Deacon Pat – 5th Sunday of Easter Homily
Today, we are reminded of the New Commandment that Christ gave us the day before he suffered. We are brought back to that Last Supper when Jesus was gathered with his closest companions and opened his heart to them. It was the night when his heart overflowed with love as it never had before. It was the night when he revealed the secret identity of every Christian, the distinguishing mark: He said "This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another." And not just any kind of love, but Christ-like love: He added "I give you a new commandment... As I have loved you, so you also should love one another." Being a Christian is much more than being a member of a club. Being a Christian means having an urgent, important mission in life. It means being another Christ in the world. Jesus gave his very life in order to fulfill his Father's will and win salvation for sinners. Each one of us is called to reproduce in the unique circumstances of our lives that exact same pattern: dedicating our lives to discovering and fulfilling God's will and striving to help as many people as possible to know, love, and follow Christ. Yet, if critiqued honestly, how well do you think we are following Christ’s command?
Mahatma Gandhi, last century's leader of India's independence movement, received his education in Europe. Although he wasn't Christian, he had many opportunities to study Christianity and get to know Christians. Later in his life, he commented on this experience. He said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
And G.K. Chesterton, the famous British convert to Catholicism and great apologist for the faith in the early twentieth century, made a similar statement. He was responding to critics who claimed that since Christianity had been around for so long, but hadn't solved the world's problems, it must be false. Chesterton responded: "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."
These two examples remind us of something we already know: too often, too many Christians are satisfied with a mediocre Christianity. But Christ wants more for us. He wants to release our full potential as human beings. But what does that potential consist of? It consists of our capacity to love, to know others as Christ knows them, and to dedicate ourselves to their good. Christ knows that if we follow him down that path, we will be truly happy, and we will make those around us truly happy, here on earth and forever in heaven.
Well, by now you are probably thinking “OK, I get it. But how do I begin? How do I start?” I think Saint Teresa of Calcutta had the Right Idea of Love – She said that the One thing that can sometimes hold us back in our efforts to follow the Lord's New Commandment is a false idea of what love should feel like. We tend to think that true love is always accompanied by nice feelings, and if the feelings go away, that means the love has gone away too. That's also what radio, TV, and social media will tell us, but that's not what the Gospel tells us. Love, true love, Christ-like love, goes deeper than feelings. It demands sacrifice, self-giving, and self-forgetfulness. Christ-like love always involves a cross. That's what makes it Christ-like; that's what makes it true love. If we can get this truth to sink down from our heads into our hearts, we will be freer to love more as Christ loves, and we will lead happier lives, and make those around us happier too.
Maybe a few more words from Saint Teresa of Calcutta can help guide us:
"People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Honesty and transparency may make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.
Why? Because in the final analysis, all of this is between you and God…It was never between you and them anyway." Wise words from a Holy Saint.
In closing I have a small request for all of us here today: As we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, let's prayerfully ask Him two things:
1. to help us to pick up our crosses willingly and to love those around us as He has loved.
2. and to help us in accepting God’s grace to act in such a way that those around us will know we are His disciples by how we love one another each and every day.