Here is my homily for the weekend. God bless you!
5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C
May 14/15, 2022
Acts 14:21-27; Rev 21:1-5a; John 13:31-33a, 34-35
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Acts 14:22
“Behold! I make all things new. The old order has passed away.” Rev 21:4-5
“I give you a new commandment: love one another.” John 13:34
How many of us have tried to make a change in our lives? Maybe it was to lose weight and take up regular exercise to improve our health. Maybe it was to become more patient with someone. Maybe, it was to try to root out of our lives a bad habit, or a particular sin. Have you ever tried to change a sinful lifestyle or relationship?
It is hard to change, especially if we have a lot invested in some old way of living. We know how hard it is to change who we are, whether it is to lose weight, change our lifestyle if we are caught up in a sinful life, to rid ourselves of our habits of sin, to become more loving and patient…. The examples are numerous. We come up with all sorts of rationalizations, all sorts of reasons not to change, and the devil loves it when we do. We all know how familiar the “old order” is and how hard it is to become a “new man or woman.” The old is familiar, the new is uncomfortable. On our own, we will end up choosing the familiar old ways, even if they are not good.
Only by God’s grace are we made into new creatures… only through the grace of our baptisms, and faith in that grace.
Yes, the enormity of our baptism! We forget its importance. We forget its implications. We forget how necessary it is that we be converted to God and live in freedom through the doors of hardship and struggle.
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”
We are baptized! We are no longer who we once were! We are new creatures and this newness matures only after we undergo many hardships in life.
People of God, the fullness of the Gospel includes the Cross, the passage from death to life, the willingness to face hardships and remain faithful, and to come out the other side of the struggle as a new man, a new woman. This is what the sacrament of baptism is all about, and this is what our lives must be about. For all of us!
No one who has ever embraced the Cross, who has embraced the hardships of life with faith, has ever remained the same person. No one. Such a person has always emerged as a new man, a new woman. The old man is gone.
“Behold, I make all things new!”
Of course, facing the Cross without faith only hardens us. It only embitters us. We all know this. We all have met such people. We all have met that person in ourselves sometimes. Faith in the midst of hardship is vital. It is what our world lacks today. Our world is filled with hardships and is weak in faith. We must be different.
I, and all other who have the burden of preaching the Gospel, must preach the whole Gospel, not just the parts that sound sweet and “tickles your ears.” It is too important to neglect the harder parts, and to settle for half-truths.
Should we be surprised at life’s hardships? Should we avoid them at all costs? Should we whimper and whine when our faith demands something difficult, when it demands a change of life, when it insists on a conversion and letting go of our favorite sins? When it tells us we must give up a sinful lifestyle? The answer must be “No!” to those questions.
We must see conversion as the road God lays out for us to arrive at glory. We must see the many hardships, the daily difficulties in living out our faith, the very difficult decisions to amend our ways and change basic things in our lives, as the way to newness of life, to glory, to fulfillment, to heaven itself.
For some of us this will require great sacrifices, big changes and giving up a lot. Accepting the truth and rejecting the lies that are circulating in our society today will be a struggle.
“I give you a new commandment: love one another.”
This is the great commandment to which we are bound. We must not reduce “love” to “being nice.” Being nice can be a part of love, but it doesn’t define it. To love is a decision to choose what is good for someone, i.e., to desire the good for a person. That which is good may not be easy for us to offer or for someone to accept, but we must want it for them anyway. We must tell them that we love them by showing them what is good, by speaking the truth, by never lying.
“Love, as I have loved you,” says Jesus. He loved us so much that he accepted the Cross. He loved us so much that he spoke the truth and told us we must change. He told us we must be converted, we must stop sinning, we must believe, and that we must come to experience his infinite mercy by changing our lives.
Love one another! We can and will do that if we have first loved God, and out of that love, love each other.
“Behold, I make all things new!”