Easter VII [C] Sunday (June 2)- One-page summary (L-19)
Introduction: Today’s readings are about people’s bearing heroic witness to Jesus through life and death, and the source of the inspiration behind such witness-bearing. They urge us to work for greater Christian unity and to consider the power of Christian witness.
Scripture lessons: The first reading describes the martyrdom of Stephen and how he bore witness to the forgiving love of Jesus by his last prayer. In the second reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, is pictured as having all the forces of Heaven and earth at his disposal, standing ready to help us in our Christian witness-bearing. It is relatively easy to acknowledge our oneness with Stephen and to long for the experience of eternal oneness with “all those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” But to remain truly one with all of our brothers and sisters continues to be a daily challenge. Today’s Gospel is the last part of the “priestly prayer” of Jesus after the Last Supper. This chapter of John has been called “The Testament of Jesus” or “Jesus’ High Priestly (or Intercessory) Prayer.” During that long prayer, Jesus prayed first for himself – for his own glorification (vv 1-5) – as he faced the cross. Then, he prayed for his disciples that they might be unified and protected in the face of opposition from the world (vv 6-19), and finally he prayed for those in distant lands and far-off ages, including ourselves, who would enter the Christian Faith through the witness-bearing of the Apostles and their successors. Thus, this is Jesus’ prayer for each one of us. We have complete Faith and certainty because Jesus put his confidence in God and entrusted us to him.
Life Messages: 1) We need to pray for unity and serve one another in unity. We must pray for unity and discuss the similarities we share with others as well as our differences. Along with prayer, we must put our words into action. This means that we are to serve one another and to love one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. What unites us is greater than what divides us. As we move nearer to Jesus Christ, in him we move nearer to one another. Such unity is ultimately a gift of the Holy Spirit and of His guidance. The soul of the ecumenical movement then, is spiritual. Only by a renewal of the spiritual, by common prayer and common listening to the Word of God, can we hope to overcome the present ecumenical impasses and difficulties. In the words of Pope St. John Paul II: “The door to ecumenism is opened only on our knees.”
2) We need to have a clear idea about the Catholic stand on ecumenism. In his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, Pope St. John Paul II warns against compromise for the sake of unity. He states, “the ultimate goal of the ecumenical movement is to reestablish full visible unity among all the baptized [77.1].” He adds, “It is already possible to identify the areas in need of fuller study before a true consensus of Faith can be achieved.”
EASTER VII (June 2): Acts 7:55-60; Rv 22:12-14, 16-17, 20; Jn 17:20-26
Homily starter Anecdotes: # 1: Fingerprints and DNA scanners: Fingerprints have long been recognized as a form of personal identification. As far back as the reign of the Babylonian King Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC), convicts were fingerprinted. In China as early as 246 BC, fingerprints were used to “sign” legal contracts. In 1788 a German anatomist, Johann Christoph Andreas Mayer, published findings which proved that fingerprints are unique to each individual. The idea caught on so fast that by the mid-nineteenth century, data banks of fingerprints were being collected all over the world for identification purposes. Now, as we know, micro-processors race and run at breakneck speed through millions of fingerprints in order to catch the bad guys or exonerate the good guys. Science has revealed other ways we are unique and singular. Our DNA is our own. Each cell of our body is genetically coded just for us. God made us in many ways wholly and totally different from one another. Yet, as Jesus offers up to the Father his own personal “Lord’s Prayer,” as given in today’s Gospel, he closes by praying for “oneness” among all those who follow him as disciples. Does this mean that Jesus prays for us all to be the same? Is this a call for “cloned Christians”? A franchise faith? A lemming life? A monotone mission? Is every follower of Jesus expected to keep the same pace, have the same stride, move to the same rhythm? Jesus was praying for generations of believers. The “oneness” that Jesus prayed for is a oneness of heart and a oneness of love. Oneness for Jesus is a love mark of hearts that have experienced the unity of Divine love – the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as they are poured out into the hearts of every disciple. As Christians, our DNA reads the same: we are all part of the Body of Christ.
# 2: Unity by humble dialogue and loving interaction: If you have seen the academy award winning film Gandhi, you may remember the scene where Gandhi is caught in the middle of intense conflict between Muslims and Hindus. He defuses the situation by saying, “I am a Muslim, and a Hindu, and a Christian, and a Jew.” This is a wonderful attitude to take, so long as it affirms the unique identities and contributions of each tradition and so long as it is a recognition of unity amid diversity rather than a superficial homogenizing of the various faiths. As we noted on Ash Wednesday, Christians in particular may need to begin paying more serious attention to the other major religions of the world. Many folks are so ignorant of anything beyond the Judeo-Christian tradition that when they do run into another faith-system they are immediately swept off their feet and become infatuated. In the name of understanding and unity based on the grace of God, we surely need to avoid the attitude expressed by a group of parents who wanted The Diary of Anne Frank banned from the classroom because it seemed to approve of all religions without recognizing the superiority of Christianity. Ghandi’s sentiment is a great antidote to such, no doubt well-intentioned holier-than-thou-ism. The Charlton Heston movie El Cid (“The Lord”), illustrated both the horrible destructiveness of religious conflicts and the possibilities for overcoming religious-based hostility. The story of El Cid illustrates how the desire to win or claim other people for one’s Faith can become a prescription for cruel tyranny. Faith is shared through humble dialogue and by loving interaction, not by making claims and demands, although Jesus didn’t tell us to “Go, therefore, and ‘have dialogue’ with all nations,” but to “make disciples.”
# 3: Wrong ecumenism in action? One day, a man was walking across a bridge and saw another man standing on the edge, about to jump off. He immediately ran to him and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!” “Well, why shouldn’t I?” he replied. The other said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” “Like what”? “Well … are you religious or atheist?” “Religious.” “Me, too! And are you Christian or Jewish?” “Christian.” “Me, too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” “Protestant.” “Me, too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?” “Baptist.” “Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?” “Baptist Church of God.” “Me, too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God.” “Me, too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!” To which he said, “Die, you heretic!” and pushed him off the bridge.
Introduction: Today’s readings are about people’s bearing heroic witness to Jesus through life and death, and the source of the inspiration behind such witness-bearing. They urge us to work for greater unity and to consider the power of Christian witness. The first reading describes the martyrdom of Stephen and how he bore witness to the forgiving love of Jesus by his last prayer. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 97) the Psalmist prays that all creation may rejoice in the Lord Who is King, and that all peoples may see His Glory. In the second reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, is pictured as having all the forces of Heaven and earth at his disposal, standing ready to help us in our Christian witness-bearing. It is relatively easy to acknowledge our oneness with Stephen, and to long for the experience of eternal oneness with “all those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” But to remain truly one with all of our brothers and sisters continues to be a daily challenge. Today’s Gospel is the last part of the “priestly prayer” of Jesus after the Last Supper. This chapter of John has been called “The Testament of Jesus” or “Jesus’ High Priestly (or Intercessory) Prayer.” During that long prayer, Jesus prays first for himself – for his own glorification (vv 1-5) – as he faces the cross. Then, he prays for his disciples that they may be unified and protected in the face of opposition from the world (vv 6-19), and finally he prays for those in distant lands and far-off ages, including ourselves, who will enter the Christian Faith. Thus, this is Jesus’ prayer for each one of us. We have complete Faith and certainty because Jesus put his confidence in God to whom he entrusts us all..
First reading, Acts 7: 55-60, explained: One of the purposes of Acts was to introduce Gentile converts to the Jewish roots of their new religion, and at the same time to explain Christianity’s separation from its ancestral tradition, and its openness to non-Jews. The story of Stephen’s martyrdom illustrates the point. Stephen’s vision of Jesus enthroned in Heaven, echoes the theme of the Feast of the Ascension. As in the case of Stephen, the Acts of the Apostles presents Christ’s disciples reproducing in their own lives some of the experiences of Jesus. By A.D. 80 when, some scholars believe, Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles, Christians were almost sure that Christ’s “second coming” would be delayed. The delayed Parousia seems to be why Stephen, the first Christian to die looks up at the moment of death, sees “the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand,” and prays, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” We might see Jesus coming in glory to receive Stephen’s spirit as an indication that each Christian, at the moment of death, will experience his or her personal Parousia. We no longer have to wait for Jesus’ Second Coming to enter into glory. That’s why Jesus, in Luke’s account of the Passion, assures the good thief, “This day you will be with me in paradise!” An aspect of our Faith that is both reassuring and challenging is the fact that it is through us that the glory of the risen Jesus is revealed to others, just as it was in the martyrdom of Stephen. Stephen is a good example of Faith in the risen Jesus and of the power of Christian witness. In fact, the word “martyr” derives from the Greek word for witness. Stephen died as the consequence of his bold profession of Christian Faith.
Second Reading, Revelation 22, 12-14, 16-17, 20, explained: The Risen Jesus is celebrated here as the ground of unity and the reason for bearing witness (suffering martyrdom). The first readers of this book were facing life-and-death struggles with persecutors. Hence, the Book of Revelation was given by God to John to encourage them and to convince them that the stakes are as high as they can be. What Stephen sees as a mere glimpse in the first reading is more fully described in the vision reported in the passage from Revelation. This crucified, and now glorious, Jesus, the Beginning and End of all things, can unreservedly promise us life because he has conquered death: “Let … the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving waters.” Those joined to Jesus will be energized by the very power that flows from him. In promising martyrs that they will have the “right to the tree of life” (referring to Genesis 3:21-24), John is telling us that, in Jesus, the ancient obstacle to eternal life has been lifted. John also gives the early Christians the assurance that Jesus is already present in their lives – (“realized eschatology”) to share their joys and sorrows.
Gospel exegesis: 1) Jesus prays for a unity of personal relationship. Unity is the main theme of Jesus’ prayer for the universal Church. He prays three times that all its members may be one as He and His Father are one, asking for the unity of the Church. Note the gradation in the intensity of unity for which Jesus asks:: in verse 21 he prays, “that they may all be one”; in verse 22, “that they may be one even as We are One”; and in verse 23, “that they may become perfectly one.” Christ’s plea does not concern human organizational or institutional unity among the 34,000 Christian denominations. Jesus wants the Church to be one in the very sense that there is oneness between Jesus and the Father. Quite obviously, the Oneness between Jesus and the Father is a oneness of Being, expressed as a complete unity of purpose and love. The mind of Jesus is that we cannot have unity with others unless we first have unity among ourselves as his disciples and, even more basic, that we cannot have this unity unless we have unity with God our Father in Christ by his Spirit. This means that Jesus prays for a unity of love among Christians, a unity based entirely our unity with Him, our living His Life, and on the relationship between heart and heart – God with us and we with each other. Jesus desires that Christian unity transcend all the present denominational differences and unite his followers in love. The Church must be one in the Spirit with its members, one in love and holiness. In addition to real theological and doctrinal differences, a major cause of Christian disunity today is that Jesus’ followers love their own ecclesiastical organizations, creeds and rituals more than they love Christ. Only real Christian love, implanted by God in the hearts of Christians, can reconcile these real divisions and tear down the barriers that, over the centuries, have been erected among denominations. According to the Scriptures, God’s design for humankind is that we recognize that all of us are the children of God, and brothers to one another. This implies that we live in accord with this Divinely inspired insight—that we live in peace, harmony, and unity. Such a true spiritual unification is possible only through the work of the Holy Spirit.
2) Unity among Christians is necessary to convince the world of the truth of Christianity. Real unity among the Christians would stand as a supernatural fact requiring a supernatural explanation. It would have a strong witness value before non-Christians. Jesus actually makes this unity one of the most important signs of his mission. Faced with the disunity of Christians, the world cannot see the supreme value of the Christian Faith. Hence, it is our duty to demonstrate that unity of love with all our fellow Christians whatever their denominations and in spite of doctrinal differences. God’s glory is to be visible not in magnificent edifices or in structures of power, but in the love that unites Jesus’ followers among themselves and to God.
Jesus’ prayer for love and unity inspired Pope St. John XXIII in his desire to call a Council to help break down divisions among contemporary followers of Jesus. In his encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint (1995), Pope St. John Paul II cites Jn. 17:21-22 at least five times, stressing that the unity “which the Lord has bestowed on his Church and in which he wishes to embrace all people…stands at the very heart of Christ’s mission” (No. 9), and he urges common prayer to overcome the “painful reality” of Christian division (No. 22). In the same encyclical, Pope St. John Paul II also gives three reasons for Christian unity – first, all Christians should be obedient to Christ’s prayer that “all may be one”; second, it is important to honor the call of the Second Vatican Council, and third, the effective evangelization of the world depends on the united witness of Christians, for division among Christian believers damages our credibility. The Pope does warn against the dangers of compromise for the sake of unity, for “compromise is a contradiction with God who is Truth [70.1].”
3) Jesus has given us his glory. In his prayer for his followers, Jesus states that he has given his disciples the glory which the Father has given him. Jesus describes this glory in three ways. a) The Cross is his glory and the crucifixion is the moment of his glorification by his Father. Hence, a Christian should never consider the cross as a penalty, but as an honor. We must regard difficulties as moments of glory given to us by God. b) Jesus considers his perfect obedience to the will of his Father as his glory. Thus, Christians are expected to find the real glory of life in doing God’s will. c) Jesus’ life is a demonstration of his special relationship with God, expressing God’s love, compassion and forgiveness, thus giving Him glory. It is our glory when people around us see in us the reflection of Christ. God has given Christ the glory of Sonship, and this has resulted in Their unity. Jesus, in turn, gives to his disciples the glory of becoming the adopted sons of God (Gal 4: 5; Eph 1:5; Jn 1:12; 1 Jn 3:1). Jesus concludes his High Priestly prayer by promising us that if we share his sufferings on earth, we shall share his glory and triumph when our life on this earth is ended. As Paul put it, “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him. If we continue to endure, we shall also rule with him” (2 Timothy2: 11-12). Jesus prays that we may be with Him, and that when we die we may share his glory.
Life Messages: 1) We need to pray for unity and serve one another in unity. We must pray for unity and discuss the similarities we share with others as well as our differences. Along with prayer, we must put our words into action. This means that we are to serve one another and to love one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Walter, Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, writes: “Much has been achieved over the last decades. Separated Christians no longer consider one another as strangers, competitors or even enemies, but as brothers and sisters. They have largely removed the former lack of understanding, misunderstanding, prejudice, and indifference; they pray together, they give together witness to their common Faith; in many fields they work trustfully together. They have experienced that ‘what unites us is greater than what divides us.’ Such a change was hardly conceivable only half a century ago; to wish to go back to those times would entail being forsaken not only by all good spirits but also by the Holy Spirit.” In the ecumenical movement, the question is the conversion of all to Jesus Christ. As we move nearer to Jesus Christ, in Him we move nearer to one another. Such unity is ultimately a gift of God’s Spirit and of His guidance. http://www.nccouncilofchurches.org/areasofwork/committees/christian_unity/sermon_mcbriar.htm – _edn9#_edn9. The soul of the ecumenical movement then, is spiritual. Only by a renewal of the spiritual, by common prayer and common listening to the Word of God, can we hope to overcome the present ecumenical impasses and difficulties. http://www.nccouncilofchurches.org/areasofwork/committees/christian_unity/sermon_mcbriar.htm – _edn10#_edn10. In the words of Pope St. John Paul II: “The door to ecumenism is opened only on our knees.” http://www.nccouncilofchurches.org/areasofwork/committees/christian_unity/sermon_mcbriar.htm – _edn11#_edn11
2) We need to have a clear idea about the Catholic stand on ecumenism. In his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, Pope St. John Paul II warns against compromise for the sake of unity. Quoting the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:28, he states that “the ultimate goal of the ecumenical movement is to reestablish full visible unity among all the baptized [77.1].” The Pope addresses the areas for study before a true consensus of Faith can be achieved: “It is already possible to identify the areas in need of fuller study before a true consensus of Faith can be achieved: 1) The relationship between Sacred Scripture, as the highest authority in matters of Faith, and Sacred Tradition, as indispensable to the interpretation of the Word of God. 2) The Eucharist, as the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, an offering of praise to the Father, the sacrificial memorial and Real Presence of Christ and the sanctifying outpouring of the Holy Spirit; 3) Ordination, as a Sacrament, to the threefold ministry of the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate. 4) The Magisterium of the Church, entrusted to the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him, understood as a responsibility and an authority exercised in the name of Christ for teaching and safeguarding the Faith; 5) The Virgin Mary, as Mother of God and Icon of the Church, the spiritual Mother who intercedes for Christ’s disciples and for all humanity [79.1].”
JOKE OF THE WEEK
A Catholic cat: A Catholic priest tells the story about receiving a call from a woman who was quite upset over the death of her pet cat, Homer. She wanted the priest to conduct the funeral service for Homer at her backyard. Imagine that?! The priest explained that this was a little out of his line, and he referred her to a friend, a Presbyterian pastor at a church down the street. Later, the priest learned that his Presbyterian friend had referred her to a Methodist minister, who had referred her to a Lutheran minister. About an hour later, she called her Catholic pastor back and she was still upset. The woman said she was at her wit’s end. She couldn’t find a pastor to conduct Homer’s funeral services and didn’t know what to do. Then she said that she was planning to give $1000 to the minister who performed this service for Homer. The pastor said it took him only a moment to mull this over and then say to her, “Well, why didn’t you tell me Homer was a Catholic cat in the first place!” Ah, ecumenism at its best. In today’s Gospel Jesus prays for an entirely different type of unity of Christians.
2) Catholic crossing: Paddy was in New York. He was patiently waiting and watching the traffic cop on a busy street crossing. The cop stopped the flow of traffic and shouted, ‘Okay, pedestrians.’ Then he’d allow the traffic to pass. He’d done this several times, and Paddy still stood on the sidewalk. After the cop had shouted, ‘Pedestrians!’ for the tenth time, Paddy went over to him and said, ‘Is it not about time ye let the Catholics across?’
STATISTICS ON WORLD RELIGIONS AND CHRISTIAN DENOMINATIONS
- Christianity: 2 billion (Christian denominations=over 34000)
- Islam: 1.3 billion, Hinduism: 900 million
- Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 850 million
- Buddhism: 360 million, Chinese traditional religion: 225 million
- primal-indigenous: 150 million, African Traditional & Diasporic: 95 million
- Sikhism: 23 million, Juche: 19 million, Spiritism: 14 million
- Judaism: 14 million, Baha’i: 6 million, Jainism: 4 million, Shinto: 4 million
- Cao Dai: 3 million, Tenrikyo: 2.4 million, Neo-Paganism: 1 million
- Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand, Rastafarianism: 700 thousand
- Scientology: 600 thousand, Zoroastrianism: 150 thousand
Website of the week
10- Additional anecdotes:
1) “I know where to hide it.” This is a story by the Bombay-born, English writer, Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). Once upon a time, when the gods were so new that they had no names and the first man was still damp from the clay of the pit from which he had been dug, he claimed that he too was a god. The gods weighed the evidence and decided that man’s claim was good. Having conceded man’s claim, the gods came by stealth and stole away his divinity, intending to hide it where he could never find it again. Various gods made various suggestions as to an appropriate hiding place, but they could not come to an agreement. Finally, the wisest of the gods said, “I know where to hide it, give it to me.” He closed his hand upon the tiny light of man’s stolen godhead, and when he opened his hand again, the light was gone. “All is well,” said the god, “I have hidden it where man will never dream of looking for it. I have hidden it inside man himself.” Although Kipling’s fictional god was certain that the light of humanity’s godhead was hidden forever, ours is a God who wills that we know and rejoice in the wondrous discovery of the Godhead within us. Today, Jesus reminds us that it is this light of Divinity within us that will enable us to receive and maintain the unity among the Christians for which he prayed. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) “They think they’re the only ones here.” There’s a story which many of you have heard and it is a fitting introduction for our text. A group of new arrivals in heaven met Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. He began to show them around, pointing out areas of interest and filling them in on the rules of the kingdom. There were many “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd, and they were obviously enjoying themselves immensely. Suddenly Saint Peter stopped a short distance from a massive building which was miles-wide, -long and -high, having no doors or windows. “While we pass this building,” he said, “you must walk quietly and utter not so much as a sound.” So the entourage tiptoed obediently past the monolith without a word. Once they were past, however, an inquisitive soul inquired, “Why did we have to be so quiet when we passed that building?” Saint Peter responded, “God put the Catholics (put your denomination here) in there. They think they’re the only ones up here.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) One with God and one with one another: It is reported that Mahatma Gandhi, in his younger days, was impressed with Christianity. One Sunday in South Africa he went to a church, planning to ask the minister afterwards for instructions in the faith. But as he entered the building the ushers refused to seat him. “Why don’t you visit the colored peoples’ church?” he was asked. Gandhi never became a Christian. “If Christians also have differences, I might as well remain a Hindu,” he explained. Yes, we have differences — but in God’s strange math 1 + 1 + 1 = One. For those who believe that, their eyes look upon their neighbor in a whole new way. For those who believe that, their arms cannot help but reach out to join those who know the same math. For those who believe, God touches and blesses and makes them (us) one with him and with one another. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) Denominational traditions: At a large ecumenical gathering of religious leaders the fire alarm sounded. The Methodists gathered in a corner and prayed while the Baptists yelled “Where’s the water?” The Quakers quietly praised God for the blessing fire brings while the Lutherans posted a notice on the door declaring fire to be evil. Catholics took pledges to cover the expenses. Christian Scientists agreed among themselves there really was no fire at all. The Pentecostals praised God and shouted “holy smoke.” Presbyterians appointed a committee to look into the matter and make a formal report at their next session meeting. In the meantime, the Episcopalians formed a procession and marched out of the building in decency and order. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
5) Opening of ourselves to God’s indwelling presence. Group magazine did a survey among junior high young people in youth groups across the U.S. They asked these young people to “describe the God you believe in.” These Junior High kids said things like: “He’ll always be there even when you don’t think he is . . . He’s not a man or woman he’s a spirit, a light that’s everlasting . . . Strong, powerful, loving, caring, forgiving, mysterious . . . The God who loves us no matter what we do the one, true God . . . Awesome. God is a 100% guarantee of a problem-free life.” (Don’t you wish!) Others said things like, “I believe in the God that sent his only Son to die on the cross . . . He loves all people even me . . . Kind, just, merciful, stern . . . Fun has a sense of humor . . . He wants me to obey him. (“Insight,” Sept./Oct. 1996, p. 16.) Those Junior High young people have a pretty good grasp on Who God is. Certainly, God is all those things and more, and all of these are wrapped up in God’s glory. When the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, our bodies house the living God. If God dwells in your life, then you have the glory. You see, the mistake we make is the assumption that glory comes from something we do, that glory is something we accomplish. That may be true in terms of what the world calls glory. But what God calls glory is simply the opening of ourselves to God’s indwelling presence. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) “Abide with Me” (hymn): Every January, the city of Delhi, India honors its president and government leaders with a ceremony called Beating Retreat. The centerpiece of the ceremony is an impressive marching display by the members of the military. The marching is highly stylized, and performed to the accompaniment of instruments, especially drums. However, everyone waits in eager anticipation for the finale of the Beating Retreat. Instead of a traditional Indian song, or a military tune, the finale of the Beating Retreat is a Christian hymn. In tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, the musicians play his favorite hymn, Abide with Me. Although most of the spectators, participants, and honorees in the ceremony are Hindu, Buddhist, or Sikh, the climax to the Beating Retreat is this sacred hymn, and it is played with respectful fervor. (Simon Winchester, “The Legacy,” August 1997, p.55.) Gandhi knew that the glory did not belong with him, but with God. That is why he could sing, “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide! When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me.” Glory is not something we can accomplish. It is a gift. All we can do is open our hearts to it.
7) “Let’s go get it straightened out right now.” Jim Cymbala is the pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle Church, a dynamic church in New York City. He started out with about 10 people and now there are over 6,000 people there. For 20 years now, Jim has been saying to every group of new members “Now I charge you that if you ever hear another member speak an unkind word of criticism, or slander against anyone-myself, an usher, a choir member, anyone else-stop that person in mid-sentence and say ‘Excuse me, who hurt you? Who slighted you? Let’s go get it straightened out right now,’ so God can restore peace and harmony to this body.” Is it any wonder that he has 6,000 people in his Church now? God honors that kind of unity of spirit. God honors that kind of witness to the world. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
8) “It’s pretty tough being famous when nobody knows who you are.” Tony Campolo says that some years ago when his children were in their preteen years, he took them with him on a speaking engagement. When they drove into the parking lot adjoining the auditorium where, in just a few minutes, Tony was to speak, there were only three cars parked there. “Dad!” exclaimed his son, Bart, who at that point of his life was somewhat impressed with Tony’s role as a public speaker, “Nobody’s come to hear you! And you’re so famous!” “Come on, Bart,” responded his sister Lisa, who, Tony says, has always been the realist in the family, “if Dad is so famous, where are all the people?” “Knock it off, Lisa,” Bart answered back. “It’s pretty tough being famous when nobody knows who you are.” [Tony Campolo, Everything You’ve Heard Is Wrong (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992), pp. 164-165.] That’s where most of us are. “It’s pretty tough being famous when nobody knows who you are.” Jesus didn’t promise that everybody would know our name. He just promised us glory. Evidently, what Jesus called glory was not what the world calls glory. And, maybe that’s just as well. Jib Fowles, a college professor and author, did a study of 100 stars from all fields of Hollywood entertainment, sports stars, musicians. He discovered that celebrities are almost four times more likely to kill themselves than the average American. “It’s . . . enormously stressful . . . ,” Fowles says. “There is unrelenting pressure coupled with diminishing private lives. They have to be on every time they step out their front door.” In fact, he found that the average age of death for celebrities, overall, was 58. The average for non-celebrities is 72 [Mary Loftus, “The Other Side of Fame,” Psychology Today (May/June 1995), p. 74.).] Is the world overlooking you? Maybe you are fortunate! (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
9) We need people who can speak the language of the heart. Harold S. Kushner tells of an incident from his youth that made a distinct impression on him. A business associate of his father’s died under particularly tragic circumstances. Kushner accompanied his father to the funeral. The man’s widow and children were surrounded by clergy and psychiatrists trying to ease their grief and make them feel better. They knew all the right words, but nothing helped. They were beyond being comforted. The widow kept saying, “You’re right, I know you’re right, but it doesn’t make any difference.” Then a man walked in, a big burly man in his eighties who was a legend in the toy and game industry. He had escaped from Russia as a youth after having been arrested and tortured by the Czar’s secret police. He had come to this country, illiterate and penniless, and had built up an immensely successful company. He was known as a hard bargainer, a ruthless competitor. Despite his success, he had never learned to read or write. He hired people to read his mail to him. The joke in the industry was that he could write a check for a million dollars, and the hardest part would be signing his name at the bottom. He had been sick recently, and his face and his walking showed it. But he walked over to the widow and started to cry, and she cried with him, and you could feel the atmosphere in the room change. This man who had never read a book in his life spoke the language of the heart and held the key that opened the gates of solace where learned doctors and clergy could not. [Harold S. Kushner, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough (New York: Summit Books, 1986).] We need people who can speak the language of the heart. We need persons within the community of Christ to whom we feel especially close. There will come a time when we will need to reach out to them for comfort. There will be times they will need to reach out to us. Jesus’ first prayer is for our unity with one another.(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
10) “Get me to the Mustangs’ playoffs. No matter what.” In Yakima, Washington, some time, back a dying man made a strange request. On his deathbed, Grant Flory said to his family: “Get me to the Mustangs’ playoffs. No matter what.” He was referring to his old high school team, The Prosser Mustangs. So in early December, when the Mustangs played in Seattle’s Kingdome, Flory’s cremated remains were in attendance. His son Dwight approached the stadium gate wearing a camera bag that contained his father’s urn. He was stopped by a guard who asked what was in the bag. “It’s my dad,” he replied. The guard looked puzzled but allowed the ashes inside. Family members said anyone who knew Grant Flory wouldn’t be surprised by his request. He was a real football fan. It is the dream of every pastor to have a congregation filled with people who are that determined to be at the Eucharistic celebration every Sunday to recharge their spiritual batteries, to pray for and realize Jesus’ dream of Church unity as he expressed in today’s Gospel. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 31) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website: By clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under CBCI or in the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text .
Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.