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!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Homily: Saturday, 7th Week of Easter

Readings: Acts 28:16-20,30-31; Ps 11; Jn 21:20-25


For the homilist, today's readings present a bit of a dilemma. There's just so much on which to reflect, to preach, and to pray. And so I decided it was best just to turn it over to the Holy Spirit in prayer and ask for His help.

You see, our readings today are somewhat special, because they're the final verses of both the Acts of the Apostles and John's Gospel. In a sense they sum up all that’s gone before.

Luke began and ended his Gospel in Jerusalem, and it's in that city, too, where he began his second  book, the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts we follow Paul on his journeys through the Greek-speaking world, as he establishes local churches and calls people to Christ while moving inexorably toward his destination, toward Rome, the new Jerusalem.

St. Paul, under house arrest in Rome
In today's reading we encounter Paul in the final days of his ministry. Imprisoned in Rome, he awaits execution at the hands of Nero, the emperor who will also take the life of Peter. And it's there, in Rome, where Paul – as Luke tells  us – "with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ."

Yes, Paul remains the true disciple as he completes his earthly journey of faith. For us the journey of discipleship is much the same – a journey that carries us toward new “Jerusalem,” this “Rome,” a journey filled with all kinds of experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Like Paul’s ours is a journey of discipleship, one of discovery, and praise, and wonder, and prophecy fulfilled. 

But we, too, will sometimes encounter obstacles or outright barriers, or simply head off in the wrong direction, only to be called back by the Holy Spirit. And just like Jesus and Paul, we need opportunities to rest along the way and regain our strength, for discipleship is no easy road.

Jesus knows this. He knows our weaknesses, all those little pieces of us that crave attention, all that calls us away from Him. And so He comes to us again and again, giving us a taste of that which awaits us.

Paul knew this too, which is why he told the Jews who visited him in Rome, and he tells us, that we share in the hope of Israel, a hope fulfilled in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Keep the faith, Paul tells us, don’t let all the stuff of our lives distract us from the eternal.

Paul Visited by Jewish Leaders
Peter also learns this, and will preach just as Paul does. But as John’s Gospel comes to a close, we encounter a Peter just beginning his formation as a disciple, a Peter who’s still full of questions, still awaiting the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In his heart Peter knows he’s been given a very special task – “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep” – and no doubt he fears all that it will bring. Suspecting Jesus has given him the hardest road to travel, he points to young John, the fair-haired boy, the one whom Jesus loved, and asks, “What about him?”

Peter is so devilishly human, isn’t he? He’s so much like you and me, so worried about himself, always comparing himself to others, unaware that God doesn’t compare, that God sees each of us exactly as we are.

Jesus tells Peter this, in effect saying: “Look, Peter, don’t worry about John, or my plans for him. It’s really none of your business. Just do the work I’ve given you.” And to ensure Peter understands, he adds, “You follow me!”
'What if I want him to remain until I come?
What concern is it of yours? You follow me.'
How often are we just like Peter, so caught up in what others are doing that we neglect the work God has given us.

What is God calling you to do – not next week or next month or next year – but what is His will for you today, right now?

Life is a gift, brothers and sisters, and it can end at any moment. If we take each of those moments that God gives us, and simply follow Him, always doing His will in all the seemingly little things, one moment to the next, He will lead us to the big things.

Even though we’re struggling and broken and torn and sinful, God continues to call us to the work He has for us. He calls us in the moment, in the little things of our lives, in the things He knows we can handle.

This is what Divine Mercy is really all about: it’s about God’s love bringing us back to Him, repeatedly, one tiny piece at a time.

And that’s what discipleship is all about. It’s a total offering of self, an offering of all those pieces, an offering that God willingly accepts.

Through His love, His mercy, and the working of the Holy Spirit, He puts together the pieces and makes us whole once again so we can do our part to complete Christ’s mission on earth.

Just follow me, he commands. We need do nothing else.

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