Easter V Sunday (May 7, 2023)

Easter V (May 7) Homily (1-page summary for an 8- minute homily) L/23

Introduction: Today’s readings tell us how the early Church accepted the challenge of keeping Jesus’ memory alive by remaining a dynamic Christian community, bearing witness to Christ by their unity, fidelity in worship and spirit of loving, humble service. Today’s Gospel introduces Jesus as the Way to God, the Truth to be accepted, and the Life to be shared and lived.

Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from Acts, shows us the early Church as a loving, serving, and worshipping community (Acts 6:1-7). Hence, it easily solved a problem of perceived discrimination by instituting the diaconate for the service of the community. In the second reading, St. Peter advises the early Christians to renew the memory of Jesus by allowing God to make of them ”living stones” and build them into a spiritual edifice, a community of believers, with Christ for its “Living Cornerstone” (I Pt 2:4-5). Peter praises Christians, both Gentile and Jewish, as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and God’s own people.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus consoles his apostles (who are sad and disheartened at His announcement that He will be leaving them soon), by assuring them that he is going to prepare an everlasting accommodation for them in his Father’s House in Heaven. He gives them the assurance that he will come back to take them to their Heavenly abodes. It is then that Thomas says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus answers Thomas’ question with, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” The basic doctrine of Judaism is that Yahweh is the Way the Truth and the Life. Hence, Jesus is making a revolutionary claim that he is equivalent to Yahweh. Jesus also declares that he, himself, is the safest and surest way to God, discrediting the notions that all religions are equally sure ways to reach God, and that no organized religion but only living a good life of sharing love is necessary to reach God. But Jesus is the Way which he calls narrow because it is the way of focused, loving, humble, sacrificial service. Jesus is the Truth who teaches revealed truths about God and God’s relation to man. Jesus also teaches moral truths and demonstrates them in his life. Jesus is the Life because, as God, he possesses the eternal life of God and shares his Divine life with his disciples through the Word of God and the Sacraments. In short, Jesus reveals the Father in the Way he lives, in the Truth of his word and in the new Life that he brings.

Life messages: We need to accept Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life: 1) We accept Jesus as the Way by walking his narrow way of loving, humble, sacrificial service. 2) We accept Jesus as the Truth by learning and practicing what he has taught us, as given in the Bible and in the teachings of the Church.

3) We accept Jesus as the Life by sharing in the Divine Life of God in His Church, making use of the means Jesus has established. 4) We do all of this a) by actively participating in the Eucharistic celebration and properly receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion; b) by the worthy reception of the other Sacraments; c) by the meditative, daily reading of the Word of God; d) by allowing the Holy Spirit living in the Church and within us to guide and strengthen us; and e) by communicating with God the Source of Life, in personal and family prayers.

EASTER V [A] (May 7,/2023): Acts 6:1-7, 1Pt 2:4-9, Jn 14:1-12

Homily starter anecdotes: 1)” My Father’s house.  When St. John Chrysostom was summoned before the Roman Emperor Arcadius and threatened with banishment, he replied, “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.”  “Then I will kill you,” exclaimed the Emperor angrily.  “No, you cannot,” retorted Chrysostom, “because my life is hidden with Christ in God.”  “Your treasures shall be confiscated,” the Emperor replied grimly. “Sir, you can’t do that because my treasures are in Heaven as my heart is there.”  “I will drive you from your people, and you shall have no friends left,” threatened the Emperor.  “That you cannot do either, Sir, for I have a Friend in Heaven Who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’” — In today’s Gospel, Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, gives us the same assurance.  “In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

#2) Surprises in Heaven: A few years ago, a minister of the United Methodist Church was forced out of his congregation and the ministry because he had the “audacity to preach heresy” during his Sunday sermon:  “I’m in a Church,” he said, “which acts as if God has a very small house, with only a few rooms and only one door.  But thanks be to God, God’s house, according to Jesus, has many rooms, many places to dwell.  If it were not so, he would have told us.”  To add fuel to the fire, he explained his theory with a story.  A good man died and was ushered into heaven, which appeared to be an enormous house.  An angel began to escort him down a long hallway past “many rooms”.  “What’s in that room?” the man asked, pointing to a very somber-looking group of people chanting a Gregorian Mass.  “That’s the Roman Catholic room,” said the angel.  “Very high church.”  “What’s in that noisy room?” the man asked, pointing to a group of white-clothed people dancing, clapping and singing and occasionally shrieking out loud.  “That’s the Pentecostal group,” said the angel.  “Very lively.”  “What’s in that room?” asked the man, pointing to a group of bald-headed people meditating to the sound of an enormous gong.”  That’s the Zen group,” said the angel.  “Very quiet.  You would hardly know they were here.”  Then the angel stopped the man, as they were about to round a corner.  “Now, when we get to the next room,” said the angel, “I would appreciate it if you would tiptoe past.  We mustn’t make any sound.”  “Why’s that?” asked the man.  “Because in that room there’s a bunch of very fundamentalist Christians; and they think they’re the only ones here.”  In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives a true picture of his Father’s house. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/). Introduction: Today’s readings tell us how the early Church accepted the challenge of keeping Jesus’ memory alive in the Christian community by fashioning it into a serving and worshipping community (Acts 6:1-7), allowing God to make of them ”living stones” and build them into a “spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus  Christ,”  with Jesus Christ as  the “Living Cornerstone.(I Pt 2:4-5), thus becoming the Father’s House (John 14:1-12). Linking the first two readings to each other and to the Gospel, the Refrain of today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 33) has us sing “Lord, let Your Mercy be on us, as we place our trust in You,” because His Divine Mercy is the Source  and binding power of our unity in Him here and hereafter. Today’s Gospel gives us the image of the Church as a Church in glory in the Father’s House.  It also reminds us of the great truth that Jesus is the Way to God, that Jesus  is the Truth of God and that Jesus is Life of God through Whom we receive God’s own Life. Today’s readings demand from us real Faith not only in God the Father but also in Jesus precisely because he is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn. 14:6), and he instructs us,  “You have faith in God; have faith also in Me” (Jn. 14:1).

The first reading (Acts 6:1-7) explained:  This passage shows how and why the early Church developed social institutions and Church offices in keeping Jesus’ memory alive. This famous account of the selection of the first deacons in the Church tells us how the apostles and early Christians, as a Church community, prayerfully and amicably solved a community problem. The Greek-speaking widows had complained that the Aramaic-speaking food-ministers were short-changing them at meals in favor of the Aramaic-speaking widows.  The apostles solved the problem by convening a meeting of “the whole community of the disciples” and informing them that they should be the ones to work through their problem.  Their task: “Select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to the task” of distributing the food (6:3).  Note the names of the chosen seven: “Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolaus of Antioch.”  Every single one is a Greek!  Luke tells us that the Church believed that if the Greeks in the community had a problem, then the Greeks in the community were important and gifted enough to solve their problem.  The apostles ratified the choice of these community servants by praying over them and laying hands on them.  The apostles’ choice to solemnize the choosing by the ancient ritual of the imposition of hands on those chosen suggests something very interesting about service in the Church. The Apostles seem to be saying that the role of the community servant is worthy of what would become known as “ordination.”  That is, service is so important in the life of the Church, that we cannot be the Church of Christ Jesus if we’re without mutual service.  Word, and Sacrament, and Service, are the three constituents of the Church which Jesus founded, and the Holy Spirit brought to active life.

The second Reading (1 Peter 2:4-9) explained:  gives us a view of the Church as a spiritual edifice built from “living stones” upon the “Living Cornerstone of Christ” (I Pt 2:4-5).  Our Jewish ancestors in the Faith had once been slaves in Egypt, then nomads in Sinai, then settlers for a few generations, and then exiles in Babylon.  So the notion of a permanent home, one made (at least in part), of stone, held great appeal for them.  Thus, it was natural for Peter, while addressing the Jewish Christians, to use the stone metaphor to describe the place of Jesus in the plan of God, and to specify that the believing disciples were being made into “living stones” forming the “house” which was built, Peter says, on Jesus Christ as the cornerstone, quoting Psalm 118 about the stone rejected by the builders becoming the cornerstone. Peter contrasts those Jews who accept Jesus as their cornerstone with those who stumble on the stone. For all human beings, Jesus will either become a “cornerstone,” binding all together, or a “stone that will make them stumble and a rock that will make them fall.” Peter then addresses all Christians, both Jewish and Gentile, using the loftiest titles applied to Israel in the Old Testament: “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His [God’s] own. Peter uses startling images like newborn babies, a living stone, holy priesthood, chosen race, royal people, God’s chosen, God’s own, and the like,  to promote in all Christians a sense of new identity within the community of Faith.   No one has ever expressed the dignity and importance of being a follower of Jesus more perfectly than Peter. We are, “a chosen race,” because we have received the seal of the Spirit of God at our Baptism; “a royal priesthood,” because we share in the priesthood of Christ himself, offering ourselves as living sacrifices by worshiping and serving God daily to help build his kingdom.; “a consecrated nation,” because now Christians are set apart to live the new and everlasting covenant, called to be light and salt for the world; and,  “God’s possession,” because we have been united with Him in Baptism, serve Him alone as our Master, and are  ready to proclaim the Good News of salvation, making it available to all who believe.

Gospel exegesis: The context: The disciples are gathered together with Jesus on the last Thursday night of his life in the Upper Room for the Last Supper. The departing Jesus instructs them about how they are to preserve his memory and carry on his mission. As his final hours on earth approach, Jesus prepares his disciples by explaining to them the full significance of what will happen.  He will return to his Father and send them the gift of the Holy Spirit.  And after dedicating their lives to leading others to the Faith through the power of that Holy Spirit, they will be reunited with him in his Father’s house.  “I am going to prepare a living space for you, a mansion, a place for you for all eternity…  I will come again and take you to that place.” The misinterpreted words of consolation: By reproducing the consoling words of Jesus, the apostle, John probably intended to bring a note of comfort to a group of early Judeo-Christians struggling to maintain their identity around the close of the first century.  John was attempting to give courage and hope to people who found themselves in the midst of a very nasty fight with their passionate and fanatical Jewish neighbors in the Synagogue.  They were frightened, vulnerable and defensive, and their survival as a community of Faith as well as their individual security and safety were in peril.  It is clear that Jesus’s aim was pastoral, an attempt to comfort those friends of his who were afraid and who needed assurance.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in Me…  “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  But some later Christians have used such a text of assurance and comfort, not to comfort one another as Jesus did. Instead, they have used it as a weapon against people who don’t believe in Jesus, or who don’t believe in Jesus the way they do, or who don’t read the Bible the way they do, or who don’t talk in public about their Faith and the way they feel about it as these folks do!  These combative Christians seem to interpret the text as: “There is only one way to Heaven and that is our way!”

The tremendous claim by Jesus.  Centuries before Christ, the sages of India prayed every morning the “Shanti Mantra” (“Mantra prayer of peace”) taken from Brihadaranyaka Upanishads (1.3.28), composed in 700 BCE, in the Sanskrit language: “From falsehood lead me to truth, from darkness lead me to light, from mortality lead me to immortality” (“Aasato Ma Sath Gamaya, Thamaso Ma Jyothir Gamaya, Mrtjyor Ma Amritham Gamaya”). Centuries later Jesus gave the answer to their prayer through his tremendous claim: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  In fact, Jesus took three of the great basic concepts of the Jewish religion and made the unique claim that in him all the three found their full realization.  This means that he alone is the surest way to God.  He alone, Son of God and Son of Man, can authoritatively and flawlessly teach us truths about God, and he alone can give God’s life to us. John’s central message is that Jesus is both the Revealer and the Revelation of God. If we wish to know who God is, what God thinks, and what God wants of us, we must attend to Jesus the Word of God.  “The Jesus of the Gospel does not only show us the way – his life of humble and generous servanthood is the way; he does not just philosophize about a concept of truth – he is the perfect Revelation of the truth about a God of enduring and unlimited love for his people; he is not just a preacher of futuristic promises – he has been raised up by God to a state of existence in God to which he invites all of us.  In embracing the Spirit of his Gospel and living the hope of his Word, we encounter, in Christ, God Himself.” (Connections).

Jesus is the Way.  We go to God the Father who is Truth and Life through Jesus, and Jesus calls Himself the “Way” because He, the Only-begotten Son of God, is also Son of Man,  the visible manifestation in human form of all that his Father is. To those who teach that all religions lead us to God or that religion used is immaterial provided man lead a good life, Jesus has the answer that he is the safest and surest Way to God because he came from God and he can lead us to his Heavenly Father.  The founders of other religions had either wrong ideas about the way to God or they were not sure guides.  Lao-Tse (604-531 BC), the founder of Taoism said: “Get rid of all desires, you will have a contented life on earth, but I am not sure about the next life.”  Buddha taught people to reach self-realization through total detachment and “nirvana,” but he was not sure if these would lead one to God.  Confucius confessed that he did not know of an eternal life or the way to attain it.  The founder of Islam, Mohammed Nabi, admitted that he had no hope of the future unless Allah should put His mantle of mercy on him.  However, Jesus claims that he is the only Way to God. When a Person is a Way for us to get to the Father and everlasting life, that Way is found only in our relationship with Him, that is, in our union with Him in mind and heart, in will and action. But Jesus’ sure Way to God is the narrow Way of the cross.  It is the least-traveled Way of humble, loving, self-giving, and committed service to others. To follow the Way of Jesus is to become a special kind of person, a person whose whole being reflects the Truth and the Life that Jesus is, and reveals to us.  It is to be a person of Truth and Life who is totally identified with the vision and the values of Jesus.  The medieval monk Thomas à Kempis, the author of Imitation of Christ, explains Jesus’ statement, “I am the Way,  and the Truth,  and the Life” thus: “Without the way, there is no going; without the truth, there is no knowing; and without the life, there is no living.”

Jesus is the Truth. Gandhi said, “God is truth.”  Jesus is the Truth because he is the only one who reveals to us the whole Truth about God.  He teaches us that God is a loving, merciful, providing and forgiving Father.  He also teaches us the Truth that our Triune God lives in each one of the believers.  Jesus is the Truth also because he has borne testimony to Truth, demonstrating through his Life and death the Love God is, and has for human beings. Truth, here, is that complete integrity and harmony which Jesus himself revealed, not only in what he said and did, but in the total manifestation of his life and person.  Jesus is the Truth, the Word of God. To seek the truth elsewhere is to stumble and fall, to deal in falsehood and lies. So, we pray in the 86th Psalm, “Teach me thy Way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy Truth.” For us to live the Truth in that Way is also to be fully alive, to be a “fully-functioning person,” responding totally to that abundance of life which Jesus has come to give us.

Jesus is the Life.  As God, Jesus  is Life because he has Eternal Life in himself.  In addition, he is the one who gives us his Life-giving Holy Spirit.  Jesus is the Life also in the sense that he allows us to share in God’s Life through the Sacraments. Christ rose from the dead for two reasons: first, to give us eternal life; second, to make us fully alive now. His Spirit animates every moment of our lives. To be fully alive is to be in God. Thomas a Kempis of The Imitation of Christ fame wrote, “Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living.”

Life messages: 1) We need to know Jesus the Truth and walk Jesus the Way: Jesus asked Philip: “Have I been with you all this time and you still do not know me?” He is asking us the same question: “Have I been with you all this time – in the Mass, in the Sacraments, in the Bible in the worshipping community – and you still do not know me?”  If we really believe that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life, then we will find fresh and creative ways to keep alive his memory. Jesus asks us to keep alive his memory by reading and praying the Scriptures, by gathering in Jesus’ name and celebrating the Eucharist “in memory” of him, by handing on the great tradition of Christian Faith and by living according to his wise teachings.  Jesus says, “If you believe in me, you will do the work I do.” This is the work he’s talking about: creating safe, secure, happy places for one another in which the really important work of life — transformation and big-family building — can happen. We can help one another “get a life” in the same way Jesus did: by recognizing the powerful effect we have on one another, for good or ill, and by consciously deciding to make even our smallest choices add up to safe, secure, happy spaces where every member of our big family can grow whole.

2) We need to possess, and live out,  Jesus the Life.  We share the Divine life of God by making use of the means Jesus established in his Church: a) by actively participating in the Eucharistic celebration and properly receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion;  b) by the worthy reception of the other Sacraments;  c) by the meditative and daily reading of the Word of God;  d) by following the guidance of the life-giving Spirit of God, living within us; and e) by communicating with God, the Source of Life, in personal and family prayers.

JOKES OF THE WEEK 1) “No thanks.”  Evangelist Billy Graham tells of a time during the early years of his preaching ministry when he was due to lead a crusade meeting in a town in South Carolina, and he needed to mail a letter.  He asked a little boy in the main street how he could get to the post office.  The boy gave him directions.  Billy said, “If you come to the Central Baptist Church tonight, I’ll tell you how to get to Heaven, God the Father’s house.” The boy replied, “No thanks.  You don’t even know how to get to the post office, and you are going to teach me how to go to Heaven?!”

2) To the Father’s House with two bags of currency: A stingy old lawyer who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness was determined to prove wrong the saying, “You can’t take it with you.”  After much thought and consideration, the old ambulance-chaser finally figured out how to take at least some of his money with him when he died.  He instructed his wife to go to the bank and withdraw enough paper currency to fill two pillowcases.  He then directed her to take the bags of money to the attic and leave them directly above his bed.  His plan was that when he passed away, he would reach out and grab the bags on his way to Heaven.  Several weeks after the funeral, the deceased lawyer’s wife, while cleaning the attic, came upon the two forgotten pillowcases stuffed with currency.  “Oh, that poor old soul,” she sighed in pity.  “How sad. Of all people, he should have known that money only spends  here!”

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK: (The easiest method  to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

6) Outlines of Bible books http://www.catholicdoors.com/outline/index.htm

7) New American Bible with notes http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/

 23 Additional anecdotes:

1) “You have Faith in God; have Faith also in me” (John 14:1).  Dr. Robert Schuller, that legendary advocate of “Possibility Thinking,” says that there are two words that have killed more God-inspired dreams and hopes than anything else he can think of.  These two words are “Be realistic!”  If we Christians, Dr. Schuller says, were “realistic,” then nothing would be accomplished.  But if we have real, dynamic Faith in God and in Jesus His Son we can do anything.  He cites the example of Tom Dempsey–a young man who was born with half a right foot and a deformed right arm, but a ton of Faith.  Dempsey wanted to be a football player–in spite of his considerable handicaps.  And he did play football.  He became a kicker for his high school team.  But that wasn’t enough.  He wanted to play college ball.  And again, he became the kicker on his college team.  But when he graduated from college, his dream became even wilder and more fantastic.  He wanted to be a professional football player!  A professional football player with half a foot and a deformed right arm!   Impossible!  No coach would accept him.  They all shook their heads – all except one. And it is ironic and more than coincidental that Dempsey became a kicker for the professional football team, The New Orleans SAINTS!  The rest, as they say, is history.  In 1972, Dempsey kicked the longest field goal ever–63 yards!  All because he was not “realistic”! — All because, Schuller tells us, Tom Dempsey had Faith in Jesus Christ who gave him the strength to do what he dreamed. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) “Is anyone down there?” There is the story of a man who fell off a cliff.  On the way down he manages to grab a tree limb.  Peering into a deep canyon, he shudders, looks up, and calls out, “Help, please. Is anyone up there?” After an unbearable silence, a voice answers, “Yes, I am here.” “Who are you?” the man shouts. “It’s Me, the Lord!” Greatly relieved, the man says, “Thank you.  Have you come to rescue me?” “Yes,” says the Lord.  “Let go the rope.”   The man thinks for a second, and then asks, “Is there anyone else up there?”  —  Well, we can understand the man’s reluctance to let go, but, in reality, there is no one else up there.  Jesus says it quite plainly this Sunday, “I am the Way” (Jn 14:6).  He does not say a way, but the way. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) They think they are the only ones up here.” Bill O’Reilly of the O’Reilly Factor summed up this thinking perfectly in one of his “talking points” by telling a joke about a certain denomination and then making his point. He said, “Saint Peter was leading a group of new arrivals on their first tour of heaven. Suddenly he stopped and put his finger to his mouth. “Shhh,” he whispered. “We can’t make a sound when we walk by this room. Remember that.” When they passed out of hearing range one of the new souls asked, “Why?” Peter replied, “Because that room is full of Southern Baptists and they think they are the only ones up here.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) “How many of you would like to go to Heaven?” A Sunday School teacher asked the children in her class: “How many of you would like to go to Heaven?” All of the children raised their hands except one little guy named Derrick. When the teacher asked him why he didn’t want to go to Heaven, he said, “I’m sorry Mrs. Smith, but my Mommy told me to come home right after the Sunday school class, and she was baking an apple pie for me.” — Well, like that little boy, Heaven is still a desire and a dream for most people. For example, 77% of Americans believe in Heaven, and 76% of Americans believe their chances of getting there are “good or excellent.” Now there are still some people who either don’t believe in Heaven or don’t care to go there even if there is one. The psychologist, Sigmund Freud, said, “Heaven was a human fantasy rooted in man’s instinct for self-preservation.” Harvard philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, once asked, “Can you imagine anything more appallingly idiotic than the Christian idea of Heaven?” It is not idiotic for those who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and who believe in his promise of a heavenly abode as described in today’s Gospel.  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) “Who do you think is ‘very likely’ to go to Heaven?” U. S. News and World Report did a poll a few years ago of one thousand respondents, and they asked this question: “Who do you think is ‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ to go to Heaven?” They asked this question about thirteen prominent figures. You will be fascinated by the results. Of all of the celebrities, the biggest vote-getter was Mother Teresa at 79%. Who came in second? Oprah Winfrey at 66%. Third place went to Michael Jordan at 65%. Fourth place went to Colin Powell at 61%. Princess Diana scored an impressive 60%. But when it came to politicians, the figures began to plummet. Al Gore and Hillary Rodham Clinton each scored 55%. Coming in next was President Bill Clinton at 52% (keep in mind this was before the later scandals). But then what is surprising is to find that even heavenly connections didn’t seem to help much in some cases. Only 47% thought that the popular televangelist Pat Robertson had an inside track to Heaven. The bottom figure was O. J. Simpson who gathered only 19% of the vote. But this is the amazing part. The biggest vote-getter of all was those who were surveyed, because more than 87% of Americans surveyed, believed that they themselves were “very likely” to go to Heaven. In today’s Gospel Jesus assures his disciples that he is leaving them to prepare Heavenly abodes for them. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) “Show us the Father.” Where is God when evil is more evident than good? “Show us the Father” when evil seems to have its way. The July, 1990, issue of Time magazine reported that at least 600,000 Americans are infected with the AIDS virus, more than 136,000 have become sick, and some 83,000 of those have died. Victims of the disease basically fall into two categories: people who have had sex with infected individuals and drug addicts who have acquired the virus from contaminated needles, which brings another monumental dilemma into the picture – drug abuse. What we really want to know is, “Where is God when evil has its way?” and the ache deep down in our souls causes us to cry out, “Show us the Father.” — Christian friend, it is all in knowing how to look. Many of you will remember that several years ago one of the Russian cosmonauts left his capsule and floated in space, remarking to the mission control that he did not “see” God anywhere. C. S. Lewis has said, “If a man never sees God on the earth, he will never see him in space; but if a man sees God here in the faces of men and women in his daily life, then when you hurl him into space, he will put his hand upon the face of God.” Lewis concludes, “The seeing eye is tremendously important.” The eye discerns such evidence as it is equipped to acknowledge.  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) True story: The phone rang at 1:00am in the home of Leo Winters, a brilliant Chicago surgeon. It was the hospital telling him that a young boy had been tragically mangled in a car accident. Dr. Winter’s hands were probably the only ones in the city skilled enough to save that boy’s life. He got on his clothes, jumped into his car and decided the quickest route to the hospital would be to drive through a dangerous neighborhood, but since time was critical, he decided to take the risk. He came to a stoplight and when he did, a man in a gray hat and a dirty flannel shirt, opened the door, pulled him out of his seat and screamed, “Give me your car!” The doctor tried to explain that he was on an emergency call, but the thief refused to listen. He threw the doctor out of the car, jumped in and sped off. This doctor wandered for more than 45 minutes looking for a phone so he could call a taxi. When he finally got to the hospital, more than an hour had passed. He ran through the hospital doors, up the stairs, to the nurse’s station. The nurse on duty looked at him and shook her head and said, “Doctor I am sorry, but you are too late. The boy died about 30 minutes ago. His father is in the chapel if you want to see him. He is awfully upset, because he couldn’t understand why you didn’t come to help.” Doctor Winters walked hurriedly down the hallway and entered into that chapel. Weeping at the altar was a man dressed in a dirty flannel shirt and gray hat, whose eyes were blinded by tears. The boy’s father looked up at the doctor in horror and realized his tragic mistake. He had foolishly pushed away the only man in that city who could have saved his son. (Kent Crockett, Making The Day Count For Eternity, pp. 27-28.) — There is only one person that can save your soul. When you exit this life, at the moment you die, you will enter into eternity. If you intend to go to Heaven, you had better make sure you take the one Way, which is the only Way and His name is Jesus Christ. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) “I am at home in my Father’s house: The great 18th century Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, anticipating that some would unduly mourn his passing, wrote these words of comfort and assurance: “Would you like to know where I am? I am at home in my Father’s House, in the mansions prepared for me here. I am where I want to be–no longer on the stormy sea, but in God’s safe, quiet harbor. My sowing time is done and I am reaping; my joy is as the joy of harvest. Would you like to know how it is with me? I am made perfect in holiness. Grace is swallowed up in glory. Would you like to know what I am doing? I see God, not as through a glass darkly, but face to face. I am engaged in the sweet enjoyment of my precious Redeemer. I am singing hallelujahs to Him who sits upon the throne, and I am constantly praising Him. Would you know what blessed company I keep? It is better than the best on earth. Here are the holy angels and the spirits of just men made perfect…I am with many of my old acquaintances with whom I worked and prayed, and who have come here before me. Lastly, would you know how long this will continue? It is a dawn that never fades! After millions and millions of ages, it will be as fresh as it is now. Therefore, weep not for me!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) “Do not be afraid”: I heard a story about a fella out in Los Angeles who had a strange phobia.  He was afraid to cross the street.  He felt perfectly at ease when he was in his car riding along the street, but when he was out walking and would come to an intersection, his face would begin to flow with perspiration, his heart would begin to palpitate and his blood pressure would soar up, and his knees would become Jello.  It was a very real problem.  There are times when you simply have to cross the street.  At last he thought he’d better seek out a psychiatrist to help him with the problem.  And he found one who told him that he could help him overcome that fear.  And the psychiatrist told him that the first thing he needed to do was to imagine himself, just to sit back and use his mind, and imagine himself going back and forth across street, and going back and forth across the street unharmed.  And then after he’d done that, he was to go out at a time when traffic would be least, and go ahead and begin to cross and re-cross intersections until he felt comfortable.  But how in the world in Los Angeles could you find a time of day when it would be least busy?  The psychiatrist told him to go on Sunday morning – on Sunday morning the Catholics would be at Mass, the Protestants would be on the golf course, and the Jews would be out at Palm Springs.  So, all week long, all week long, he practiced in his mind crossing the intersection – back and forth in his imagination. And then on Sunday morning, he went out and he walked across the first intersection he came to only to be struck down by a Seventh Day Adventist who was on his way to work! — Jesus’ word is clear.  We need not fear the future.  Death is not the end for Christians.  Death is the intersection between our earth life and our eternal life, and we need have no fear crossing that intersection.  Our doubts need not suppress the pull of our discontent. Heaven is ahead and Jesus is there.  He has prepared a place for us.  In Heaven we will be with him. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) “No, God has not revealed himself in any religion:” Karl Barth was lecturing to a group of students at Princeton. One student asked the German theologian “Sir, don’t you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only in Christianity?” Barth’s answer stunned the crowd. With a modest thunder he answered, “No, God has not revealed Himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed Himself in His Son.”  —  In no uncertain terms let me say to you this morning that there are three great religions in the world today: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. But there is only one Son of God; only One through whom God has revealed Himself and only One whose teachings stand above all others. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life for all men and women. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) “He died and went to Heaven.” Did you know it’s politically incorrect to preach about Heaven? The cultural referees say it is escapist or hopelessly sentimental. Hollywood and the media generally teach that this world is all there is. According to their version, you better get all you can now, because your death is just like that of dogs and cats. I heard about a little four-year-old boy who was walking on the beach with his mother. They came upon a dead seagull. The little boy asked, “Mommy, what happened to him?” She said, “He died and went to Heaven.” The little boy pondered that a moment and then asked, “And did God just throw him back down?” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) “Birds sing after a storm,” she said, “Why shouldn’t we?” At age ninety-three, Rose Kennedy was being interviewed by a magazine reporter. By this time, four of her nine children had died violently. Another daughter, Rosemary, severely retarded all her life, would soon be gone. Mrs. Kennedy had outlived her husband long enough to have seen his rather profligate and unscrupulous life told and retold in the press. She was an old lady, hit by tragedies again and again. The reporter asked about all this and Rose Kennedy answered, slowly: “I have always believed that God never gives a cross to bear larger than we can carry. And I have always believed that, no matter what, God wants us to be happy. He doesn’t want us to be sad. Birds sing after a storm,” she said, “Why shouldn’t we?” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) “I see I am not your first visitor.” In his book The Transforming Friendship, Leslie Weatherhead passes on to us a lovely story of an old Scotsman who, when he was very ill, was visited by his minister. As the minister sat down on a chair by the bedside, he noticed on the other side of the bed another chair placed at such an angle as to suggest that a visitor had just left. “Well, Donald,” said the minister, glancing at the chair, “I see I am not your first visitor.” The old Scotsman looked up in surprise, so the minister pointed to the chair. “Ah,” said the sick man, “I’ll tell you about that chair. Years ago, I found it impossible to pray. I often fell asleep on my knees; I was so tired. And if I kept awake, I could not control my thoughts from wandering. One day I was so worried I spoke to the minister about it. He told me not to worry about kneeling down. “Just sit down,” he said, “and put a chair opposite you. Imagine that Jesus is in it and talk to Him as you would to a friend.” Then the Scotsman added, “And I have been doing that ever since.” A week later the daughter of the old man drove up to the minister’s house and knocked. She was shown into his study, and when the minister came, she said quietly, “Father died in the night. I had no idea the end was so near. I had just gone to lie down for an hour or two. He seemed to be sleeping so comfortably. When I discovered that he was gone, he hadn’t moved since I last saw him, EXCEPT THAT HIS HAND WAS OUT ON THE EMPTY CHAIR AT THE SIDE OF HIS BED.” — Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” And He, my friends, is a Man and God of His Word! Thanks be to God! (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) “Do not be troubled”: During the Second World War, Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave some of the most stirring speeches of all times. After England had suffered a demoralizing defeat at Dunkirk, Churchill reminded the House of Commons about their commitment to ultimate victory. He said: “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror, victory however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival. We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas, we shall fight in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall never surrender.” With words like that, Churchill aroused the hearts of his people to remain undaunted, even though they were on the verge of destruction. He encouraged them not to lose faith, however fierce the fight became. — In today’s Gospel Jesus gives one of his own stirring speeches. The scene is the Last Supper, his disciples are present, and the time is the eve of his darkest hour, the day of his death. And yet, in spite of knowing that the worst is about to occur, Jesus tells his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have Faith in God and Faith in me.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 15) “You can make a difference! On November 26, 1965, Time Magazine had a story that can give us all food for thought. An electrical fuse about the size of a breadbox failed, resulting in 80,000 square miles along the US-Canadian border being plunged in darkness. All the electrical power for that entire region passed through that single fuse. Without that fuse no power could reach any point in that vast region. — Like that fuse box each of us has a tremendous potential for good or evil, which can affect a multitude. Jesus promises us believers all His power and even more. All we have to do is walk the way he walked and be Jesus to a waiting world! (Anonymous; quoted by Fr.    Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 16) He wanted to be a dropout: It was 1950. The old cardinal of Naples was in his office and seated before him was a young priest who was asking for permission to become a drop-out. He wanted to live on the streets of Naples with the alley boys. The old Cardinal could not take it in. He knew what life was in Naples: 200,000 out of work; young boys hanging on the streets because their parents were without work and could not feed them. They lived by stealing, peddling stolen goods, begging and black marketeering. They slept on the streets and were like wild cats and dodged the police. This young priest, Mario Borelli, wanted to help them, give them a roof over their heads, bread and a bit of human warmth. That the cardinal could understand. But why must the priest become a drop-out himself? Mario knew exactly why: “If I go to these boys as a priest they will spit in my face. They are fearfully distrustful.” The cardinal considered. “Give me ten days to think it over.” After ten days he approved. Mario went on the streets, an old cap back to front on his head, in ragged clothes, a cigarette end in the corner of his mouth. He begged, collected cigarette butts and became a vagrant. Gradually he won the hearts of those youngsters. Soon he was even the head of the gang. When he found a primitive shelter, his youth went with him. They weren’t able to do otherwise -they were drawn to him. Mario had something irresistible about him. They had no word for it because it was something they had never before experienced. How could they know that word was love? — Perhaps we can now better understand why God became man. He wanted to be one with us to show us the way and save us, “God-with-us,” that is Jesus, the Way to the Father. (Pierre Lefevre, quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 17) St. Augustine’s discovery of God: Late have I loved You, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved You! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for You. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which You created. You were with me, but I was not with You. Created things kept me from You; yet if they had not been in You, they would have not been at all. You called, You shouted, and You broke through my deafness. You flashed, You shone, and You dispelled my blindness. You breathed Your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for You. I have tasted You; now, I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.  (St. Augustine, The Confessions X, Chapter 27/Section 38; quoted by Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 18) Showing the way: Like the shepherd, and like Jesus, a mother has a close and deep relationship to her flock or family. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect them from danger. And there’s nowhere she wouldn’t go to seek out the one who strays or gets lost. A mother’s love for her family functions even when she can no longer protect her children herself. There’s a beautiful story in the autobiography of Jimmy Cagney, the famous Hollywood actor. It takes place in Cagney’s youth when his mother is on her deathbed. Around the bed were the four Cagney boys and Jeannie, their only sister. Because of a stroke, Mrs. Cagney could no longer speak. After she had hugged each of her five children, she lifted her right arm, the only one that was still functioning. Jimmy describes what happened next: “Mom indicated Harry with the index finger of her useless hand, she indicated me with her second finger, she indicated Eddie with her third finger and with her fourth finger, she indicated Bill. Then she took the thumb, moved it to the middle of her palm, and clasped the thumb tightly under the four fingers. Then she patted this fist with her good hand.” — Jimmy says her gesture was beautiful. Everyone knew what it meant. The four brothers were to protect Jeannie after their mother was gone. It was gesture that no words could have duplicated in beauty and meaning. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 19) Gandhi’s “Dandi March: The “Dandi March” initiated on March 12, 1930, was a landmark in India’s freedom struggle. Mahatma Gandhi walked with 78 hunger strikers (Satyagrahis) for 23 days from Sabarmati Ashram to the coastal town of Dandi about 380 kilometers away in defiance of the salt tax imposed by the British. In his book My Experiments with Truth, Gandhiji writes that he instructed people: ‘to make salt along the seashore wherever it was most convenient and comfortable.” The 75th anniversary of this event was commemorated in 2005 with Indian and foreign pilgrim-yatris retracing this historic “way.” Indeed, great leaders have imprinted wondrous “ways” on the sands of time. — You’ve probably read the “Footprints in the Sand” anecdote. When the man complains that he saw only one set of footprints in the sand during his trials and sufferings, the Lord replies, “Those footprints are Mine! It was then that I carried you!” We can joyfully sing that popular song, “We’re on Our Way to Heaven” not because we’ve discovered salvific ways to Life, but because Jesus – the Way and the Vehicle – carries us heavenward. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 20) They knit together with prayer: A group of women meet one or two evenings a week.  They light a candle and offer a prayer together, perhaps sing a hymn.  Then they begin their sacred work. The women are part of a ministry that has touched many lives in many churches and parishes.  They knit and crochet prayer shawls.  The shawls are given to individuals suffering through a time of transition, crisis, illness or need.  A wedding, the birth of a child, a broken bone, an illness, the death of a loved one — all are occasions for the “hug” in the shape of a shawl.  While stitching, the maker of the shawl holds that person in her thoughts, making the very act of knitting a prayer. Those who receive the shawls say that they feel loved, cared for and, most of all, surrounded by God’s love and compassion.  They are deeply moved to know that someone has cared enough to pray for them and to make a cozy, warm, comforting gift.  The mother of a young girl battling cancer told the knitters in her parish that her daughter said that when she felt bad, she wrapped herself up tightly in the shawl and it made her feel better.  Another woman refused to take her shawl off during her final months of life because it was her “scarf of love.”  Many who have known the solace of a prayer shawl in their last months ask to be buried with the shawl around their shoulders. But the knitters believe that they receive as much from making the shawls as do those who receive them.  Their simple knitting and gentle prayer become offerings and symbols of God’s compassion for others — and God is as present to them as they knit as He is to those who will wrap themselves up in the loving warmth of the shawl itself. [From “Knit Together with Prayer” by the Rev. Susan S. Izard, Spirituality & Health (November/December 2004.  For more on the prayer shawl ministry, visit the website shawlministry.com.] — To do the simplest work of compassion and charity in God’s spirit of love is to do the very work of Christ; the most hidden and unseen acts of kindness will be exalted by Christ as great in the Kingdom of his Father.  On the night before he died, Jesus asks his disciples to take up “the work that I do,” the work of humble servanthood that places the hurts and pain of others before our own, the work of charity that does not measure the cost, the work of love that transcends limits and conditions). (Connections).

 21) Are you sure this is the way?” During the 2nd World War, in Malaya, a prisoner happened to escape from the prisoners’ camp. He was assisted by a native fellow who led him through a thick forest and from there to freedom and back home. The native fellow walked ahead, and the man followed him from behind. With great difficulty they were finding their way through thorns and bushes, and ups and downs, and twists and turns, and the man got very tired. He then asked the native fellow, “Are you sure this is the way?” The native fellow looked at him, and in broken English he said, “There is no way. I am the way. If you want to be free and go home, then you have to just follow me.”— In the same way, in the Gospel Reading of today Jesus says to us, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” As we journey with him through our earthly life in the midst of our problems and difficulties, sufferings and pains, disappointments and discouragements, stress and strain, to the House of our Heavenly Father, all we have to do is to remember we are just following him.(Fr. Lakra). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

22) Many “dwelling places” in the Father’s house:  The following story gives insight into God’s mysterious ways and how we are led into “the many dwelling places” in the Father’s house (cf. Ginger Lloyd, “More than Coincidence” in Guideposts, April 2013, p. 49).  Ever since my husband, Ricardo, lost his job and we lost our home, I’d said the same prayer every day, “Lord, help us find an apartment. Lots of light, warm and homey, a new kitchen, a clean fully tiled roomOutdoor space, like a balcony would be nice, but asking way too much. A decent place would do.”  Ricardo didn’t believe in prayer. But he didn’t have any other answers. We were renting part of a rundown house in Rockford, Illinois, not ideal conditions to raise our eight-year-old son. It was dark and cramped, the floors cold and bare. The kitchen appliances were constantly breaking down and there was no storage for our things. The shared bathroom was filthy. But there was nothing else in the area that we could afford. Then I found mouse droppings and roaches. I’d had it. Walking back from doing errands one day, dreading returning to our squalid little space, I cried, “Lord, we can’t live like this! Where is the apartment I’ve been praying for?” Turn here and go up two blocks. The voice popped into my head so suddenly, so strongly, I didn’t question the thought. I turned and walked. At the end of the second block, the voice spoke again: Turn right and go up three more blocks. I obeyed. The house I came to was nothing special. But the urgent voice commanded me: Walk up to the door. Ask about the apartment. What apartment? I didn’t see a “For Rent” sign. But I’d come this far. I knocked and a young woman answered. “Do you know where I can find an apartment for rent?” I blurted. Her eyes widened. “How did you know? We didn’t even list it yet.” From inside, her husband asked who was at the door. “Someone about the apartment”, she said. The man appeared puzzled but offered to show it to me. Light cascaded through the windows and across the carpeted floor. Brand new appliances gleamed in the kitchen. There were plenty of closets. The tile in the bathroom sparkled. “How much is the rent?” I asked tentatively. “How much can you afford?” the man asked. I told him, “That’ll do.” Ricardo couldn’t believe it – “You found it how?”–  I told him about the voice, the commands, how the apartment had every detail I’d prayed for. With each thing I mentioned, the expression on his face shifted, from disbelief to a dawning belief – especially when I added, “Actually, it has more than I asked for. There’s even a balcony.” (Ginger Lloyd). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 23) Believe because of the works I do.” When James W. Loucks, a bachelor and a veteran of the Civil War, died in 1934 at the Soldiers’ Home in Bath, New York, he bequeathed $2000 to St. John’s Orphanage in Utica, New York, and $1000 to the Sisters of St. Joseph at Little Falls, N.Y. His will also instructed the administrators of his estate, the Herkimer Co. Trust Co., to use the residue “for Masses for the repose of myself and my brother, Daniel.” Since the thrifty veteran had saved $10,000 from his humble employment as a farmer’s helper, road worker, and shoemaker, that meant that some $7,000 was to go for Mass offerings. Now, the president of the Herkimer Co. Trust Co. was puzzled about this last matter. He decided that the residue should be invested, and only the interest used for Masses. When this decision came to the attention of the bishop of Rochester, in whose diocese Mr. Loucks died, the bishop replied that Church law required that the whole sum should go for Masses. In fact, he felt obliged to take the case to court. Finally, three years later, the judge surrogate of Steuben County ruled that in this instance Church law took precedence over Civil law. As soon as the total residue was consigned to the bishop, he saw to it that, after this three-year wait, Masses finally began to be offered according to the old artilleryman’s intentions.

Who was James Loucks, whose dying wish was the celebration of several thousands of Masses? His religious history was most interesting, according to newsman James B. Hutchinson. Born to Protestant parents in 1844 at Manheim, Herkimer County N.Y., Jim enlisted in 1863 in Co. H. of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery. He saw action in the Pennsylvania campaigns of the Civil War from Cold Harbor on. Up to that time, he had had little or no contact with Catholics. But one thing that impressed him deeply as the war continued was the great work the Sisters of Charity were doing with the victims of the battlefield. If they are so caring, he thought, then the Church they represent must be a loving church. Then came the battle of Gettysburg – vast, bloody, frightening. In the midst of it, Jim vowed “If the Almighty God spares me in this war, I will become a Catholic! ”God did spare him, and he kept his pledge. When mustered out of service, he went to work on a farm near Little Falls, N.Y., where he approached Father James Ludden of St. Mary’s Church, Little Falls. Eventually received into the Church, he became an active Catholic; deeply religious and much given to reading and study of the faith. Between 1877 and 1885 he served as sexton of St. Mary’s. At the age of 69, he retired to the Soldiers’ Home at Bath. — Our words of praise for the Catholic faith can often win others to join the Church. Even more persuasive than Catholic words, however, are Catholic deeds. It was the good deeds of the Sisters of Charity that moved Jim Loucks to become a Catholic. In today’s gospel, Our Lord makes much the same point: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works I do. ”Does our daily Christian life impress others to think well of our Church?-Father Robert F. McNamara. L/23

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 30) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C  & A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in.  (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604