Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"The Love of Christ: The Source of Our Hope and Our Joy"
Homily for
the Sixth Sunday of Easter
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon

29 May 2011
Year A 

C.S. Lewis put is best when he said: “In the face of the foolishness that contends that Jesus was a good man or a prophet or a wise moral guide, but that He was only a man, that Jesus is either God or a blasphemous liar.” Those who see Jesus in this way use the Bible as their authority, but Lewis, and the Christian Tradition, points out that that same Bible reveals Jesus as God: He forgives sins, He “teaches with authority,” He raises the dead, walks on water, and so on. The New Testament was written around that which we celebrate in this Easter Season – the fact of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But for many, faith is a challenge and there is a struggle to believe, practice and love.

As Catholics, I suspect that many of us have a “have to do” mentality toward faith and religion. “I have to go to Mass, I have to do penance, I have to contribute to the collection,” and so on. This attitude also spills over into our daily routine: “I have to help the kids with homework, I have to do the laundry, I have to make dinner,” and so forth. With this attitude we recognize our obligations, duties and responsibilities that are indeed necessary. It may sometimes seem difficult to perceive immediately but I’m sure most of us would agree that in our daily lives we do these things for family and friends because we not only have responsibilities but also because we love them. With regard to faith and religion the next is – the “I get to” stage. “I get to go to Mass, I get to pray, I get to share the goodness of God with others.” In this stage, certainly we are aware of our obligations toward God but the question we can ask ourselves is this: do I practice these things because “I have to” or out of love, with a firmly rooted belief in Him, a sense of gratitude toward God and a desire to be with Him in heaven for all eternity?

Two out of four statements on the fruits of loving or not loving Jesus hold this section of St. John’s Gospel together with love as the central theme. The disciples are faced with ensuing departure of their master and the challenge of abiding in Him, remaining in His love. Jesus assures them, by speaking of the sending of the Spirit – another Counselor or Advocate – that He will be the one to defend them, help them in their struggle, and console them in times of distress. His going away will not produce a situation of “lostness” but a new era gifted with the Spirit, marked by love, the keeping of the commandments of Jesus, and the promise of a future time when the Father and the Son will abide forever with the disciple. This is the promise of Jesus that we hear in this Gospel: He will never abandon His closest friends. He speaks quite tenderly to them, reminding them how they are to remain close to Him – by loving Him and keeping the commandments. Their longing to be with Jesus, to remain with Him is what fueled their love for Him and led them to bear witness to Him in the world.

Our love for God is something we ought to reflect upon frequently. We could ask ourselves: do we love God? Are we in love with Him? It is a fallacy to suppose that simply by observing the commandments, practicing and carrying out the teachings of the Church that this is evidence of love for a person’s motivation for doing so could be altogether different. It is essential to carry out and practice the commandments, as Dominican Fr. Gerald Vann reminds us, but to do so “in such a way that we learn to see more clearly our true center, to keep our eyes more and more on God and less and less on ourselves.” When we are able to keep the commandments in this way, keeping our focus, our attention and our eyes fixed on being with Jesus then do we begin to really love Him.

But how do we keep our attention focused on Him? By fostering within our hearts a true desire for heaven. Here, we are reflecting upon the vision of Christ – seeing Him face to face and the love that awaits us in eternity. This is what it means to hope, to live in the expectation of the promise of heaven. By living this hope, we begin to see more clearly in our daily lives the road that leads to heaven – greater faithfulness to Christ, living the commandments in such a way that is reflected in our daily actions because it reveals our inner love for God. This is what St. Peter means when he says: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” And this will be our great joy.


Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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