Homily for April 24th, 2005.
Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.
Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.
5th Sunday Easter A
Over the last month or so much attention has been given to the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. The death and the subsequent funeral of Pope John Paul II and this week the election of Pope Benedict XVI have been in the news a lot. Understandably so. The ministry of the Bishop of Rome to the universal Church is important to us.
Today’s Scripture readings, especially the 2 nd reading from the letter of Peter and the Gospel reading from John, are a timely reminder of something that is even more basic to us as Christians, just as basic and fundamental to whoever is Bishop of Rome as it is to us who are gathered here. It is our attachment to Jesus Christ, our acceptance of Jesus as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, as today’s Gospel has it. Jesus as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” not as an easy slogan or a bumper sticker, but in the sense that we let what Jesus lived for and ultimately gave his life for shape our lives in some way as well. For that is what makes us Christians, makes us Church.
As Christians, as Church we derive our identity from Jesus Christ. As today’s 2 nd reading has it, he is our cornerstone, chosen by God and precious in God’s eyes and in our eyes. That is what makes Peter say “Come to the Lord, a living stone, though rejected by mortals, yet chosen and precious in God’s sight.” The foundation of us as Church is not some musty cornerstone, not a set of highfaluting principles, not the Bishop of Rome, but the living Lord Jesus Christ; and he is that in his dying and rising, celebrated among us in baptism and Eucharist.
That same Jesus Christ as living cornerstone invites other living stones, he invites us to join him, to let ourselves “be built into a spiritual house, into a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” That happens for us in baptism, where we are grafted onto Jesus Christ. He is the Vine, we are the branches. That is nourished and sustained in us in the Eucharist, where we become what we eat, namely the Body of Christ. When the communion minister offers us the Body of Christ, we say Amen; yes, we say Amen to this bread being the Body of Christ, but we say also Amen to our becoming the Body of Christ.
What this suggests is that we are not just individual stones or rocks; we are members of Christ’s Body, brothers and sisters to each other. We cannot be believers on our own. There is a communal dimension to it. Our attachment to Jesus Christ is a shared attachment to Jesus Christ by means of identifying with and participating in a specific church community. That can be difficult for some today for a variety of reasons. And yet, part of our identity as Christians is that we form a community. In Jesus’ own words: “I am the Vine, you are the branches.”
As Christ’s Body, as Church, as God’s own people we have a mission to fulfill. Christ’s own mission. “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Drawing life from the living Lord Jesus we share the mission of Jesus, to bring healing and reconciliation to a wounded and broken world where too many live in darkness and despair, to continue what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, namely “calling us out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We want others to share in our being graced by God.
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