Saturday, April 23, 2016


Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C.  Acts 13:21-27; Rev. 21:1-5a; John 13:31-33a, 34-35.

AIM:   To show how Jesus fulfills his promise to make all things new. 

            Walk down the aisle of any supermarket. Scan the ads in any popular magazine.  Watch the commercials on TV. One word recurs in ever fresh combination: “new.” It if isn’t a new look, it’s a new taste, a new feeling, a new formula. Everyone with something to sell seems to be promising us something new. Self-help books offer us a whole new life, or at least renewed physical and mental health, if only we will follow their directions. And during political campaigns candidates promise us a new society, a new frontier, new ideas, or at least a new approach.

            How many of these promises are fulfilled? Not many. Today’s shiny new car becomes tomorrow’s shabby trade-in. The self-help books turn out to offer not the new life they promise, but at best improvement in the old life we already have. And we all know what happens to campaign promises after the election.

            Is life a cheat? Is the universal longing for newness to which all these promises appeal doomed to be forever frustrated? To these nagging questions our second reading returns a ringing and confident No. “The One who sat on the throne said to me, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”

            The Book of Revelation, from which those words are taken, describes in language of poetic imagery the author’s vision of heaven. It might seem, therefore, that this promise of One who makes all things new belongs not to this world but to another: “Pie in the sky when we die,” as the old saying has it. Complete fulfillment of this promise does belong to the life beyond death. But it is part of the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ that God offers us here and now a foretaste of that new and better life which, in its fullness, will be ours hereafter.

            The Lord who makes all things new does this in many ways. Let me speak about just one. It is indicated by the words that the author of Revelation heard in his vision: “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.” 

            That assurance that God is always with us evokes a ready response. Deep in every heart there is a longing for a companion, a friend, a lover, who will accept and love us just as we are; who will support us in sorrow, share our joys, help us to rise above failure and injustice; who will be with us always.

            When we were little children our parents did this for us, if they were good parents.  Few things are more devastating for a small child than to be suddenly separated from Mummy or Daddy. Across the span of eighty-three years I can still recall my feeling of panic when, on my first day at school, I found that my mother had slipped away without my noticing. I realize now that she wanted to spare me a wrenching and tearful farewell. At the time, however, I was crushed.

            We have all had experiences like that. We carry those childhood hurts into adult life, still secretly afraid that we shall be hurt again; that our efforts at friendship and love will be rebuffed; that we shall be let down, hurt, abandoned, by someone we love and trust. When we are, the old wound is reopened, and our fear of loneliness is reinforced.

            To those oppressed by loneliness (and which of us is not, at some time or another?) the Lord proclaims: “Behold, I make all things new.” When no one else understands, there is One who does understand. When everyone else seems to ignore us, to reject us, to condemn us, there is One who accepts us. When I cannot find one other person to accept the love I long to give, and to receive, there is One who does accept: who loved me before I loved him, who loves me more than I can ever love him, who will go on loving me no matter what. His name is Jesus Christ. He is the One who makes all things new.

            Jesus knew greater loneliness than we shall ever experience. The gospel reading we have just heard opens with the departure of one of Jesus’ closest friends, to betray him. Yet Jesus’ first words after this devastating blow speak not of defeat, but of victory: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”

            What gave Jesus that breath-taking ability to view betrayal not as defeat but as victory? It was his faith in a God who does indeed make all things new. God fulfilled that promise for his Son, however, not by delivering Jesus from death, but by raising him on the third day to a new life beyond death. In his resurrection Jesus experienced the fulfillment of the great promises contained in our second reading. On Easter morning God wiped away all tears from the eyes of his beloved Son. In his resurrection Jesus was raised to a life in which there is (to quote the words of that second reading again) “no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”

            For us, as for Jesus on the night when Judas left to betray him, the complete fulfillment of those promises belongs to the future. As St. Paul tells us in our first reading: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”  As long as this life continues, God’s promise to make all things new means not preservation from hardships, but support amid hardships. 

            The Lord’s promise to make all things new is not like all those other promises I mentioned at the start. It is a glorious reality. But it is a reality which is both present and future. We live at the intersection of the “already” and the “not yet.” Already God is with us, supporting us in so many ways: through his holy word; through those personal loving encounters with him called sacraments; through our sisters and brothers. Already God is fulfilling his promise to make all things new.

            Complete fulfillment of that promise belongs, however, to the “not yet.” Only in a future life will God wipe away all tears from our eyes. Only beyond death shall we experience what Jesus experienced in his resurrection: “no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” 

            Life is not a cheat. There is One who does make all things new. His name is Jesus Christ. He can make your life new. He longs to do so. He will never do this, however, without your consent. His assurance, “Behold, I make all things new” is certain. One thing alone is uncertain. Do you really want the new life that God is offering you, even now, through his Son Jesus Christ? If so, then pray right now:

            Come into my heart, Lord Jesus

            With the fire of your love;

            With all your purity, your power, your peace. Amen.   

Friday, April 22, 2016


Homily for April 23rd, 2016: John 14:7-14.

“Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,” Jesus says, “and will do even greater works than these …” How is that possible? Well, consider. During his life on earth Jesus= works were confined to just a few years, and to one very small part of the world. But these works did not end with Jesus= return to his Father in heaven. They have continued, through his Church. Starting as a sect of Judaism, the Church throughout the whole world and has continued through twenty centuries of history. We the Church=s members are charged to continue Jesus= works. He has now no hands to bless people than ours; no eyes to look upon people in love than ours; no tongue to speak words of love, encouragement, or reproof but ours; no arms to support people and their burdens than ours.
The Church=s works are greater than those of her Lord because they are more extended in time and space than they could ever be during the few years that Jesus walked the dusty roads of Palestine. And the Church=s works are great C amazing in fact C because they have never ceased despite the failures and betrayals of Church leaders and members. The betrayals began when, at Jesus= arrest, Athey all forsook him and fled@ (Mk 14:50); and when, only hours later, their leader, Peter, three times denied that he even knew the Lord. Should we be surprised when we hear of similar betrayals today?

Let me close with a story. It’s only a story, but it tells us something important.  When the Lord Jesus returned to heaven at the ascension the angels wanted to know everything he had done on earth. So Jesus told them how he had gone about doing good, healing the sick, and teaching people about the freely given love of God.

AThat=s wonderful, Lord,@ the angels said. ABut now that you=re no longer in earth, won=t people soon forget about what you have done and said?@

AOh no,@ Jesus explained. AI founded a Church. I chose twelve men to be its first bishops. I spent three years teaching them: how to pray, how to heal people, how to free them from their burdens, how to teach others about God=s freely given love. They are going to carry on my work.@

AThat=s all well and good, Lord,@ the angels replied. ABut we know how fickle and unreliable these human beings are. How do you know that they will keep on doing all those things you trained them to do? How do you know that they will remain faithful?@

At that the Lord fell silent. He looked down and seemed to be thinking. Then he looked up and, with that beautiful, radiant smile of his, said very simply: AI trust them.@

Thursday, April 21, 2016


       April 22nd, 2016: John 14:1-6: “I go to prepare a place for you.”

                 Jesus has just washed his disciples’ feet. Then he tells them he will be leaving
        them. The news plunges them into grief and fear. Jesus responds by saying: “Do 
         not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God. Have faith also in me.” You  
        must trust, he was telling them, that the same God whom we worship in Temple and 
        synagogue is truly present and active in me.

          That is a tremendous claim. The disciples whom Jesus was addressing didn’t yet know him as we know him — as the divine Son of God. To them he was a man like themselves. Realization that he was more came only after the resurrection. “I am going,” Jesus assures his friends, “to prepare a place for you. I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” Down through the centuries Christians have pondered and prayed over this promise. Here is what three of them have said.

St. Cyprian, 3rd century Bishop of Carthage in North Africa:

“We reckon paradise to be our home. A great throng awaits us there of those dear to us, parents, brothers, sons. A packed and numerous throng longs for us, of those already free from anxiety for their own salvation, who are still concerned for our salvation. What joy they share with us when we come into their sight and embrace them! What pleasure there is there in the heavenly kingdom, with no fear of death, and what supreme happiness with the enjoyment of eternal life.” [Office of Readings for Friday of the 34th week of the year)]

St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa from 395 to 430.

“How happy will be our shout of Alleluia there, how carefree, how secure from any adversary, where there is no enemy, where no friend perishes. There praise is offered to God, and here too; but here it is by people who are anxious, there by people who are free from care; here by people who must die, there by those who will live forever. Here praise is offered in hope, there by people who enjoy the reality; here by those who are pilgrims on the way, there by those who have reached their own country.” [Office of Readings for Saturday of the 34th week of the year)]

Pope Benedict XVI, now retired:

Christianity does not proclaim merely a certain salvation of the soul in some imprecise place beyond, in which everything in this world that was precious and loved by us is erased, but it promises eternal life, ‘the life of the world to come’: nothing of what is precious and loved will be ruined, but will find its fulfillment in God. All the hairs of our head are numbered, Jesus said one day (cf. Matthew 10:30). The final world will also be the fulfillment of this earth, as St. Paul states: ‘Creation itself will be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God’" (Romans 8:21). [Aug. 15, 2010]

          How do we reach the joys of which these three great Christians speak? Jesus tells us in the final sentence of today’s gospel: “No one comes to the Father except through me.”






Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Homily for April 21, 2016: John 13:16-20.

          Jesus’ words in today’s gospel reading immediately follow his washing of the apostles’ feet. Feet shod only in sandals got dirty on the dusty roads of Palestine. It was customary, therefore, for a host to provide water for arriving guests to wash their own feet. Jesus went beyond this gesture of hospitality. By washing his friends’ feet himself, he gives them an example of humble service which they must be prepared to imitate.

          How little the Twelve heeded and followed this example, we learn from Luke’s gospel, which says that at the Last Supper “a dispute arose among them about who should be regarded as greatest” (22:24). After the foot-washing, therefore, Jesus goes on to speak about what he has just done.

          “No slave is greater than his master,” Jesus says, “nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Down through the centuries many of Jesus’ followers have recognized this, and acted accordingly. Jesus directs his words to them when he says: “If you understand this, blessed [which means “happy”] are you if you do it.” Sadly, there also many who have acted as masters themselves, rather than as servants, conceiving of priesthood as a career, not as service. Knowing that there was one at table with him there at the Last Supper, who in his heart had already rejected his servant role, Jesus quotes a verse from Psalm 41: “The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.”

          Then, to encourage those truly resolved in their hearts to be and to remain his servants, Jesus says: “Amen, amen,” [which means “solemnly”] I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me.” Which one of us would not be thrilled to receive Jesus in person? A recent e-mail from a Philippine deacon now in Rome, soon to be ordained priest, had the words “A great grace” in the subject line. It told about his being able to greet Pope Francis personally at the end of an audience for seminarians.  

Jesus was telling his apostles that those to whom he was sending them would be no less thrilled than my Philippine friend. Jesus concludes by saying: “Whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” Every encounter with Jesus is an encounter with God himself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Homily for April 20th, 2016: John 12:44-50.

          “Whoever sees me sees the One who sent me,” Jesus tells us in today’s gospel reading.

What do we see when we look at Jesus? We see that he preferred simple, ordinary people. He came to the world in an obscure provincial village on the edge of Nowhere, where nothing interesting or important ever happened. Jesus moved not among wealthy or sophisticated people, or among scholars and intellectuals, but among ordinary people.

Jesus was of the earth, earthy. In his youth he worked with his hands in the carpenter’s shop. His teaching was full of references to simple things: the birds of the air, the wind and the raging waves, the lilies of the field, the vine, the lost sheep, the woman searching for her one lost coin, leavening dough with yeast, the thief breaking in at night. 

          In preferring simple people and simple things, Jesus was showing us what God is like. He who is God’s word, God’s personal communication to us, is saying that God loves humble people. In his earthiness Jesus shows us God’s love for this world and everything in it.

Many people think of God and religion as concerned only with some higher, spiritual realm. Not true! God loves the earth and the things of earth. He must love them, because he made them. And God does not make anything that is not lovable. God made each of us, using our parents as his agents. And he loves us with a love that will never let us go.

How do we know that? Jesus told us himself when he said: “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). And Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans: “It is precisely in this that God proves his love for us: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8).

          That, friends, is the gospel. That is the Good News.

Monday, April 18, 2016


     Homily for April 19th, 2016: John 10:22-30.

A careful reading of the gospels shows us that Jesus was very guarded about revealing his true identity. Pressed in today’s gospel to say whether he is God’s long awaited Messiah (“the Christ” in English) he replies: “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.” What works is Jesus referring to?  

          First on any list would be his miracles: the healings he performed, the stilling of the storm on the lake, the raising of the widow’s son at Naim and of Jesus’ friend Lazarus. Jesus also fed the hungry: the vast crowd in the wilderness, his twelve apostles at the Last Supper. After his resurrection Jesus prepared a lakeside breakfast for Peter, James, and John, tired and hungry from a night of fruitless fishing with the net coming back empty time after time until a man on shore, still unrecognized, calls out, “Cast the net on the right side” — and they feel the net heavy with fish, and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” calls out excitedly: “It is the Lord.” Jesus’ works also include his beautiful stories — the  parables — and all his teaching about the love of God, his heavenly Father: the love that will never let us go.  

        These works say nothing to you, Jesus tells his questioners in today’s gospel, because “you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.” What does it take to be among Jesus’ sheep? The first requirement is openness: willingness to learn, not just once, but all our lives long. People who think they know it all already, that they have nothing more to learn after their formal education is finished, cannot be among Jesus’ sheep. “My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus says. That requires listening, all our lives long. Our education is never finished as long as life lasts.

         To those who come to him not as skeptics, saying ‘show me,’ but in a spirit of openness Jesus gives the greatest of all gifts: eternal life. “No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

         That too is the gospel. That is the Good News.


Sunday, April 17, 2016


Homily for April 18th, 2016: John 10:1-10.

          “Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep,” Jesus tells us in today’s gospel reading. “The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.” Those who follow Jesus find that he is always close to them, yet that he remains the totally Other. They know his goodness, his kindness, his patience, his strength, his courage. They recognize Jesus Christ as the embodiment of everything good and noble and worthwhile in human life: completely sinless, selfless, pure, holy. Those who try to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, experience him as a man set apart; yet drawing people to himself with a mysterious magnetism which centuries cannot diminish. (Why is it always quiet in the church when I speak about Jesus Christ?  Why is it quiet right now?)

          Jesus Christ is the one who understands us when no one else understands. He is the one who raises us up when we fall; whose help is effective and powerful when every other help fails. He is the Good Shepherd. He tells us in today’s gospel: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Does that mean somewhere else, tomorrow? pie-in-the-sky-when-we-die? No! Though the abundant life which Jesus came to give us will never be complete in this world, he wants it to begin here and now.

          Perhaps someone is asking: “Can you prove that?” To that I must answer: “No, I cannot prove it. You must prove it.” You do so when you take Jesus at his word; when you listen for the shepherd’s voice, and heed his call. Once you do that, you will be able to say, in the words of the best known and most loved of all the 150 psalms: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall lack.”

          Jesus’ words in today’s gospel are a reassurance and a promise. But they are more. They are also an invitation, and a challenge, addressed personally to you: “Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. ... I came so that they might have life and have it to the full” [New American Bible]. 

          That, friends, is the gospel. That is the good news. Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it to the full!