5.6.18. Sun. wk 6 of Easter – B
Acts of the Apostles 10: 25 – 26, 34 – 35, 44 – 48
First Letter of St. John 4: 7 – 10
Gospel of John: 15 : 9 – 17
Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture readings.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy My Friend, †Jesus
This beautiful display of the Blessed Virgin Mary is part of our annual “May Crowning” that our school children put together. We have done this every year since the school opened. We also do a ‘Living Rosary’ as part of this celebration to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary who gave us the gift of her Son, †Jesus.
And something †Jesus said in the Gospel today is truly remarkable. “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father”. (Jn.15:15) Imagine, †Jesus calling us: “His Friend”. Wow! I mean – this is the person, the All Powerful God, we have read about all of our lives, who created all of us, who created your children, and your grandchildren, and He wants us to be His friend. The one who rose from the dead considers you and me, His friend, but, what kind of friend is †Jesus anyway?
Well, I suppose it depends on what kind of relationship you have with †Jesus, as to what kind of friend He is. Maybe, to you, †Jesus is more like a punishing parent, so I‘ve need to watch my “p’s and q’s”. Or maybe He is someone who just excuses your bad behavior because He just really doesn’t care; He is very “hip”, you know – whatever you want to do. Maybe, for those who are scrupulous, the Lord instills fear in you. Or perhaps, †Jesus is not a friend at all, because you really never allowed Him into your life. Or, is He only that distant biblical character that you aren’t really invested in? Or, you come here to Church so that you won’t go to hell in a hand-basket (that is, you think, if there is a hell or a heaven) but there is not a real intimate connection between you and †Jesus. That’s possible, too.
But, this morning what I would like to do is – describe for you – my friendship with †Jesus. How I understand my relationship with Him. †Jesus loves me more than I will ever, ever know. I have no idea how much He loves me, but I do know one thing, He loves me more than I deserve to be loved.
We read this in the First Letter of John describing this kind of love that the Lord has. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins”. (1 Jn.4:10) God did not ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac; but God sent us His son, Jesus, to die for us. He was willing to sacrifice His Son – out of love for us. That is the kind of love the Lord is calling me to; He is calling me to an unconditional love, a maximum love: “To love God with all my heart, soul and strength; to love my neighbor as myself”. And I’ll let you know right now – I fail at that – a lot.
But – He doesn’t nag me over and over again when I fall short of His kind of love – because He is patient with me. When I don’t obey Him, He never threatens to take His love away from me; He never threatens that at all. He understands that I make stupid mistakes, sometimes. He understands that I am this multi-dimensional mess, just trying to get through life with all my warts and wrinkles. But, He never accepts the excuse that I sometimes like to give Him: “Come on Lord, I’m only human”. He never accepts that, because He’s always calling me to holiness. In fact, throughout the Scriptures God never says: “It’s O. K. to be human”. Never! But from the Book of Deuteronomy, all the way through the New Testament, He is saying: “You must be holy as I am holy”. That’s what He is calling me to – not to be human, so don’t go using that excuse with Him when you get to the pearly gates – He won’t buy it. He is always calling us to holiness. In fact – He has faith in me, He knows I can be a saint, but I know I can’t do this on my own. The Lord gives me the grace to be holy, only if I can cooperate with that grace, which I don’t always do.
†Jesus is the kind of friend who wants only what is best for me. He wants me to be a holy priest. He wants my joy on earth to be complete, but that can only happen when I remain in His love and I don’t always do that. When I become selfish and self-centered, He may give me a little bit of penance to purify my love, but He never does it out of anger. When the Lord gives me penance – it’s always out of love to be better – just as you parents do when you discipline your children. You do it out of love, not because you want to punish them, but because you want them to learn from their mistakes. The Lord is the same way. He never punishes me. However, He might allow me to suffer and even face humiliation at times, so that I will learn to depend upon Him and not upon myself. Sometimes, only in humility and self-gift can I grow closer to the Lord. And †Jesus doesn’t ‘bail me out’ of every situation I put myself in. As much as I might want to pray to be rescued – sometimes He says: “You know what – you’ve got a brain in your head, work it out”. He has given us everything we need so – sometimes He just wants us to work it out. He knows that – feelings of helplessness will build trust in Him. During His passion He felt helpless – but it built trust in Him to where His last words would be: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”. So – when He doesn’t ‘bail me out’ – it’s not because He’s not around, or He doesn’t care – but He wants me to grow in trust and diminish the control that I have in my life.
For many, many years I enjoyed a very rich prayer life in conversation with †Jesus. But about seven years ago it all stopped – it all dried up. I don’t know why, but I entered this dry desert, this dark night and I’m still in it. I know He is not doing it to punish me, but I’ve come to figure out that my prayer was too easy. I was really taking for granted – these deep intimate conversations we regularly had; and He decided that I wasn’t growing in faith enough, so I entered this desert. No longer do I experience those ‘sense-level-consolations’ (you know – the warm fuzzies that you can sometimes feel in prayer) that’s been gone for seven years. I know it’s because He wants me to trust Him more – to know He’s there with me without any external evidence that He is there. Sometimes I want to say like St. Teresa of Avila once said: “You know Lord, if this is how you treat your friends no wonder you have so few!” †Jesus is never stingy in giving me the gifts of His Spirit – but – I don’t always use them for His glory and honor. But still, He is never outdone in generosity – never!
And those of you who are receiving your First Holy Communion, there is one thing to remember as you receive †Jesus for the first time. He is giving you the gift of Himself today – His Body and Blood, His Soul and Divinity. That’s how much He loves you! And never forget – He is always here to give you
Himself. Say you are sorry for your sins and come and receive †Jesus in Communion. He will always give you more than you can give Him, because that’s how much He loves you. That’s how much He loves you (pointing to the Crucifix hanging on the wall behind the altar).
†Jesus is really not very secretive, He doesn’t play his cards so close to His chest that He is cross-eyed. He has revealed Himself fully to me in the Sacred Scriptures, in Sacred Tradition and the Teaching Authority of the Church. He’s laid it all out there, but sometime I just don’t see it because I’m too busy looking at myself. And when I still don’t get it, He calls me away to speak to me in prayer in the intimacy of my heart. And when I do listen, then I might understand. It challenges us to listen to Him when He calls us away.
In his Apostolic Exhortation on The Call to Holiness in Today’s World, Pope Francis wrote: “We are overwhelmed by words, by superficial pleasures, and by increasing din – filled, not by joy but rather by the discontent of those whose lives have lost meaning. How can we fail to realize the need to stop this rat race and to recover the personal space needed to carry on a heart-felt dialogue with God” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 29). I can disappoint †Jesus by what I do or don’t do, but – He never sees me as a hopeless case – never; even though I have behaved like that at times. If I had a friend like me – I don’t know if I’d be so patient with him, I mean – after all, Jesus spent three hours nailed to a cross, allowing cruel men to hammer nails into his hands and His feet – for me!
“No one has greater love than this”, †Jesus said to His disciples the night before he died: “No one has greater love than this – to lay down one’s life for one’s friend”. (Jn.13:15) In all honesty – I see this kind of sacrificial love in many of you; I know some of your stories, we have talked about them. Raising families, living lives of self-gift. Again, listen to Pope Francis: “I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in the elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance, I see the holiness of the Church Militant”. (ibid. 7)
I was reminded recently how such a sacrifice of giving one’s self for another – changes the lives of people around us. Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from the Embassy in Iraq, sent to me by Mr. Joey Hood, who is the Deputy Chief of Mission for our Embassy in Iraq. He wrote yesterday, that on the anniversary of the death of Chief Petty Officer Charles Keating (who was a member of our parish and his family is here this morning in this Church with us) who gave his life protecting a small village in Iraq. And yesterday, at the Embassy in Iraq, the Catholics who were present, together with the Ambassador, his staff; and the Archbishop of Baghdad came and celebrated mass for Charlie, his wife Brooke and His family. They are in midst of building a Chapel to His honor in this village because he gave his life protecting the villagers. He affected lives in two countries – Iraq and the United States. Yesterday we had a huge gathering, a couple of hundred people to celebrate and remember the second anniversary of Charlie’s sacrifice. Some of you were there, I’m surprised you are here this morning (I’m only saying: “It was a great party”). But you see, “There is no greater love than this: to lay down your life for another” (Jn. 15:13), and it does make a difference. For this American hero it has made a difference for an entire village in Iraq, in this parish, and in our City here in Coronado, among his family and friends and beyond. God is so good!
I could have no greater friend, no more loyal friend than †Jesus. It doesn’t matter to †Jesus that I am not as good a friend to Him as He is to me, but His greatest concern is that I would reject His love. Not that He needs my love, because †Jesus is complete in Himself; but He is concerned that I would never know the fullness of love and the fullness of life that awaits me. This is why He prays for me and gives me His grace so I can be a saint, so that I might have life through Him as we heard in the first Letter of John.
Well, that is my friend †Jesus, that’s my relationship with †Jesus; a little bit of inside baseball right there in the life of Fr. Mike. My friendship with †Jesus is still growing, our mutuality is not always complete, He gives more to me than I give to Him. I don’t know what your friendship is like with †Jesus – but, let me tell you – He can be the best friend you ever had.
“Remain in His love and His joy will be in you – and your joy will be complete”.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.