Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

This homily, for the 7th Sunday of Easter, was given at St. Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington, on June 4, 2000. Each time we face the front of our cathedral, we see the Jubilee Year Banner inviting us to "Open Wide the Doors to Christ." Yes, these words remain a stirring and challenging invitation to us — to be evangelized ourselves and then, through prayer and witness, to evangelize others. Six months into this Year of the Great Jubilee, it is good for us to hear again: "Open Wide the Doors to Christ." Our Holy Father describes the New Millennium which has so recently begun as "the springtime of the Gospel." In doing so, he is calling us to become heralds of the Gospel — of the Good News which Jesus proclaims and is, of the Good News which is rooted in the Scriptures and Tradition and proclaimed by the Teaching Office of the Church. This is the work of the New Evangelization; this is our work as disciples of Christ Jesus living at the dawn of the Third Christian Millennium. The Word of God in today’s scripture readings deepens our understanding of what it means to be heralds of the Gospel and strengthens our commitment to do so. In today’s gospel, we hear Jesus praying: "Holy Father, … I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one …. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth." In this prayer, spoken by Jesus the night before He died for us — a prayer that is ongoing since He now lives and intercedes for us before the Father, in this prayer Jesus reveals that we are chosen and consecrated for the gospel work of proclaiming and living God’s truth in the world. Just as, in the first reading, Matthias was chosen for his specific ministry, so we are chosen for the work of proclaiming Jesus and witnessing to the truth. And we are not only chosen, but we are also consecrated for this gospel task. To be consecrated is to be set aside for God’s purpose. Our consecration began in Baptism where we were reborn through water and the Holy Spirit. Our consecration deepens as we continue to live in union with Christ through prayer everyday and the celebration of the sacraments, the Eucharist at least each Saturday evening or Sunday and the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis. These are the ways to a deep union with Christ. Our consecration in truth also implies the understanding of our Catholic faith in its fullness. Here we realize the importance of Christian formation from early childhood through the senior years. Yes, adult faith formation is truly part and parcel of our being consecrated in truth. Last year we bishops addressed this issue in Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation In The United States. Chosen and consecrated, we are sent forth to be heralds of the Gospel. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love on another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us." So today’s second reading begins. We have been chosen and consecrated because God loves us. We, in turn, must share God’s love with others. True union with Christ always leads to authentic love for His people. Our witness as disciples is itself a sign of our love for others, because this witness has the power to attract people to Christ, the One Saviour of the world and, therefore, the source of their salvation. Moreover, love for others reveals itself in our care and compassion for those in need, in spiritual need and in bodily need. So, performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy become practical ways to make tangible God’s love working through us (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n 2447). Yes, chosen and consecrated, we are sent forth to reveal God’s love by loving one another. "Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one." Again, we hear Jesus praying in today’s gospel; this time He is praying for unity among His disciples. Unity is indeed a dominant sign of true discipleship, a mark of His Church: unity in faith, unity in gospel love, unity in Christian witness. Chosen and consecrated, in union with Jesus, we foster that unity: "that they may be one…." We find ourselves in this nine-day period between Ascension and Pentecost. This period is really the model for our devotional practice of making a novena. In these days, let us fervently seek the assistance of God the Holy Spirit. He will renew our consecration, strengthen our gospel love and bring about deeper unity. Yes, let us pray to the Holy Spirit, asking that He invigorate us to "Open Wide the Doors to Christ" so that, in union with Jesus, we may usher in and make present "the springtime of the Gospel."

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2000