Fifth Sunday of Easter

It’s hard to keep up with technology. Here's an email from a daughter to her father: Dearest Dad, I am coming home to get married. As you know, I am in Australia...and he lives in Scotland. We met on a dating website, became friends on Facebook and had long chats on Whatsapp. He proposed to me on Skype. Beloved Dad, I need your blessing and a big wedding so get your checkbook out. Love and thanks. Your favorite daughter, Lilly.
And here's her dad's response:
My Dear Lilly, Wow! Really? I suggest you get married on Twitter, have fun on Tango, get kids on Amazon, and pay for it all through PayPal. And when you get fed up with the guy, sell him on eBay. Love, Dad.
As I said, I can't keep up with these techy applications.

The word of God in the Book of the Acts describes how Paul, once a fierce persecutor, is now introduced to the Christian community in Jerusalem as a disciple of Jesus.

Paul, a highly educated rabbi, suddenly on the road to Damascus in Syria, had a visionary experience of the living Christ. That experience turned Paul’s life “upside down.” He went from fierce persecutor to great evangelizer of Christianity. Thereafter, his one passion in life was to proclaim the good news (the Gospel): Jesus Christ is alive! And because He lives, we live—God lives in us and we live in God.

Paul overcame all kinds of obstacles in cities of the eastern Mediterranean,  founded communities in Turkey and Greece, wrote letters to them and eventually was martyred in Rome in the 60s.

Paul describes in his letter to the community at Ephesus the vision that fired him up: “God gave me the amazing grace to see his plan for us.” And at the center was Jesus Christ. This Jesus, once crucified and dead, God raised up and transformed him into a new indescribable heavenly reality.  This living Christ anticipates our own future, what we one day will become.

For Paul, Jesus is the image of the invisible God and in him all things hold together. Jesus is the unique revelation of God, the light who shines in the darkness, the unique transformer of us into sons and daughters of God our Father.

The author of the letter of John goes to the heart of the matter: the absoulte truth is found in Jesus, Son of God; and to believe in Jesus is to love our fellow human beings, to see in them the image of God.

In the Gospel according to John, the author describes, in the metaphor of a vine and branches, the relationship of Jesus to you and me and all Christians.

Yes, Christ is the vine, the lifeline to us; and we are the branches, our global Catholic community yesterday, today and tomorrow: a community of disciples that moves forward, despite temporary setbacks, until Jesus Christ comes with power and great glory at the end-time to create a new heaven and a new earth.

One of my favorite images of our global Catholic community is a boat, which offers many insights into who the Church is and the history of the Church. Imagine! We're in a boat, on a journey, together, with a map and lots of stormy weather, people slipping overboard, survivors being pulled in, mutinies among the crew, getting off course, being attacked. And a boat needs a captain when everybody's slipping around. He may not be ideal but if everybody grabs for the tiller, we're all in trouble.

Peter, for example, didn't seem to be the ideal captain, yet what his crew and subsequent crews managed to do has lasted over two thousand years and today has 1.3 billion people, not to mention the 300 million orthodox and 800 million protestants under the umbrella of “Christianity.”

Now there are many images or models of the Church: an institution with a structure, mystical body or people of God, servant, herald of the good news, and sacrament or sign of God's grace. No one model can fully capture the mystery of the Church.

Perhaps we might best describe the Church as a community of disciples who believe in God as Triune and in Jesus Christ as Son of God and redeemer, and who shape their lives according to that belief; a community which  ritually celebrates that belief in the Eucharist and recognizes the Bishop of Rome as the foundation of its unity.

This community lives under a huge tent. Some people are good, others not so good. In fact, some make a mess out of their lives and leave a mess. And so, like so many other things in life, the Church lives with messiness and muddles through as best it can.

But we continually have to strive to do the right thing, to forgive ourselves and one another, to let go of feelings of resentment and bitterness, and as the prophet Micah said, “do the right and love goodness and walk humbly with our God.”

This community of disciples celebrates the awesome presence of the Living Christ especially in the word proclaimed and the sacrament celebrated. The same Spirit who transformed the disciples from cowards behind closed doors in Jerusalem into heroes proclaiming fearlessly that Jesus is alive, that same Spirit lives within this community, and can fire us up to do wonders for God if we will only let the Spirit do so. 

Pope Francis’s new exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate” – “Rejoice and be glad” (Mt 5:12) – expands on this, pointing to Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount” as our “Christian identity card.” Francis sees holiness through the lens of these “beatitudes,” for God has chosen each one of us “to be holy.” (Eph 1:4)

The Pope reemphasizes that God created us to be happy.  And we become our happiest when we are true to our deepest selves. “To thine own self be true,” Shakespeare wrote. God wants all of us to be saints and not settle for anything less, Francis notes.

The Pope describes how ordinary activities in daily life, e. g., parenting a child, being a good next-door neighbor, doing our job conscientiously, placing ourselves prayerfully in the presence of God, helping the needy: this is the stuff of holiness. Francis identifies two enemies of holiness and urges us to discern, to examine daily, what is true and right in our decision-making relative to work, career, family, social life and community.  Speak up, Francis pleads, for what's right and not simply go along to get along. “Gaudete et Exsultate” is good practical advice about our spiritual life.

And until Jesus Christ returns with power and great glory at the end-time, remember at the start of each day that we shall pass through this world but once: any good therefore that we can do or any kindness that we can show to any human being, let us do it now; let us not defer or neglect it for we shall not pass this way again. Carpe diem.  Seize the day.

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