Good Shepherd and Evangelization, Homily

Homily, Mar 20-21, 2013: Cycle C, 2nd Sunday of Easter(Good Shepherd & Evangelization)

Have you ever had the feeling that there had been a change of plan and you did not get the memo, you were not part of the change?

Have you ever felt like the world was passing you by and you don’t remember when that happened? You just notice people waving at you as they pass.

That must be how the Jews felt in our First Reading when Paul announced to them in Antioch, that the word of God had been spoken to them first, but since they rejected it; His word would now be spread to the Gentiles.

That was a drastic change of plan as far as the Jews were concerned.

They were used to being God’s chosen people & things flowing toward them.  Now Paul is telling them that, from now on, God would spread His word to the Gentiles and through the Gentiles, to the whole world.

The rest of the First Reading paints a rather ugly picture of how the Jews reacted to that message.  It says they stirred up persecution and expelled Paul from their territory. They threw him out-of-town.

In other words, they reacted the same way they had always reacted to God’s word through His messengers when they did not like what they heard – blamed the messenger.  And, remember, the Jews aren’t the only ones with that trait.  We’re all pretty good at it.

We Gentiles should take this whole story seriously.  It tells us, that while God is patient, still He has a plan & that plan has a timeline known only to Him.  We are now part of His plan, and we should actively do our part in that plan, lest we be left behind.

This story is also a beautiful description of God’s mercy.  Here were His chosen people in whom He had invested a lot of time, patience, demonstrated His love for them throughout their history, performing many miracles, and yet, they rejected His plan.

Still, He did not condemn them as such, or take harsh action against them.  He still loved them and left them to continue their own way.  God moved on.  CS Lewis captured this theme in his book, The Great Divorce; God moved on.

Somewhere deep down inside each of us, we’re thinking that God must hope they will miss His active presence in their lives, and turn back to Him as they did many times in their history.  In which case, He would run to them, as in the story of the Father and the Prodigal Son, and His plan would continue in fullness.

What is this plan that is so important?

In my humble opinion, God wants His people, His creation, to know Him so fully, that we experience His love, His goodness, His caring, and are so moved by it that we strive to become more like Him.  We are created in His likeness and He wants us to become like Him – loving and caring.

In our Second Reading today, John gives us a picture of a time in the future that God longs to behold.  It is a time in the future when God’s plan comes to fruition.

John describes a vision where multitude upon multitudes of every nation, race, people, and tongue stand before the throne of God in white garments washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Where Jesus, the Lamb of God, will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water.

In our Gospel, we are given a huge hint as to how we can become the people God wants us to become.

We are to allow His son, Jesus, to show us the way, to shepherd us.  He came into this world as one of us.  No longer do we have to try to understand God as Spirit, we have one of our own flesh.  If we listen to His gentle leadings and strive to become like Him we will be walking in God’s ultimate plan.

As we walk, we spread His Good News.  Our very lives, and how we live them, become witnesses, an encouragement to others.

If you ask our DRE Catherine Caauwe & Josephine Williams before her, what brings people to RCIA?  What brings them to want to join the Catholic Church?

They will tell you that almost every participant says it was the example of a Catholic they knew up close and personal & how they lived their lives that drew them.  That is, they experienced a human witness to the Good News of God.

They watched how the Catholic dealt with dark difficult times.  How they maintained their peace in the face of those dark hard times.  It was so attractive they wanted to come to the place where that Catholic comes, to grow into that kind of person, too.

Evangelization is the motive force that powers God’s plan for His people to become more like Him.

Our new Pope, Francis, our new Bishop, Gregory, both see evangelization as the important call on each one of us.

We don’t have to stand on street corners & pass out tracts.  We don’t have to be super spiritual.  We don’t have to look for ways to tell others about God (unless they ask), but we do have to live what we believe.  We have to live our faith.  It has to be a reality.

We should model ourselves after Jesus Himself.  In the same way He died for us, we should be dying for others by serving them – making Him present in this world.

He is our shepherd.  As He does for us, so are we to do for others.

Yes, we are living in crazy times right now, dark times, but we should not be dismayed, because at times like these, even the small good things we do, random acts of kindness, stand out like a light on a hillside.

As Mother Theresa said, “Do good things anyway”.

Celebrating Easter

Easter is not much of a kids holiday once they get past the basket of candy and baby chicks. Sure, children love to put on their finest clothes, eat the ears off the chocolate bunny, and maybe play with a baby chick or perhaps a baby bunny, but that’s about it. It’s a different kind of holiday from Christmas with its many gifts and music and pageantry.

What about adults? What is there in Easter with which adults identify?  Well, adults flock to churches in droves to celebrate Easter. Truly, they are more into the spiritual celebration of Easter than Christmas.

The virgin birth of Christ at Christmas is intriguing but in our linear way of thinking we know the Gospels will spend time showing Jesus’ life unfolding from childhood into adulthood. We’ll hear of the sparring between Jesus and the Pharisees about the Law, and of the miracles and healings He will perform.  All good stuff to be sure, but nothing like the truths that unfold at Easter.

Easter comes hard on the heels of Holy Week where we hear the last messages that Jesus gives His apostles typified by His example of washing their feet and telling them to do likewise. Good Friday He shows them that they must die with dignity, not only for those they love, but also their friends, not only their friends, but also strangers, not only strangers, but also strangers who are not very good people –  just like He did.

On Easter morning His disciples found the empty tomb and realized in a flash all that He had been telling them about His death and resurrection was true after all.  The impact of that truth was overwhelming.  No other god had ever died for his people like their God.

So, clearly Easter is a feast for adults. Not much in the way of fantasy and gifts, but rich to the mature spiritual mind that can understand and appreciate the content.