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6th Sunday of Easter - May 21, 2017

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          I welcome all of our students receiving First Communion, their families and friends who gather with them today, and especially those who have traveled to be with them for this very special occasion.  You may not fully understand how through the Eucharistic Prayer these simple gifts of Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, but your faith that you are receiving His Body and Blood is what is most important.  And not only who you are receiving but that receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood brings the grace of his love and forgiveness of his death and resurrection to you right now.  Receiving him into your body makes you one with him and with all of us who receive him, not only here at this Mass but all over the world. (Avatar) And that unity transcends or is more important than those things that make us different!

          Parents: Story of the girl who did not know me at my 3rd year of First Communions.  Please bring them to Mass.

Two friends traveling on vacation decided to visit Niagara Falls.  As they drove from Lake Erie to the falls, they were filed with awe and admiration at the size and power of the Niagara River. They were particularly impressed with the rapids just above the falls and stopped there to take in the view.  From there they could see the massive cloud of mist that always hangs over the precipice.  One of the friends remarked to the other:  “Without a doubt, this is surely the greatest unused power in the world.”  “Ah, no my friend, not so!” the other said.  “The greatest unused power in the world is the power of love.” In Jesus’ sacrifice of love, giving His very life on the cross, we have the perfect example of life-giving love for us.  Are we doing our part to make that grow in our world through acts and words of kindness, forgiveness and mercy?  Or is that great gift lying dormant in our hearts and souls?  If those questions are too rhetorical, pay attention to how you treat others this week through your words and actions – there-in you will find the answer.  Loving Jesus is impossible without loving and forgiving others.  And as we heard, it is not an option, but a commandment.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  We just heard that in today’s Gospel.   If loving Jesus is our goal, all else in our lives will fall into place, not without struggle and hardship though.  You may be wondering or thinking that sounds good, but what does loving Jesus and keeping his commandments mean?  I think first and foremost, it means to follow his example, to walk the way that he walked, to love sacrificially, even laying down our lives for our friends.  If there is one word in John’s Gospel that sums up Jesus’ life and teaching, it is again love.  Such love is both the fruit of, and the condition for, God’s presence in us.  ….condition for and fruit of…We can’t love without having God’s presence.  And when we love, we feel his presence more profoundly.  Sometimes, we need to be reminded of his great love for us - that love that lead his son to lay down his life for us to bring forgiveness to us for our sins. 

          Concretely, loving is when barriers between peoples are being broken down, when prejudices are being overcome, when lost brothers and sisters are finding each other as God’s children, when abuse stops, when healing occurs that we can recognize the work of Jesus is surely being continued in our own day. 

          “Beloved;  Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.  Always be ready  to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when your are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.”  Peter basically tells us how to live.  Make Christ our first priority.  If he is, then it will be easy to explain to anyone the reason for our hope, that is why we live the way we do.  How we face life’s challenges with unwavering faith.  How we help those suffering.  How we speak to those making fun of our faith with gentleness and reverence.  How we deal with false accusations – if we are living the way we should, then we can’t be maligned.  In other words, all of this boils down to, we show people our faith, hope and joy no by what we say, but by our very lives.  Our very lives will reflect our hope, especially when we love compassionately, with forgiveness, tolerance and understanding, and will be of themselves an explanation and an answer to those who are curious about us, and even to those who while openly opposing and deriding us, are gravely doubting in their hearts, whether it is we or they who are wrong.