Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Homily for the 5th Sunday in Easter
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
May 3, 2015
Year B

The other day I was watching a news clip about a priest in Burlington, VT who began doing ‘Theology on Tap’ as a way to try and reach out to people who have stopped going to church. The reporter noted that, according to a recent Gallup poll, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire rank the lowest in Church attendance in the entire country. This thought brought to mind the words of the fictitious country priest of George Bernanos, as he observes: “Faith is not something one ‘loses’, we merely cease to shape our lives by it.” In light of this thought, two questions come to mind: why do people leave the faith and how can we bring them back?

Why do people leave? One young man interviewed in this news clip said simply: “because it is easy.” He noted that while he was in college it was easy to stop going to Mass. Peer pressure can also have an influence on whether or not young people attend Mass. The more we become enslaved to sin the more we distance ourselves from God and the easier it is to fall away. When people stop going to confession, when they stop praying, when they establish bad habits – all these things have an impact on faith. People begin to shape their lives by worldly standards and desires rather than on God.

So, how do we bring them back? How can we influence them in a positive way that may help them come back to faith? There is no one answer to this question. I, however, propose at least one way: through authentic discipleship. In other words, by shaping our lives by faith. Discipleship serves two purposes. It helps us to “remain” in Christ – remain connected to the vine – and to reach people through our good works.

The words of Jesus in today’s gospel come at the end of His famous “Farewell Discourse.” His words here could be described as a “Discourse on the union of Jesus and His disciples.” By remaining in Christ – or better, in abiding in Him – the disciple’s works – their lives – continue the glorification of God that characterizes Jesus’ own words and deeds. Here the phrases ‘to bear fruit’ and ‘become my disciples’ go together – they are complimentary. To bear fruit – that is, to do works of love – is the tangible sign of discipleship. Love is what grounds us in abiding in Christ. It is the love we show to Him and that which we show toward others. This is the driving force behind discipleship because love is the basis for relationship. Being authentic disciples of Christ means that we love. We all know that in relationships, love needs to be demonstrated by deeds. Acts of love are sacrificial, they are humble and courageous. It is not easy to love, in fact, love is indeed a cross to bear. But it is this cross of love, carried with courage, that keeps us closely untied to Christ. It is this cross of love that shapes our lives of faith. It is this cross of love that pushes us to witness to those who have ceased to shape their lives by faith of the love and mercy of God.

In this sense, a third question comes to mind: what are the tangible works of love? The answer can be found in both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: give drink to the thirsty, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, care for the sick, give shelter to the homeless, free the captive and bury the dead; instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, counsel the doubtful, pray for the living and dead, comfort the afflicted, bear wrongs patiently, and forgive.

In the context of everyday life, these are not easy to accomplish and might even seem near impossible to perform. Yet, if our habits of faith move us to strive to nourish and deepen our relationship, our love for Christ, these works of mercy do not seem difficult because they become our very identity. Habits of faith – prayer, confession, spiritual reading, learning about our faith, Mass and Holy Communion – are the ways in which we manifest deeds of love for our Lord. They propel us to attitudes of self-sacrifice, humility, gratitude – to authentic discipleship.

The point of all this is to say that the problem we face as a Church is a problem of discipleship. How is the faith passed on from generation to generation is by way of discipleship. Be good disciples. Acquire good habits of faith – not because you are supposed to but rather because of love. Let love be sincere and may it lead us to pray with the psalmist: “I will praise you, Lord, in assembly of your people.”


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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