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5th Sunday–Year A

In today’s gospel we read:

“Your light must shine before all,

so that they will see the good things

you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

From a book called “Out of the Saltshaker

by Rebecca Pippert, (Intervarsity Press, Downer’s Grove IL)

comes this true story

of an unusual young man.

John was in his final year of college.

He was a brilliant new Christian

and a bit different from other students.

His entire wardrobe for four years

consisted of a T-shirt, blue jeans

and no shoes.

Across the street from the campus

was a very conservative church,

attended by well-dressed parishioners.

One Sunday,

John padded through the front door.

The service had already begun;

John walked slowly down the aisle,

searching for a seat.

As he neared the front, it became clear

that no empty seat was available.

So John squatted on the floor

in front of the pulpit.

While this was acceptable in a dorm,

it was hardly acceptable in this conservative church.

You could feel the people glare.

Even the pastor stopped preaching,

wondering what to say or do.

Just then, a deacon in his eighties –

dressed in a tailored suit

and using a cane – began to walk

from the back of the church

down to where John was seated on the floor.

All eyes were focused on the deacon.

His cane clicked with each slow step.

He was a dignified man with silver hair,

respected by all.

How could someone like him

understand someone like John?

As the deacon reached the spot

where John sat,

Eeeryone stopped breathing.

What he was about to do

was a thankless job, but it had to be done.

Even the pastor stopped preaching

until the deacon completed his task.

Looking down at John,

the Deacon dropped his cane to the floor.

Then, with great difficulty, he eased down

onto the carpet and sat beside John.

He wanted to make him feel welcome

and not have to worship alone.

When the pastor gained control of himself,

he said to the congregation,

in a voice choked with emotion:

“What I have prepared to preach to you,

you’ll never remember.

But what you just saw,

you’ll never forget.

This story fits in beautifully

with today’s Gospel where Jesus says:

“No one lights a lamp and puts it

under a bowl; instead it is put on

the lamp stand, where it gives light

for everyone in the house.

In the same way your light must shine

before all, so that they will see

the good things you do and

praise your Father in heaven.

Someone has pointed out

that there are three motives why people

do good things – such as the deacon did:

pleasure, practicality or pure love.

Let’s take a look at each:

first, pleasure.

In his famous Christmas Carol,

Charles Dickens describes how

Ebenezer Scrooge responds to people

after his conversion. Dickens says:

He went to church. . .

And patted children on the head

And questioned beggars. . .and found

That everything could yield him pleasure.

He never dreamed. . .that anything. . .

Could yield him so much happiness.”

People have felt the same way when they’ve

volunteered to help out in prisons,

soup kitchens or retirement homes.

And so the first motive why people

do good things is because it makes them

feel good. It brings them pleasure.

The second motive why people

do good things is out of practicality.

A politician once said:

“Love your enemies, because someday

you’ll need them as friends.”

That is clearly a practical motive.

Martin Niemoller was a Lutheran pastor.

When the Nazi’s came to power,

he was reluctant to speak out at first.

When he did, he was arrested and jailed.

He said in a famous statement:

When the Nazi’s came for the communists,

I didn’t speak out

because I wasn’t a communist.

When they came for the Jews,

I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. . .

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn’t speak out

because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me. . .

and by that time

there was no one left to speak for me.”

So the second reason for doing good is

practicality: If I want others to help me,

I’ve got to help them.

This brings us to the final reason:

pure love:

the reason the deacon

sat on the floor with the college student.

He probably got no pleasure out of it,

nor was there much John could do for him.

He simply did it because it was right.

He wanted to make John feel welcome

and be treated in a loving way.

People who do good things

usually pass through three stages.

First, there is the fun stage.

That’s when they say, “I love doing this.

Why did I wait so long to get involved?”

Next, there’s the intolerant stage.

That’s when they say,

“Anyone who doesn’t get involved

isn’t really a true Christian.”

Finally, there’s the reality stage.

That’s when they suddenly realize

that their involvement

is only going to make a dent

in the world’s problems.

At this stage, saints are made.

So what motivates people

to do good things

follows a pattern similar to what

is said generally, about commitment.

First, it’s pleasurable.

It makes us feel good.

Second, it’s practical.

If we help others, they’ll help us.

Finally, it’s out of pure love.

It’s why the deacon helped John.

Let’s close with a prayer

attributed to St Ignatius Loyola.

Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me

to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost;

to fight and not to heed the wounds;

to toil and not to seek for rest;

to labor and not to ask for reward,

except to know

That I am doing your will. Amen.

Epiphany – Year A

John Donne

was a famous writer in 17th century England.

One of his stories concerns a man

who was searching for God.

One day the hero of the story decided that

God must live on top of a high mountain

at the far end of the world.

And so he set out to climb it.

After a difficult and dangerous journey

through great forests and dense jungles,

the man arrives at the mountain.

As he stands there looking at it,

he sees that it is much steeper and higher

than he had ever dreamed.

But because he wants to find God

more than anything else,

he does not become discouraged.

Before beginning his climb

he decides that the best route

is by the east side.

The next morning at the crack of dawn

he begins his climb

up the east side of the mountain.

It so happens that about that time,

God who was indeed on top of the mountain,

begins to think to himself,

“I love my people so much,

to show them my great love,

I will descend the mountain

and live among the people as one of them.

So God studies all four sides of the mountain

and concludes that the best route down

is by the west side.

The next morning at the crack of dawn,

God begins his descent.

And so it happens,

that as the man is climbing up the east side

of the mountain,

God is climbing down the west side.

As luck would have it, the two pass

on opposite sides of the mountain.

When the man reaches the top of the mountain,

he finds it empty.

He falls down and begins to weep.

“Why should I go back down the mountain?” he asks.

There’s nothing there but poor people.

Why should I make the dangerous journey

back to my village?”

John Donne intended this story to be a parable

for the people of his time.

Many of them were searching for God.

When they couldn’t find him,

they decided that God didn’t even exist.

To these men and women Donne was saying

that God dwells among his people.

This is the great message of Christmas,

that God took up residence among his people

that is where we must look for him.

And that is where we will find him.

And this brings us 

to the feast of the Epiphany,

which we celebrate this Sunday.

The epiphany is a mystery of light,

symbolized by the star

that shone over Bethlehem.

The true source of light is Christ.

The divine plan was mysterious

as John explains in his gospel:

“The light came into the world,

but people loved the darkness rather than the light

because their deeds were wicked.” (John 3:19)

In the mystery of Christmas

Christ’s light first shines

on Mary and Joseph in Nazareth.

The light was also seen

by the shepherds of Bethlehem,

who rush to the Grotto. (Luke 2:12)

The shepherds

together with Mary and Joseph

represent the “remnant of Israel” –

those poor ones,

to whom the Good News was proclaimed.

Finally, Christ’s brightness shines out,

and reaches the Magi,

who are the first pagans,

to come to Christ.

The palaces of the rulers of Jerusalem

are left in the dark.

Moreover,

when this news is taken there,

it does not give rise to joy,

but to fear and hostile reactions.

The personal presence of Jesus here on earth

is the beginning

of the universal reconciliation

of the world to God.

Jesus is the ultimate destination of history.

The church is called

to make Christ’s light shine in the world.

Matthew’s gospel says to us:

“In the same way

your light must shine before all,

so that they may see goodness in your deeds

and give praise to your heavenly Father.”  (Matthew 5:16)

And here’s where John Donne’s story

helps us better understand

the two important lessons

of Christmas and today’s feast.

The first lesson

is that God has truly come down from heaven

to live among his people.

And the second lesson is

that the people among whom

he has chosen to live

were not temple dwellers.

They were not intellectuals in universities.

They were not kings in palaces.

Jesus chose to dwell among the poor,

among the homeless,

and among the hungry.

Let’s close with a poem that sums up

the message of Christmas in practical terms:

“When the song of the angels is stilled,

when the star in the sky is gone,

when the kings and princes are home,

when the shepherds are back with the flocks,

the work of Christmas begins:

to feed the hungry,

to  release the prisoners,

to rebuild the nations,

to bring peace among brothers and sisters,

to make music with the heart.” (Anonymous)

(with notes of Benedict XVI, on the Epiphany, circa 2008)

Advent II – Year A

ADVENT II – year A

In 1911 captain Robert Scott

and four other British explorers

set out on foot for the South Pole.

They travelled 800 miles

through deep snow and bitter cold.

A year later they reached the South Pole.

But on their return journey,

their glorious victory turned into bitter defeat.

Two men died along the way.

The other three froze to death

just a few miles from safety.

When the bodies of the men were found,

the last words that each had written

were still readable.

One of the men was Bill Wilson,

the doctor of the expedition.

Twenty years before,

Bill had attended Cambridge University.

His classmates nicknamed him “the cynic.”

He had a mean personality

and an even meaner tongue.

He once wrote these words to a friend:

“I know I am…proud…bitter…

insulting…and always selfish.”

On the polar expedition, “Bill the cynic”

Became “Bill the peacemaker.”

And just before he died,

Captain Scott wrote to a friend:

“If this letter reaches you,

Bill and I have gone on together.

We are very near it now;

and I should like you to know

how splendid Bill was…everlastingly cheerful

and ready to sacrifice himself for others.

His eyes have a comfortable blue look of hope

and his mind is peaceful.”

Meanwhile, in his last hours Bill Wilson wrote:

“So I live now,

knowing that I am in God’s hands

to be used to bring others to him,

if he wills a long life…

or if I die tomorrow.

“We must do what we can

and leave the rest to him…

my trust is in God,

so that it matters not what I do

or where I go.”

The story of Bill Wilson illustrates

what today’s scripture exhorts us to do.

First, the gospel reading asks us

to take top heart the words of John the Baptist:

“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

And second, Paul exhorts us

to live according to the spirit of Jesus, saying:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement

grant you to think in harmony with one another,

in keeping with Christ Jesus,

that with one accord

you may, with one voice  glorify…God.”

Bill Wilson’s remarkable change

illustrates what the church urges us to do

during the season of Advent.

It urges us to “repent,

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

When Bill Wilson was at Cambridge University,

he never dreamed

how close the kingdom of God was for him.

He never dreamed that in 20 short years

he would be called by God

to give an account of his life.

And Bill Wilson’s classmates

never dreamed how much he would change

in those 20 short years.

The man who was proud, bitter and selfish

became a man

who was splendid, cheerful and self-giving.

The man who was known as “the cynic”

became the man

who was known as “the peacemaker.”

History is filled

with men and women like Bill Wilson –

men and women

who began life as selfish individuals

and ended life as loving, generous people.

The lives of these people

remind us

that we to can turn from our sins

and become loving, generous people.

The lives of these people

remind us

that God wants to do for us

what he did for them.

The lives of these people

remind us

that God wants to give us the same grace

that he gave them.

Advent is a time

when we recall

what God had in mind for us

when he created us.

Advent is a time

when we recall

what God wants us to become.

Advent is a time

when we recall that God wants us

to make something beautiful of our lives.

Advent is a time

when we try to respond to God’s plan for us

as generously

as did men and women like Bill Wilson.

This is what advent is all about.

It’s the season that invites us to

take to heart,

the words of John the Baptist

in today’s gospel:

“Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

It’s the season that invites us

to take to heart Paul’s prayer for us

in today’s second reading.

Let’s close by repeating it:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement

grant you to think in harmony with one another,

in keeping with Christ Jesus,

that with one accord

you may with one voice

glorify the God and Father

of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Welcome one another, then,

as Christ welcomed you,

for the glory of God.”

27th Sunday – Year C

Late one afternoon

archaeologist Gene Savoy and his companion

became lost in a jungle in Peru.

 

A sickening feeling came over them.

They Knew

that if they did not reach camp by sundown,

they would never reach it alive.

 

They began to run about feverishly,

searching for the trail

that brought them into the jungle.

 

Suddenly they realized

that this feverish running

was only making matters worse.

Then they stopped and stood perfectly still.

 

As they did,

a thought passed through Gene’s mind.

 

God is in the jungle; it is God’s house.

 

 

When Gene was a boy in Oregon,

his parents had taught him that God

created the universe,

sustains it

and lives in it.

 

Instantly,

Gene relaxed and put all his faith in God.

He said later,

“I looked up into the beautiful world

of wild orchids, and fragrant blossoms

where hummingbirds hovered.

Yes, God was here, too. My heart quieted.”

 

Then, as I stood and stared,

something within me seemed to say:

“Walk a few paces to the left.

As I did, there was a tiny trail!”

 

Gene said later,

“I am proud of all of my discoveries.

But my greatest discovery, I believe,

was in recognizing God’s presence everywhere.”

 

That story fits beautifully

with today’s Scripture readings.

First, It illustrates the prophet Habakkuk’s words

in the first reading, when he says,

“The just man, because of his faith

shall live.”

 

And second, it illustrates

Jesus’ words in the gospel reading,

when he says,

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,

you would say to this mulberry tree,

‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’

and it would obey you.”

 

This brings us to an important point

about faith.

It’s a point we tend to forget –

one that can cause unnecessary worry.

The point is this:

 

Even the strongest faith in God

tends to go in and out of focus.

What is clear to us one day

becomes cloudy the next.

 

Like the sun,

our faith sometimes hides behind a cloud

and disappears for a while.

We’ve all experienced this in our lives.

How do we explain it?

 

These times of darkness are usually caused

by one of three things:

human nature, ourselves, or God.

 

First,

they may be caused by our human nature,

which has “highs” and “lows.”

 

In other words, our faith simply reflects

the natural mood swings of everyday life.

 

Commenting on these swings,

one writer says:

 

“On one day, life is beautiful. . .

we appreciate everything and everyone. . .

on such a day it is difficult to know

why we ever thought life was difficult.

 

 

On another day, however, nothing is right. . .

it is a time

when we count more enemies than we have

and find fault with every friend.

 

On such a day, it is difficult to know

why we ever thought life was easy.”

 

Our faith is like that.

This simply goes with the territory of being human.

 

Second, the periods of darkness of faith

may be caused by ourselves.

We can bring them on by neglecting our faith.

That is,

we can let our faith grow weak from sin

or from lack of spiritual nourishment.

 

In other words,

just as our body grows weak from abuse

or lack of physical nourishment,

so our soul grows weak from sin

or spiritual nourishment.

 

Third and finally,

these periods of darkness may be caused by God.

That is,

God allows them to happen

in order to strengthen and deepen our faith.

 

God uses them to help us to mature in our faith,

just as God helped Abraham mature in his faith.

Abraham was thrown into darkness

when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac. (Genesis 22:1-12)

 

Regardless of the cause

of these periods of darkness,

the agony they can produce is great.

 

In his novel The Devil’s Advocate,

Morris West describes the agony of a person

experiencing a long period of faith darkness.

The person says:

 

“I groped for God and could not find God.

I prayed to God. . .and God did not answer.

I wept at night for the loss of God. . .

Then one day, God was there again. . .

I had a parent. . .God knew me. . .

I had never understood till this moment

the meaning of the words ‘gift of faith,’ ”

 

And so we come back to our original point.

At times in our lives,

our faith seems to go behind a cloud

for a while.

This creates a period of faith darkness.

 

Sometimes this is simply a reflection

of our human mood swings.

Sometimes it is caused by a neglect of faith:

either though sin

or a lack of spiritual nourishment.

 

And sometimes it may be allowed by God,

in the sense that he uses it

to strengthen and deepen our faith.

 

Jesus teaches us that faith starts with humility.

The beginning of true faith

is accepting that Jesus is the creative Word of God,

Who brought everything out of nothing.                                          

 

As we seek to strengthen our faith,

it would be wise to do everything out of our love of God.

Learning to know, love and serve God better,

may seem to have no immediate reward,

except peace in our hearts

and the knowledge that though trusting in him

we will be granted a share in his everlasting glory.

Our liturgical remembrance of the saints

and of the souls of the dead

in the month of November

is a reminder of the transitional nature

of life and death.

The readings today remind us

of the shortness of life on earth,

but also of our ‘passing on’ to a new life.

 One day a mother conceived twins.

One child was a girl,

the other a boy.

As the months passed

they rejoiced that they were alive.

They said, “How great that our mother

shares her life with us!”

Soon they began to change drastically.

“What does this mean?” asked the boy.

“It means that our life here is coming to an end”

said the girl.

“But I don’t want to leave.” said the boy.

“I want to stay here forever.”

“We have no choice,” said the girl.

“Maybe there is life after birth.”

But the last days in the womb

were filled with deep questioning and fear.

Finally, the moment of birth arrived.

The twins cried with joy

when what they saw

exceeded their wildest dreams.

That story is a parable, of course.

It compares life in this world

to life in a womb.

Just as life after birth

exceeded the dreams of the twins

so life after death will exceed our dreams.

in the words of St Paul:

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard,

nor has it so much as dawned

on the human heart

what God has prepared

for those who love him.”   1 Corinthians 2:9

And so we might ask the question:

How can a busy person in this world,

live his or her life in such a way

as to be assured of eternal life?

This question is addressed in a book

by Doris McCoy called Megatraits:

Twelve Traits of Successful People.

 

One of the people interviewed

while the book was being researched

was Peter Coors,

President of the Brewing Division

of the Adolph Coors Company.

Adolph Coors entered the United States

as a stowaway on a ship from Germany.

He came to America with no passport,

no papers, and no money.

From this unlikely beginning,

he founded one of the most successful

and prestigious companies in America.

Peter Coors is Adolph Coors grandson.

When he was asked

what his idea of success was,

he responded in this way:

“Success for me is pretty basic.

First, when my life is completed,

success would be standing in front of God

and feeling that

although I’ve made some mistakes,

I’ve always had God at the center of my life.

“Second, success for me

is having a good family and

a successful marriage.

That’s a very important part of my life.

“Third, success to me is,

after my time with the company is complete,

being able to say that I helped

not only the company

but also the individual employee.””

Those three observations by Peter Coors

contain the answer to our question:

How can a busy person live in this world

live in such a way

that when we stand before God after death,

we will do so with the assurance that God

was at the center of our life on earth.

Second, we should live in such a way

that, next to love for God,

love for the family that God entrusted to us

was our top priority in life.

Finally, we should live out our chosen career

in such a way

that we will make a positive contribution

not only to our chosen field and work

but also to the people with whom we worked. 

If we can do that,

we will have indeed lived our lives in a way

that will assure us of St Paul’s promise:

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard,

nor has it so much as dawned

on the human heart

what God has prepared

for those who love him.”

Let me conclude with a poem.

It gives a practical conclusion

to what we have just said.

The poem is entitled ‘Anyway’

The author is anonymous.

“People are unreasonable, illogical,

and self-centered. Love them anyway!

 “If you do good, people will accuse you

of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.!

“If you are successful, you will make false friends

and true enemies. Succeed anyway!

“The good you do today

will be forgotten tomorrow. Do it anyway!

“Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway!

“The biggest person with the biggest ideas

can be shot down by the smallest people

with the smallest minds. Think big anyway!

“People favour underdogs

but follow only top dogs.

fight for some underdogs anyway!

“What you spend years building

may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway!

 “People really need help, but may attack you

if you help them. Help people anyway!

 “Give the world the best you have

and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you’ve got anyway!”

 And so, we celebrate God’s steadfast presence among us.

He is the GOD OF LIFE,

who pours out his life through us.

An artist designed an unusual door

for a church in Germany.

He divided the door into four panels.

Each panel depicts several symbols

referring to a gospel event.

 

The first panel shows six water jars,

referring to the miracle at Cana,

where Jesus changed water into wine.

 

The second panel

shows five loaves and two fish,

referring to the miracle at Capernaum,

where Jesus multiplied loaves and fish.

 

The third panel

shows thirteen people seated at a table,

referring to the Last Supper.

 

The fourth panel

shows three people seated at a table,

referring to the Easter supper

Jesus ate with two of his disciples.

The artist chose these four events

because they relate to the Mass.

They relate to Jesus’ gift of himself to us

in the form of bread and wine.

 

Let’s take a closer look at each panel

to see how it relates to the Mass.

Let’s begin with the miracle at Cana,

where Jesus changed water into wine.

 

Sometimes modern Christians have trouble

seeing how water can change into wine.

 

Early Christians

had no trouble with this miracle.

They lived off the soil

and saw something similar to it happen

each summer in their vineyards.

Grapevines drew water out of the ground

and, with help from the sun,

changed water into wine.

 

But the important thing

abut the miracle at Cana is not

how Jesus worked it, but why he worked it.

 

Was it merely

to save a young couple from embarrassment

of running out of wine at their wedding?

 

The artist who designed the door

suggests that Jesus had a deeper reason.

Jesus wanted to prepare his disciples

for the Last Supper,

when he would change wine into his own blood.

 

This brings us to the second panel.

It shows five loaves and two fish,

referring to the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

 

Again, some modern Christians

have trouble with this miracle.

 

Early Christians, however,

had no trouble with it.

They saw something similar happen

each year in their wheat fields.

 

In spring,

they would plant five bushels of wheat,

and by the time summer ended,

the wheat would multiply into 500 bushels.

But again, the important thing is not

how Jesus worked this miracle, but why.

Was it merely out of compassion

for a crowd of hungry people?

 

Again, the artist suggest another reason.

The miracle gave Jesus a chance

to tell the people that he would soon feed them

more marvellously than he had just done.

 

He would feed them even more marvellously

than Moses fed their ancestors in the desert.

Jesus said to the people:

 

“What Moses gave you

was not the bread from heaven. . .

I am the Living Bread

that came down from heaven.

If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever.

The bread that I will give

is my flesh.”      John 6:32, 51

 

And this leads us to the third panel.

It shows thirteen people seated at a table,

referring to the Last Supper.

 

At the Last Supper Jesus does more

than change water into wine;

he changes wine into his own blood.

 

And he does more

than multiply loaves of bread;

he changes bread into his own body.

Mark’s gospel describes it this way:

 

“While they were eating,

Jesus took a piece of bread,

gave a prayer of thanks,

broke it and gave it to his disciples.

“ ‘Take it,’ he said, ‘this is my body.’

 

Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God,

and handed it to them;

and they all drank from it.

 

Jesus said, “This is my blood

which is poured out for many,

my blood which seals God’s covenant.’”

 

And this leads us to the final panel.

It shows three people seated at a table,

 

referring to the Easter supper

Jesus ate at Emmaus with two of his disciples.

 

The artist interprets the Emmaus supper

as the first celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Luke describes it this way:

Jesus “took the bread and said the blessing;

then he broke the bread

and gave it to them.”   Luke 24:30

 

This description matches what Jesus did

at the Last Supper.

 

The artist’s door is an excellent summary

of the Lord’s Supper as it develops

in the course of the Gospel.

 

It traces it from Cana, where it was prefigured,

to Capernaum, where it was promised,

to Jerusalem, where it was instituted,

to Emmaus, where it was first celebrated.

 

All this ties in beautifully

with the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

which we celebrate today.

 

Today’s feast celebrates Jesus’ gift of himself to us

as our spiritual food and drink.

 

This mystery of love is above all imagining.

Jesus himself to us so completely

that there is nothing more for him to give.

 

Some time ago

divers discovered a 400-year-old Spanish ship

buried in water

off the coast of Northern Ireland.

 

Among the treasures found on the ship

was a man’s gold wedding ring.

Etched into the wide band of the ring

was a hand holding a heart and these words:

“I have nothing more to give you.”

 

The same image and sentence could be used

to describe what today’s feast is all about.

It’s Jesus saying to us,

“I have given myself to you so totally

that there is nothing more to give you.”

 

I will close with this suggestion:

in a few minutes, at Communion time,

when you come up to receive Communion

and hear the words: “The Body of Christ”

try to realize, in a special way,

what you receive.

 

It is the living body of Jesus.

It is the same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem.

It is the same Jesus who died on the cross.

It is the same Jesus who rose from the dead.

 

When you think about it this way,

it’s so incredible that it’s hard to imagine.

Yet we know, by faith, it’s true.

Only a loving Father

could have given his children

such an incredible gift.

                                     Easter V – year C      

 In 1976 a car accident tore open the head

of a 21 year old Chicago boy named Peter.

His brain was damaged

and he was thrown into a deep coma.

Doctors told Peter’s family and friends

that he probably wouldn’t survive.

Even if he did,

he’d always be in a comatose state.

One of the people

who heard that frightening news was Linda,

the girl Peter planned to marry.

In the sad days ahead,

Linda spent all her spare time in the hospital.

Night after night, she’d sit at his bedside,

pat his cheek, and talk to him.

“It was like we were on a normal date,”

she said.

All the while Peter remained in a coma,

not responding to Linda’s loving presence.

Night after night for three and a half months,

Linda sat at Peter’s bedside,

speaking words of encouragement to him,

even though he gave no sign

that he heard her.

Then one night Linda saw Peter’s finger move.

A few nights later she saw an eyelash flutter.

This was all she needed.

Against  the advice of the doctors,

she quit her job

and became his constant companion.

Eventually she arranged to take him home.

She spent all her savings on a swimming pool,

hoping that the sun and the water

would restore life to Peter’s motionless limbs.

Then came the day when Peter spoke

his first word since the accident.

It was only a  moan, but Linda understood it.

Gradually, with Linda’s help,

those noises turned into words – clear words.

Finally the day came

when Peter was able to ask Linda’s father

if he could marry her.

Linda’s father said,

“When you can walk down the aisle Peter,

she’ll be yours.”

Two years later

Peter walked down the aisle

of their Church in Chicago.

He had to use a walker, but he was walking.

Every television station in Chicago

covered that wedding.

Newspapers across the country

carried pictures of Linda and Peter.

Celebrities phoned to congratulate them.

People from as far away as Australia

sent them letters and presents.

Today Peter is livng a normal life.

He talks slowly but clearly.

He walks slowly, but without a walker.

He and Linda even have a lovely child.

The story of Linda and Peter

is a beautiful commentary

on the words of Jesus in today’s gospel:

“I give you a new commandment:

Love one another.

As I have loved you,

so should you love one another.”

“This is how all will know

that you are my disciples,

if you have love for one another.”

If there’s one thing we need to do today,

it’s to rediscover the power of love,

the kind of love that Jesus preached.

The story of Linda and Peter

illustrates that this kind of love

has tremendous power,

a miraculous power.

It has the power to bring people back

from the brink of death to life.

It has the power to bring people back from hopeless sickness to perfect health.

It has the power

to inspire people the world over

and give them new hope,

as Linda’s love for Peter did.

Small wonder

a Hindu in India said to a Christian missionary:

“If you Christians. . .were like your Bible

[and loved the way it says to love],

you’d convert India in five years.

In the early 1980’s,

an unusual film was playing in movie theatres

across the nation.

It was called Quest for Fire.

It’s French producer

said it fulfilled a lifelong dream.

He’d always dreamed of celebrating,

in film, the discovery of fire.

For it was the discovery of fire

80,000 years ago that saved people

on the planet earth from total extinction.

It was the discovery of fire

that made it possible for them

to make tools for survival

and to protect themselves against the cold.

Today, people on planet earth

are beginning to worry again

that we are headed for total extinction.

This time the danger comes

not from something basic like the lack of fire

but from something even more basic –

the lack of human love,

the kind of love Jesus preached,

the kind of love Linda had for Peter.

This makes us wonder.

It makes us ask ourselves a question,

a frightening question.

Will someone 80,000 years from now

make a movie

to celebrate the rediscovery of love

in the early years of this century?

Will someone 80,000 years from now

make a movie to celebrate the only thing

that can save our planet from extinction –

the rediscovery of human love,

the kind of love Jesus preached,

the kind of love Linda had for Peter.

Will someone 80,000 years from now

make a movie

to celebrate the outpouring of love

that came forth from the Christian community

in the early years of this century

and changed our world?

Only the future

and only the Christian community

will answer that question.

Only you and I,

and millions of Christians like us,

hold the answer to that question –

somewhere deep down in our hearts.

Today’s gospel is an invitation for us

to look into our hearts and to see

how we ourselves are answering that question

by our own lives of love –

especially within our families.

For we must begin to change the world there

or we won’t change it at all.

Let’s close with these words

by the famous priest-scientist

Teilhard de Chardin:

“Someday, after mastering the winds,

the waves, the tides, and gravity,

we shall harness for God

the energies of love,

and then, for the second time

in the history of the world,

Man will discover fire.”

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