Here is my homily for last weekend. God bless all!
5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C
April 23/24, 2016
Acts 14: 21-27; Rev 21: 1-5a; Jn 13: 31-33a, 34-35
Do you remember last Sunday’s Gospel? Jesus told us that his gift to us is eternal life, and this gift he does not take back. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. (John 10:28) He also said, “I am the good shepherd; I lead them to eternal life, and all who believe in me shall not perish!” In today’s Gospel, Jesus commands us, “If you are to be my disciple, love one another!”
So the question is, “Do you really believe that Jesus has given you eternal life, not just an earthly life? Do you really believe that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and only he can lead you into eternity? Do you really follow him by sincerely loving one another as he has commanded? Do we really believe and do we really love?”
It is awfully easy to say, “Yes! I believe!” but then live in ways that say just the opposite, i.e., live in unloving ways! Yes, do we really believe in God’s gift of eternal life? If we say we believe, then we have to back it up with our lives. We may even have to die believing.
If someone were to challenge you and say, “Prove to me that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he gives you eternal life and leads you into eternity!” Could you meet the challenge by showing that person a life of love for others? Could you demonstrate your belief and your gratitude for the gift of eternal life by a loving life?
Let’s admit it.. we profess our belief in eternal life, but then go about living our daily lives in ways that bear no witness to this belief, i.e., in ways that put the emphasis on our earthly lives and not our eternal lives. If you accept the gift, then you must obey the Shepherd by loving each other!
The Apostles believed in eternal life, and lived the law of love. The early Christians believed in God’s gift of eternal life and thousands died witnessing to that belief and that gift, by loving God and others. Christians today in the Mideast believe in the gift and follow the Good Shepherd even to death.
Remember, eternal life is the gift of God himself, and God is love. God, who is love, is eternal life. God gives himself, both life and love, and he does so without any reservation. He gave us his Son, Jesus! Nothing is greater than this gift; no command more important than the commadment to love as Jesus loved! If we say we believe in eternal life, the gift of Jesus Christ, then how can we live in ways that deny him by refusing to love one another? How can we raise families with little conversation about God and faith and the Church, or live with the injustices rendered to the poor and the unborn, or turn a cold heart to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the poor?
If we really accept God’s gift of eternal life, and acknowledge Jesus as the Good Shepherd of our lives, then we must respond with love and courage. His gift to us demands a courageous response from us. It requires great courage, great love today, because there is a battle out there in the world, a battle for souls, a battle for the integrity of our families and our parishes.
I challenge all parents with young children. God has given the gift of eternal life to you and your children in baptism. Are you diligently working to preserve that gift in your children, like you promised you would at their baptisms? Are you nourishing the faith, teaching them the faith, protecting your children from the influences of the world that will offer only false love? Many will offer them false gods to follow; we must present to them the truth and demonstrate it by love.
I challenge all men to step up to the task at hand, all men but especially fathers. Be men of courage, love, and strength! Our children need strong, loving and courageous fathers who are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to show their families and the world what real love is. We need men of love and courage to “step into the breach,” plug the holes in the lines, and be willing to fight to protect God’s gift in their children and their wives; men willing to protect their families from harm.
We need men who, as our second reading said, “persevere in the faith… and undergo many hardships.” (Acts 14: 22) We men must be willing to step forward and lead with love and courage, like Barnabas and Paul. We already have countless women who are doing so.
It all ends up back at that essential question for every human being, i.e., “Do we really believe that God loves us, has given us eternal life in his Son, Jesus who alone leads us to eternal happiness? Are we willing to accept this gift of eternal life, i.e., the gift of God himself, and God’s commandment to love one another?