5th Sunday of Easter
06 May 2007
Fr. Bob Scanlan
One of the nice things about living in this climate is the pleasure of experiencing the beauty of the four season of the year. Each season has its own richness; its own colors and smells. Spring rains have a special smell to them. We can see transformation all around us as the fields are plowed—the old soil refreshed. Seeds are planted and nurtured. God knows the right amount of sun and rain for the best growth. We watch and wait to see the harvest planned by God for us to reap. It is an exhilarating time of year.
This time of year in the history of our church is also exhilarating. We see how Paul and Barnabus went throughout the cities of their area preaching the Good News to all who would listen. They encouraged all to be patient with each other. They told the people, “It is necessary for us to under go many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”. It seems to me that message from Paul and Barnabus still rings true today. Initially they gathered in small groups to pray and support each other. Paul and Barnabus even experienced what many people in public office experience even today. There were certain Jews who traveled along behind them trying to undo what they had just said. They accused them of false teaching and leading the people in the wrong direction. Today we see certain representatives of one candidate following others to put a false “spin” on what the candidate is saying. We have 18 months before the next Presidential election. Fasten your seat belts for a long political ride.
When we may prefer the convenience and the safety of the “institution” (where all decisions are made for us); Paul and Barnabus urge us to speak our truth and venture forth in unchartered waters and insecure places where the Word of Jesus needs to be spoken and needs to be heard. When we are faced with conflict. When the institution tries to tell us that following man made laws is better than following the Gospel of Jesus; when we experience the power of control over us; when we simply in our heart KNOW the message of Jesus compels us to move in another direction we can look at Paul and Barnabus and see the courage of their faith and the faith of the early church; the faith that cost many their very life some by stoning to death including Paul.
Jesus tells us today, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another”. The message of Jesus was not the famous 3 words---love one another---but He added, “as I have loved you”. The love of which Jesus is speaking holds nothing back. It is the love that hears the inner call of Jesus in the heart that urges---even demands---that a person “do the right thing”. It is the love that, perhaps only for a brief moment, frees a person from the chains of LAW and empowers a person to truly act in the person of Jesus.
10 years ago in 1997 the city of Aurora found it’s self in the midst of heavy gang and drug conflict. In that year we had over 25 shootings and killings with rival street gangs---all fighting over turf, and drugs. I had experienced many of these killings; meeting with devastated families in the Emergency Room of the hospital. Moshe Rogers was one of the victims. Moshe was a senior at Aurora Central Catholic High School. He was dropped of at his home after a basketball game. He was one of the leaders of the team. He was mistaken for a rival gang member and shot to death in the front yard of his home. His funeral was packed. Many from the city came. Even the retired bishop of the diocese came to be with the family at his funeral. Many of the local priests were there to concelebrate the funeral liturgy. One minister, who is of African/American decent, was also there representing his community. He was unfamiliar with the Catholic Rituals and when it was time for communion he also joined the other priests and the retired bishop in a semi-circle around the altar. The deacon was distributing communion to the priests and bishop---but he by-passed the Protestant minister as he was not Catholic. There was a deafening silence which came over the congregation as we witnessed this blatant rejection of our brother minister.
“Love one another as I have loved you. So you also should love one another”. The retired bishop, who was standing next to the Protestant minister, turned to him—broke his host in half---and gave the Protestant minister half.
Many of us wanted to shout the simple word we use today---YES! Yes he “got it”. Yes he could break a discriminating man-made law and live Love of Christ.
I am convinced that most people KNOW what the right thing is to do. I am also convinced that most people are chained to laws, directives, and guidelines that they know in their heart are wrong. It is hard to always live like Jesus even if we want to. For many of us it is a life long challenge.
Jesus tells us to “Love One Another as I have loved you” or as we say today to “Just Do It”.