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Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8

Saint John Baptist de LaSalle April 28, 2024

Most of our life, at least what we can remember, does not stay in our memory very long. Here is a question for you: How much of yesterday do you remember?

Now, I have always thought that I had a pretty good memory, remembering things that have taken place in the past has always been easy for me, but I don’t remember everything. Perhaps what memories remain with us, as the years pass, is the work of Grace. Some of what we remember is important, at least by the measure of our small lives. Other memories that we have are only momentary, although some remain for a long time.

Does God want us to remember both the good and the bad, for reasons not to be revealed to us until we see God in the flesh?

The Seminary that I went to right after high school, was filled with new and older students. One evening, at supper time, I took my tray and tried to find a seat with some older students. They were sitting together, laughing and talking, led by an older student, when I approached. Without a thought, almost without a pause in the conversation, he said, “get lost Hanic.” I did, and fast, but he had hurt my feelings, first by telling me to get lost, and he had called me by my last name.

What had happened was common enough in most schools, for teachers and students alike. I suppose the practice of calling someone by their last name shows the power you have. I personally found it to be demeaning and distancing.

What had happened to me upset me very much, and a week later, sitting at a football game with some friends, I said to the girl next to me, something about her not understanding what it was like to be rejected. She simply pulled up her shirt sleeve, showing me a long scar across her wrist.

“I do know what it is like to feel rejected,” she said, “If I had known where to cut myself, I would not be here to talk to you about it.”

Does anyone pass through life without being rejected?

“When Paul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.” Falling to the ground on the road to Damascus had reordered the values of Paul’s life. He got up from the ground a new man, but the reputation of his old ways remained.

Try to imagine what it would be like to want to give your life to Jesus, and Paul was all in on that, only to be rejected by Jesus’ disciples?

Paul had been deeply grafted into Christ Jesus, but on a different branch of the vine. Saint Luke offers us an explanation, but it is not needed. We understand how worried the disciples were, and their need to protect themselves. Fear makes us do terrible things, like excluding others from our fellowship. Our world has become a fighting place.

We take it for granted that Americans should accuse other citizens of not being patriots, that Christians should refuse to recognize the faith of their fellows: "You cannot belong to that political party and be a real American." "You cannot be attached to that Liturgy and be a true Catholic." "You cannot have that sexual orientation and belong in the Church." How small do you think the vine of Christ is?

Six years ago, I heard from that same fellow, now married, the one who told me “to get lost.” He was in great distress, he had called to speak to me, and he called me Father John. Why was he calling, well one of his friends who was at that table that night, clearly suffering from a horrific mental illness, had just killed his family, and committed suicide. How helpful was I? Memory will not retrieve what I said, it probably was not much.

What I do remember, is that he and I needed each other at that moment, and we knew that. If only by a more tender Grace of God, we could all learn how much we need each other, no matter how we are tempted to label and limit the other.

Pray for the Grace to reflect and remember, and then to ask ourselves: How small do we think the vine of Christ is?

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