The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Homily: Wednesday, 4th Week of Easter

Readings: Acts 12:24 -13:5a; Psalm 67; John 12:44-50
If you've ever lived outside the US, especially in a country that doesn't respect freedom, you probably know what it's like to be less than free.

Back in the fifties the parochial school I attended welcomed two new children who had just arrived from Hungary. Their parents had managed to escape that country in the midst of the turmoil surrounding the 1956 uprising, and had made their way to the United States and eventually to our town in New York. Having lived under both the Nazis and the Communists, this family, especially the children, had never really experienced freedom of any kind. I remember how amazed they were when they discovered they could actually do even the simplest thing without worrying about the authorities watching them or their parents being arrested. Like so many before them, they marveled at the Statue of Liberty and the light of freedom she held high over the harbor.

But in our exuberance for political freedom, we forget that the light of such freedom, powerful metaphor though it is, doesn't burn forever. Earthly freedom always passes, because it's a flawed freedom, a freedom derived from our human imperfections. Only one freedom truly lasts; only one is eternal: the freedom only God can offer, the freedom Jesus Christ promises. That's what eternal life is, brothers and sisters; it's true freedom, a freedom unlike anything we will ever experience here on earth.

Jesus doesn't just carry the light of this eternal freedom; Jesus is the light. "I am the light of the world" [Jn 8:12], He tells us. And so, without Jesus, the world plunges into darkness. If you want proof of this, just pick up a newspaper. Read the headlines. Watch the evening news. Look at a world that tries its best to evict Jesus from it.

Even in this country, where freedom has long been cherished, true religious freedom is under attack. But such attempts always fail. Christ will not be denied. The light of the world can't be extinguished. Just as the rising sun overcomes the darkness of night and exposes what is hidden, so the light from the Son of God, God's Word, exposes the sinfulness of this world and leads all who will follow to the safety of the Father's embrace.

Back in 1951 my family spent a year in Germany. On a visit to Bavaria My father took us to see the Dacau concentration camp outside Munich. I remember entering the gate and seeing the words "Arbeit Macht Frei."  I spoke enough German to know this meant "Work makes you free" which of course was a pleasant sounding euphemism for it's real meaning: Here you are slaves.

But when we view the world through Christ, our Light, we can recognize these manmade lies and see the truths of God's kingdom. How did Jesus put it? "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" [Jn 8:32]. It's not the work of the slave that makes one free, but the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Just as sunlight brings warmth and allows living things to grow, Jesus' words produce life - the very life of God - within those who receive it with faith. To see Jesus is to see God.  To hear his words is to hear the voice of God.

He, the light of God, overcomes the darkness of sin, ignorance, and unbelief, and brings healing, forgiveness, and transformation.  God's light shines on everyone. He excludes no one from His love. It is we who exclude ourselves by rejecting that love, by rejecting His Son.

We really have only two choices: Either we are of Christ or we are of the world.

Jesus didn't come to condemn us, but rather to bring abundant life and freedom from the oppression of sin, ignorance, and evil. No, Jesus doesn't condemn. We condemn ourselves when we reject God's wisdom and truth. 

It's one thing to live in simple ignorance, but it's something else entirely to reject the Word and those chosen by God to bring it to us. In our first reading from Acts, Paul and Barnabas make the choice to carry the light of Christ into a darkened world, and we are called to do the same.

Jesus tells us that God's Word has the power to judge; it also has the power to transform our lives. Fortunately we have a merciful God, who cares deeply for us. When, in our sinfulness, we slip into the shadow of darkness, He calls us back, into the light. And it's His light, the light of Christ, the light of eternal freedom. Bathed in the light we can let the Word of God and His Eucharistic Presence transform us.

The alternative, brothers and sisters, is only more darkness.

No comments:

Post a Comment