In times of sorrow do we understand the need to “Rejoice and be Glad.”

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HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER

Readings:  Acts 3:13-15, 17-19/1 Jn. 2:1-5

Psalm:  4:2, 4, 7-9

Gospel:  Lk. 24:35-48

 

Some of you may have heard that Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Exhortation entitled “Gaudete et Exsultate” or, in English, “Rejoice and be glad.”  It is the custom that the first few words of a Church document become the title.  Where did this title come from?  They came from the 5th Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount.  The Sermon established Jesus’ mission on Earth.  He wanted to assure the crowds that listened to him that he was not there to remove and replace the Law and the Prophets, but to bring them to their fullness.

For starters, the sermon began with a way to show that what we do for others has positive or negative consequences.  When he looked at those who were curious about him, he spoke not in demands like they have heard other rabbi’s and temple priests in quoting the 10 Commandments, but in blessings:  blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, and so one.  But at the end of these compliments, he gives an especially pointed blessing for those who decide to become his disciple that it would not all be peaches and cream.   It will be a time of hatred, rebukes, and loss of friends and loved ones because of accepting the teachings of Jesus as the way of satisfaction on earth as well as salvation in Heaven.

But it is not so much that being a disciple is just to read and understand these teachings, it is using them in their daily lives when things are going poorly just as much as they are going well. In the Gospel proclaimed today, we see an example of how belief in Christ can be forgotten whenever we are at our lowest.  It starts with two disciples, the same two that were on the road to Emmaus, recounting how they saw Jesus on their way; how he talked to them, asked them questions and sat down to eat with them.  They came back to the Upper Room to tell the apostles.  This was just hours after the women came back from the tomb saying Jesus was gone, angels told them that he had risen and Peter had gone to see for himself.  Even with all that, the disciples had trouble grasping the concept of Jesus being raised from the dead.  It was as if in their grief, their thoughts returned to the teachings of their childhood-the teachings of the Chief Priests and Scribes-and forgotten all that they heard from Jesus.

It was in these moments of sadness and confusion that Jesus appeared to them.  When he did, he saw the need to remind them of how they got to this point.  He explained to them all that he had revealed before, concluding with what they are seeing at that very moment.  He was not imaginary, for they recognized him when he revealed himself.  He was not a ghost, for he asked for food.  His words were not contradictory, for he gave them the same message that he had done so many times before.  Like something out of film noir, Jesus brought together “the usual suspects” to reveal to them the truth of the matter:  That what he did and what he said is now the mission that we are called to do.

It was a sentiment expressed in the Second Reading from the 1st Letter of John.  He reminded his readers that in order to avoid sin, we need to keep his commandments.  To do that, we still have to remember that Jesus is our advocate.  And the message that he gave is the means by which we keep them.  Peter continued this message in his words from the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles.  Peter told them that Jesus was the one that was glorified by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  And even though Jesus was killed out of ignorance, he was the one that the Prophets had foretold.  The better we understand the message of Christ, the better we see his face in the world around us.

Christ’s call for us is to achieve holiness.  It is also the goal for Pope Francis when he published this Exhortation.  Francis said “My modest goal is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.”[1] Both are asking us to look at being a disciple of Christ in a deeper way than we have had in our lifetimes.  We do that by being more focused on what we do in our lives so that we are examples of Christ to the world.  Like Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (and even in the teachings of John the Baptist) Francis gives concrete examples of being holy in our daily lives.

Francis asks “Are you married?  Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church.  Do you work for a living?  Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters.  Are you a parent or a grandparent?  Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus.  Are you in a position of authority?  Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.”[2]   While this may sound easy, it is somewhat harder than we think.  But we should never think we cannot attain this sense of holiness because it is too much to ask or that another has done it in a certain way.  Francis goes on to say “There are some testimonies that may prove helpful and inspiring, but that we are not meant to copy, for that could even lead us astray from the one specific path that the Lord has in mind for us.  The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts…”[3]

There are many more things that are in this document for us to ponder.  But its purpose is the same as Christ’s purpose while on earth.  To be holy, we strive to be the best we can in the ordinary so that others can see the extraordinary that is inside each and every one of us.  One more time from Francis, “We are called to be holy by living our lives with the love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.” [4]  By doing what we do day in and day out, our lives can be truly blessed and then we will hear Christ say at the end of the day, “Peace be with you.”

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK

 

[1] Gaudete et Exsultate, 2.

[2] Gaudete et Exsultate, 14.

[3] Gaudete et Exsultate, 11.

[4] Gaudete et Exsultate, 14.

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