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Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 10:25-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17

Saint John Baptist de LaSalle/Saint Stephen May 5, 2024

Today, in this country, the 150th Run for the Roses is taking place, it’s a horse race in the State of Kentucky, called the Kentucky Derby. So, in honor of horses and horse races I would like to share a “joke” that was told to me by a famous comedian, Bod Hope, over forty years ago.

One day, at the racetrack, a man who seldom went to Church, saw the pastor of the local parish looking at the horses, who were getting ready for the race. The priest looked at all the horses, then, as they walked by, he blessed one of them. The man watched this happen, and as he continued to watch, the horse won the race. The next race the priest did the same thing, the horses walked by, he looked them all over, reached out and blessed one, but this time the man went and bet everything he had. The horse blessed by the priest won the race, and this happened, race after race.

When the last race was about to start, the man watched the priest closely, and sure enough, the priest looked at all the horses, then reached out and blessed one. The man rushed to the window, bet everything he had on the horse that the priest had blessed, but this time, during the race, the horse dropped dead. The man was heartbroken, for he had lost everything he had. As he was leaving the racetrack, he saw the priest, who was also leaving, and he went over to him and said: “Father, you don’t know me, for I hardly ever come to Church, but I have a question for you. Before each race you looked at all the horses, blessed one of them, and they all won, except for the last race, what happened?” The priest said to the man: “Well, that’s the trouble with Catholics who hardly ever come to Church, they don’t know the difference between a Blessing and the Last Rights.”

Several years ago, a movie was made called “Let it Ride,” starring Richard Dreyfuss, who played the character of a man who went to the racetrack and always lost. One day at the track he began to win each race he bet on, and when the last race came, he bet everything he had on the horse he had picked to win, and the horse won the race. He was so excited he yelled, for everyone to hear, “God really, really likes me.” He was right, of course, God did really, really like him, but what he did not know is that God really, really likes us all.

In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles Peter finds himself in a similar situation. Peter knows that God sent Jesus to bring salvation to all, but what Peter does not know is that “all” actually means all. It took a vision from God, for Peter to be open to the idea that it was ok to eat and share with people who did not fully share his beliefs and practices.

This was a problem and a point of tension for the Apostles and for people today. Because not very much has changed over all these years. However, Peter began to see an opening of Grace for all people, he reasons:

"In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to God. While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening.”

This passage reminds us that all believers were shocked that the Holy Spirit came upon all. Peter responds by Baptizing everyone who asks, without any conditions or restrictions, he was learning to love those who were different from him. This language of love continues in today’s Gospel. Jesus’ last words, to love one another, is the hardest of all commandments to follow. In our Church today, there is the temptation to close in upon our personal experience of faith, to allow our narrow understanding of faith to feed a sense of cowardly suspicion, that we let fall upon others.

This division between “us and them” continues to plague our Church today. Peter’s conversion offers an important insight into the moment we are living. When Peter discovers God’s love for all people, Peter learns to love them too, especially those who have walked a very different path in life. However, in spite of how we feel or what we think, the Holy Spirit falls upon all, to remind each of us of Jesus’ command, to love one another.

“I have told you this, so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.”

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