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6th Sunday of Easter - May 26, 2019


Homilia en Español

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By Deacon Tim Papa

Reflecting on the readings for today, there is a theme through which a thread can be drawn: service. It is a wonderful coincidence that these readings line up with the weekend that we celebrate Memorial Day, since we can look to those individuals who answered the call to service of Country in the military as examples of what we are called to do as Christians in our call to serve God and Church.


The first reading is an accounting of the first major council of the Church, in which the apostles were dealing with conflicts between the Christians who were formerly Jewish and those who were formerly non-Jewish, that is to say Gentile. Saints Paul and Barnabas, who have already been of great service to the Church in the spread of the faith throughout the Gentile world of the Mediterranean are now called upon to work with the Apostles in Jerusalem, who lead mostly Jewish congregations, to incorporate various cultural differences. We can compare this to the Church fathers who attended the Second Vatican Council. They also strove to strike a balance between keeping the best of the older traditions of the Church while modernizing it. For those of you who have ever led group of people with very diverse viewpoints, you can understand the thankless service that goes into these decisions.


The second reading is not so much about acts of service but instead paints a picture that shows us what service is about. Whether it was Saint Paul or those of us here today, we look to a vision of what purpose our service is expected to achieve. John in Revelations describes the New Jerusalem that we hope to build through our service to the Church. President Ronald Reagan spoke of the “shining city on a hill” as his vision of America. Whether or not you agreed politically with how President Reagan proposed to achieve this end, few would argue with the ultimate goal he was able to articulate for our nation.


Finally, the Gospel is taken from a long discussion Jesus had with His disciples on the night before He was crucified. Christ promises us His Holy Spirit to help us and guide us in our mission. Christ reminds His apostles that they will join Him in heaven if they follow His mandates.


We are called as Christians to service. We are like the military in this regard because we should dedicate our lives to a larger purpose. But unlike the military this purpose is not country or freedom or safety but to the perpetuation of Christian values. As Pope Francis has stated, one of these larger purposes that we can take up is to fight against the throw-away culture which the modern world presents us at every turn, and to strongly insist on lasting Judeo-Christian values.
We are blessed to be living in the United States. We take pride in our freedom, both political and economic. Winston Churchill famously said that “democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried....” The same could be said for capitalism. Control of the state or the economy by a small group of people, no matter how smart, has always historically resulted in failure due to ineptitude or corruption. However, both democracy and capitalism have had notable failures, which have generally been the result of a degeneration in moral values.
I believe that the special sauce, the not-so-secret ingredient that allows our system to flourish is the willingness of a majority of the people to display Christian values. It is the individual given the freedom to act in his or her own interest that makes the system work, but for the system to work well and be worthy of the label of a just society it also requires individuals willing to act against their own interest and in the interest of others who are disadvantaged in life. God gives us freedom, just as he gave Adam and Eve freedom. We can love God or not, we can do good or not, we can look out for our neighbor or not. This was what God wanted – to be otherwise, to force us to do good, would mean that we were no more than the other animals following our instincts instead of our intellect.


But what God gives us, unfortunately, some people have been able to take away, at least politically and economically. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who take up arms in the military to preserve our freedoms from other countries, and those in the civil services that preserve our freedoms from stronger or craftier people and aid us in times of disasters.


There is a myth that our service men and women do their duty without complaint. I'm here to tell you, having served in the Navy as a submarine officer, that this is not so: they do complain, as we all do. What makes them special is that, at the end of the day, they always do their duty. Despite the hardships involved, they do what they know needs to be done.

What is our duty as Christians? This was stated clearly in last week's Gospel: they will know we are Christ's disciples by our love of one another. This requires of all of us a service no less dedicated that that of the veterans we remember this weekend. And we will complain, not doubt, because love of some people is difficult. But we do it anyway, because this is our duty. It is the duty of all to fight against a throw-away culture of a dog-eat-dog world, and to fight against those who would take advantage of the freedom inherent in democracy and capitalism to use and abuse others less fortunate than themselves. If we take up this challenge of service, we have lived up to our baptismal commitments to our Church, the body of Christ, and also done our part in keeping our country, for which so many have fought and died

By Deacon Jim Hinnerschitz

           In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see Paul dealing with the first major controversy of the early Church – the issue of whether circumcision was necessary to become part of the community of believers.  Unlike the Church in Jerusalem, Paul did not require circumcision for the Gentile converts.  But rather then dwelling on the disagreement between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile converts Paul dealt with the conflict swiftly and peacefully.


           Much of the process for reaching a decision is omitted from today’s reading, but it is helpful to understand how the believers addressed their differing practices.  The process begins with bringing the representatives together and debating, not in the sense of one side winning and the other side losing, but investigating and discussing.  Part of the investigating involves remembering and relating their experiences, that of Paul as well as Peter.  James, the leader of the Jerusalem Church, correlates these experiences with Scripture and makes a judgement that is announced in the letter reported in today’s reading.  The letter is then made widely known by personal representatives, Paul and Barnabas, to the Gentile Christians.  The decision, ultimately coming from the Holy Spirit, does not demand circumcision, but only abiding by norms that allow Gentile and Jewish Churches to live in peace.


           With all the disagreement and anger that is rampant in our society today, it seems like the art of debate and compromise is lost.  If only there were more concern for the overall good of the community, instead of pride getting in the way and individuals only wanting to see their side of an issue.  Then we could return to our Christian roots of coming together for the good of the community, resolving disputes with respect, loving one another and living in peace with each other.


           In today’s Gospel reading we find Jesus preparing his apostles for his impending suffering and death.  Jesus breaks the sad news to the apostles that he will soon be leaving them, but that he will also remain with them – a concept that they could not yet understand.  He also tells the apostles of two farewell gifts that he will leave them.  First, his Father will send them the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is pointing to his own role of being their advocate during his lifetime but as he leaves them the other Advocate, the Holy Spirit will remain with them always.  This Advocate will teach them everything, ultimately giving them a deeper understanding of what Jesus taught them throughout his ministry.


    The second gift that Jesus leaves the apostles is peace, a treasure that his Jewish disciples would understand as the Hebrew notion of shalom – completeness and harmony in every dimension of life.  Jesus tells them that His peace will remain with them even in the face of intense conflict, persecution, rejection and death.


           I found the following reflection in The Word Among Us publication and would like to share it with you.


    Wouldn’t you like a little more peace in your life and in the world?  News reports are full of stories of conflicts, both national and international.  Relationships suffer from discord or disagreements.  Even our own thoughts and desires can be conflicted at times.  Where can peace come from?
    From Jesus, of course!  In today’s Gospel, when he offers peace to his disciples, the word Jesus uses is the Hebrew word Shalom, which means welfare and wholeness.  Shalom is used as both a greeting and farewell – usually between two friends wishing the best for each other.
    But Jesus doesn’t simply wish his disciples peace; he gives it to them.  The peace of salvation.  The tranquility of knowing that he has restored them to his Father in heaven.  The joyful certitude that everything has been put in its proper order, and all hindrances to peace have been removed.
    Jesus gives that peace to you too.  It starts internally, as you come to know the mercy, love and salvation you have received in Christ.  Every time you go to Confession, you pray before the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus’ peace takes a greater hold in your life.  It matures every time you stop yourself from getting agitated by what you see around you or within you.  Every time you pray “Come Holy Spirit”, you are reaching out to the One who speaks peace into your heart.  Gradually, your heart opens up to trust that God’s love for you can overcome any conflict you see.
    As you cultivate that internal peace, it will begin to extend out from you into your relationships.  You’ll be less likely to respond in kind if someone blows up at you.  You’ll find it easier to keep smiling when someone cuts you off in traffic.  You might even seek reconciliation with an estranged relative or show kindness to an unfriendly neighbor.


    And from there, who knows?  As each of us cultivates peace, it will make this world a more and more peaceful place.         “Jesus, thank you for the gift of your peace!”


           As we recognize and congratulate this year’s graduates today, let’s also remind them that they will always have the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ Peace to guide them and help them maneuver through life.  Their educational accomplishments have equipped them with the knowledge and tools necessary to have a fruitful life.  But always remember that when situations become difficult you have those very special gifts from Jesus – The Holy Spirit and Jesus’ peace to rely on to guide you through difficult times.  Graduates, you also have the many prayers from your St James family for your continued success now and in the future.


           As we celebrate Memorial Day this coming Monday, let’s not forget all the military personnel and first responders who have either given their all or are currently serving our country and communities to keep us safe.  Protecting the many freedoms we have; including religious freedom – that we sometimes take for granted.  Let’s pray for those who have gone before us and those currently serving that they will remain out of harms way and know the love and peace of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.


           Let’s take some time to remember all that Jesus has done for us.  Let’s also make good use of the special gifts that He left us to work together for the good of all God’s people.  We should always show the love and peace of Jesus through our actions.
    May the Peace of the Risen Jesus be with you always.


    By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

    “Peace Be With You.”  We say this to one another so often that perhaps we fail to appreciate that the peace of Christ is a profound gift.  When the Risen Jesus greeted his disciples behind locked doors he said, “Peace be with you.”  And, perhaps because their jaw dropped out of amazement, Jesus repeated the greeting.  The followers of Jesus were crushed and dismayed that he had been taken from them and crucified.  They were terrified that the authorities would come for them next.  Jesus blesses them with a peace that only He can offer – a sense of well being and harmony with God and with others.  What gift is greater than personal and social peace yet we often fail to embrace it.

    When Jesus said, “Peace be with you,” he showed the disciples his hands and his side.  The peace of Jesus is born of sacrifice because it flows from his suffering, death, and resurrection.  Jesus suffered hatred and violence but rose above it.  We are called to that peace which transcends hatred, revenge, animosity, and prejudice.  We are called apart from the world in which one advances by stepping on others with contempt.  Memorial Day reminds us that national peace is born of sacrifice.  We honor the men and women who have paid with their lives that we may live in peace.  We also honor military service members and their families who are making sacrifices for our well being now.

     

    Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit along with love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faith, gentleness and chastity.  On Pentecost the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostles to preach the Gospel of peace and reconciliation and inspired the people to hear the Good News in their own language.

    Peace comes from unity.  In the first reading there is a group upsetting the harmony of the church with a message that gentiles must adhere to the Jewish law when they become Christian.  The Council of Jerusalem restored the unity and harmony of the church with orthodox teaching and guidance.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he appoints Bishops to guide and unify the community; the bishop’s crosier is a shepherd’s staff to symbolize this ministry.  The Eucharist also signifies that we are one in Christ.  That is why we cannot share Holy Communion with visitors who are not in the Catholic Communion, because the sacrament signifies unity of faith.  The peace and unity of the Eucharist is expressed in the prayers of the celebrant in the Communion Rite:

     

    Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,
    graciously grant peace in our days,
    that, by the help of your mercy,
    we may be always free from sin
    and safe from all distress,
    as we await the blessed hope
    and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
    And,
    Lord Jesus Christ,
    who said to your Apostles,
    Peace I leave you, my peace I give you,
    look not on our sins,
    but on the faith of your Church,
    and graciously grant her peace and unity
    in accordance with your will.

     

    The Church is also a sign of unity among the peoples of the world.  The fact that we are catholic means we are global and universal; we bridge divisions between social, cultural, ethnic, and economic groups.  We would not be aghast should a rich man attend Mass with his chauffeur or a rich woman attend Mass with her maid - but this is not true for other churches

    We advocate for social justice because there is no peace without justice.  We extend the peace of Christ when we advocate for the poor, the oppressed, those who suffer injustice, the stranger, the victim of violence.

     

    The voice of Jesus calls us to harmony with all peoples.  In the Gospel of John, Chapter 10 Jesus says,

     

    I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  I must lead them, too, and they shall hear my voice.  There shall be one flock, then, one shepherd.

     

    Is this not an amazing vision – that there will be one flock and one shepherd?  If this is the will of Christ then we must help bring it about.  The world will hear the voice of Christ through our voice proclaiming peace and harmony to all.  The gift of peace and justice is promised to us in the Canticle of Zechariah in the Gospel of Luke – let us resolve to be a part of that vision:

    In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us:  to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.