Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Cycle A
My homily given at the 8:00AM Mass at Holy Ghost Church on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Remaining in God’s Love by Keeping His Commandments
ACTS 8:5-8, 14-17; PS 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20; 1 PT 3:15-18; JN 14:15-21

Audio Recording

Dear Friends in Christ,

Jesus tells us in today’s gospel reading that the only way we can demonstrate our love for him is by keeping his commandments. He promised to sent his Holy Spirit as our Advocate to give us the strength and the grace we need to help us do this. Keeping Jesus’ commandments is our true mission in life…the mission we will all be held accountable for on our judgement day.

When we die Jesus is not going to reward us for how many hours we put in at work, how much money we made, or for the fact that we were a “good person.” No, we will be rewarded for how many souls encountered Him as a result of our witness, our faithfulness to his calling. We’ll each be accountable for how we responded to the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to us so generously in our baptism and confirmation.

Today’s readings should cause each of us to consider what’s really important in life. How do we live this call we all have to love Jesus? And just how do we love Jesus, how do we show him our love and why is this so important?

First, it’s essential that we understand the depth of God’s love for us. In a daily gospel reading earlier this week, Jesus tells us that he loves us as the Father loves HIM!

Did you get that?! Let me repeat it. Jesus tells us that he loves US as much the Father loves HIM!

It’s so important, dear friends, that we BELIEVE how great is God’s love for us so we can begin to understand why it’s essential that we remain in this love. 

And what is love? Love is the act of giving one’s life away for the sake of another. God is love and to have God’s love is to do what Jesus did; to offer your life for the sake of others, rather than to live it for yourself.

How do we do this? By keeping his commandments, the second theme of today’s gospel.

Most of us naturally resist commandments, don’t we? We don’t like being told what to do. What’s the favorite word of a 2 year old? NO! However, Jesus clearly tells us that we MUST keep his commandments in order to remain in his love. And what are these commandments? Jesus tells us in Matthew’s gospel that the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. You know them…

– To love God with all of our heart, our soul and our mind.
– And to love our neighbor as ourselves.

So, how do we love our neighbor? We love our neighbor by practicing Works of Mercy. Feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and the imprisoned, praying for others – both living and dead – forgiving those who wrong us, and comforting the sorrowful. These are but a few of the corporal and spiritual Works of Mercy and doing these works is HOW we keep his commandments, which results in us remaining in his love.

Last weekend the Ladies of Charity hosted a one-day clinic for the poor and homeless to provide dental and vision care. Dentists, optometrists, hygienists and dozens of volunteers gave up a Saturday to clean teeth, fill cavities, pull teeth and provide a free set of prescription glasses for anyone who needed these services.

A few of the Knights of Columbus arrived at church between 3:15 and 4:00 that morning to prepare breakfast for these volunteers. We also prepared lunch for them. 

Midway through the morning, the Director of the Ladies of Charity came over for a cup of coffee and was telling me how she was very concerned that many of the patients had not kept their appointments. They never showed up and she had dentists and optometrists who had volunteered their precious time standing around doing nothing.

Moved by the Holy Spirit, I offered to take my truck down to the rescue mission to see if I could round up some patients; to go fishing for men, so to speak. Three trips later, I was able to bring about 20 people to the clinic for services. Susan was thrilled that I acted immediately to help her out of a potentially embarrassing situation.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s mostly because Fr. Dowling asked that I tell you, using this as an example of the Christian service we are all called to do as a result of our baptism and confirmation. How we must be open to the urgings of the Holy Spirit in every situation and respond to them.

You see, it’s not enough to come to Mass once a week. While that’s certainly important, and expected of all Catholics, if we don’t allow the Eucharist we receive here to work through us in service of our neighbors, we’ll never really bear the fruit of the Spirit we are expected to bear as Christians.

Getting up in the middle of the night to serve breakfast to those who are serving the poor is an example of people putting their faith into action.

Preparing and serving food to the homeless through our Knights of Columbus Bridge Ministry is also a way we can put our faith into action. I’d love to see more of you participate in this vibrant and growing ministry that takes place right in our backyard.

Visiting the sick and the lonely is another way we can put our faith into action. I’m hoping we can take steps this year to build a vibrant and active ministry to reach out to our elderly and shut-ins who are so easily forgotten in their senior years.

Setting aside a Sunday morning once a month to drive the church van and pickup those who have no other transportation to Mass is another example of how you can put your faith into action. Do you know how many months I’ve been trying to find van drivers by announcing this need in the bulletin week after week? Sad to say, not one person has responded to this call for help. And we’re about to lose three of our four drivers, which may mean we’ll have to discontinue or dramatically scale back this important ministry.

These are just a few examples of opportunities to put your faith into action, following Christ’s commandment to love your neighbor. There are so many more ways you can serve our parish community.

 I don’t care how busy you are, there’s really no good excuse for not getting involved in SOMETHING. Imagine what we could do collectively if every one of us became active in just one ministry!

Finally, why does God insist that we keep his commandments if we are to remain in his love? We do this so that his JOY might be in us and so our joy might be complete! The more we offer our lives in his service, the more alive and happier we become!

The bottom line is that keeping God’s commandments makes us more adept at love, because in doing so God’s love is awakened within us, giving us the joy that can only come from God.

So I’ll ask one more time, what are YOU prepared to do to keep God’s commandment to love your neighbor as yourself? I challenge you to find a way to get involved in this wonderful parish community beyond attending Mass each Sunday. Remember, only by keeping God’s commandments do we remain in his love. And only by remaining in his love do we find true joy and happiness. God bless you.