6th Sunday of Easter C - Homily 4

Homily 4 - 2022

Individual people can differ in the way they see things, in the way they assess situations, in their answers to complex problems; political parties disagree; nations disagree. Despite the things that unite us as Christians and loyal followers of Jesus, we remain individuals and so, like everyone else, we can see things differently and disagree among ourselves.

Our differences can enrich us as a community. Just recently Pope Francis wrote: “This is the mystery of the Church: a celebration of differences.” He spoke affirmingly of the unique, individual vocation with which God gifts and calls each one of us. But he went on to say: “We do not only receive a vocation individually; we are also called together. We are like the tiles of a mosaic. Each is lovely in itself, but only when they are put together do they form a picture.”

God can rejoice in our differences because God can love us in our difference. God’s love is so free. Our differences are no threat at all to God’s loving us. If only we open ourselves to receive God’s love for us all, we can slowly find ourselves becoming free, being empowered to love each other, even those we disagree with, even those who dislike us, even those where the feeling of dislike is mutual. God does it constantly, ceaselessly. And God wants to share that love with us. As our freedom grows, we can find ourselves wanting to love everyone. As our love grows, our joy grows with it — and with the joy, a wonderful sense of inner peace. I love the passage in today’s Gospel where the soon-to-be-crucified Jesus said to his friends, “Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.”

In the meantime, we suffer from that lack of freedom, of love, and the peace that accompanies them, usually without even it noticing it. We can be so used to our ingrained, habitual hostilities and resentments that we do not even realise that they are there. And, sadly, even in our world and Church, instead of enriching us, our differences can lead into polarisation. We shall see plenty of it in the political arena over the next few days as the results of the election become clearer.

It can happen even in the Church. Nothing new! We heard about it in today’s First Reading. About twenty years after Christ’s death, deep cracks appeared among the disciples. Out in the diaspora, away from Jerusalem where the early Church had all started, the aggressive opposition of some of the Jewish converts to Barnabas and Paul’s outreach to interested non-Jews along with their readiness to welcome them into their small faith communities led to deep disagreement. Both sides had reasonable arguments for their positions. There was real danger of the young Church dividing.

Fortunately the impulse to love and respect each other, even in their differences, led the leaders of both factions to meet together down in Jerusalem to reach a resolution. After much discussion, under the explicitly sought guidance of the Holy Spirit, they reached a conclusion satisfactory to all, that yet respected their different insights and sensitivities.

They listened— to each other and to the Holy Spirit; they clearly stated their own cases; they respected each other’s convictions; and they prioritised their resolve to keep loving each other.

It is Pope Francis’s fervent hope that the Church in our day can follow the same path — together. Let us pray for the wonderful success of our own Australian Plenary Council, and of the world-wide Synod on Synodality due to assemble in Rome next year.