over someone. It is about appreciating and valuing that person, whoever they might be, as a child of God and the worthy object of his love.

The distinction can be explained by recognising that the love we usually experience is an emotion while the love that Christ is referring to is more technically called a theological virtue. We usually distinguish between these two types of love by calling the theological virtue of love charity. This is, however, easily confused in modern-day English because the word charity is used most specifically in relation to the care of the poor or attending to some other good cause. So, when we speak about Christian love we mean that we treat all around us with the special regard that is due to one created by God out of love. There may be no special attraction to that person, indeed there may be many things about them that we dislike, but we overcome these personal preferences because we see in them the beauty of a being created by God. An important aspect of the emotion we call love is the willingness to make sacrifices for the person we love. This is classically shown in the picture of the mother pelican who in times of famine will stab her own breast with her beak to let her chicks feed on her blood. This is why you often see a pelican carved on the front of an altar; it is an allusion to the sacrifice of Christ.

We humans are quite willing to make enormous sacrifices for the sake of love, even in extreme circumstances going so far as to give our own lives. It is quite commonplace to hear of someone who spends years in heroic service caring for a loved one. Jesus is, of course, a great example and inspiration in this regard. But what is different about Jesus is that he sacrificed himself in order to redeem the sins of the world. He gave his life for the salvation of those who caused him harm, for those who rejected him, for those who gave no thought to the things of God. He gave his life for us sinners. This is much more difficult. If we are to follow Jesus and to put in to practice his commandment to love one another then we must realise that it is going to involve this kind of sacrifice. Not sacrifices for the ones we like and admire and appreciate, but rather sacrifices for those we hate and dislike and are repelled by. This requires great effort and strength of will on our part. It means seeing beyond the superficial and realising that under a hard-exterior lives the unique creation of God. We don’t meet a Sadaam Hussein, or an Adolf Hitler or a Joseph Stalin every day of the week. It would be a test indeed to find love in our hearts for those who have committed despicable crimes against humanity. But we do meet many ordinary people we simply don’t take to. We do meet people who have deeply hurt us. We do meet people who we actively dislike. In these cases the sacrifice we are asked to make is to see beyond the merely superficial. The sacrifice we are asked to make is to overcome our dislikes. The sacrifice we are asked to make is to forgive the hurts. In this way we move beyond the emotion and we deliberately choose to exercise the virtue of love. The way to do this is, with the eyes of faith, to recognise the spark of the divine in all those around us.

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