6th Sunday of Easter C

See Commentary on John 14:23-29 in John 14:16-24 & John 14:25-31

Homily 1 - 2010

Today’s Gospel spoke of Jesus, the disciples, Jesus’ Father, and the Spirit of Jesus. I seem to pick up there a pervading impression of gentleness, deep respect and quiet confidence and strength. All were interacting in the context of love, supporting, confirming, gifting, listening, and welcoming. The passage carried the promise of  peace, of home, and the invitation to let go of worry and fear.

The mood reflects, in some ways, the weather of the past week – the gentle life-giving, nurturing autumn rain, the soil gratefully receiving, yielding, and becoming soft and fertile in the process.

In the Gospel, there is no triumphant victory over enemies, not even any competition with anyone, just mutuality and the unpredictable dance of life, as welcome as was the smell of rain on the grateful earth.

We are drawing towards the end of the Easter season. How has it been for you, so far? Personally, I have been reflecting of late on the “how” of Jesus’ resurrection. In one of our Easter hymns we sing about how Jesus burst triumphant from the tomb, the victory won! Alleluia! And most of the images we see of the Risen Jesus reflect that tone: triumph, and victory.

But, I wonder … To me, all that speaks of conflict or of competitiveness, even of  vindictiveness - of a turning of tables; the all-too-common adult version of the infantile: I’m the king of the castle, and you’re the dirty rascal!.

But, look at how the Gospel stories depict the risen Jesus. Today’s passage comes from John’s Gospel – so we’ll focus our search simply on the Gospel of John. Firstly – just the empty tomb, then … mistaken for the gardener by Mary Magdalene. (What a colossal anti-climax!) and recognised only when he tenderly said: Mary! Next, quietly present among the disciples that same evening. Not bursting through locked doors, no recrimination, just: Peace be with you; and the obvious wounds in his hands and side/ And, finally, cooking breakfast over a charcoal fire by a lakeside.

He rose – not to prove anything – He rose in order to say: Peace be with you. 

Perhaps, it has been that Jesus who has touched us this Easter season. No fanfares; no triumph, perhaps. scarcely recognised, uncertain – Is it he? but, then, also (as today’s Gospel promised us) a growing peace - where did that come from? - a peace certainly not given in the way the world gives. and, with it, a deeper listening, a hesitant opening of the doors of the heart so that Jesus and his Father, together, might come to us and make their home in us,

Along with all (or some) of that: perhaps, more things beginning to make sense, as the Spirit gently reminds us of all that Jesus has said to us, especially, despite all the contrary voices, that we are loved, and that, as Julian of Norwich so wisely said: All will be well! All will be  well! All manner of thing will be well!

Homily 2 - 2016

Did you hear tonight’s Gospel? “Peace I leave with you. My own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give. This is my gift to you.” Something seems to have gone wrong! We just need to turn on the TV News to be once more persuaded of that. We pray for peace. But we feel so powerless. Our prayer seems so futile. We keep on doing it, without being quite sure why. Perhaps we feel it is all we can do. Most people say they want peace, even if they instinctively agree that war may sometimes be the way to achieve it. I would like to share a few reflections tonight on this issue of peace. I do not think that we are as powerless as we sometimes feel.

Every time I come away from a random gathering of people, whether it is of extended family, or priests, particularly ones I do not know all that well or do not see very often, if I reflect on what we were talking about, I so often feel ashamed. Time after time, we finished up criticising, or sending up, or condemning some individual or group of people. It could be the bishop or people in the Church who think differently, or local councillors, or the government, or just an opposing football team, or the umpire, or foreigners, or asylum seekers or the ones the media have it in for at the moment – anyone, provided that it is some one or some group that is different from us. Why do we do it? I think it is because instinctively we know that if our attention is not focused on someone or some ones who are not part of the group at the moment, it would not be long before we would be arguing with each other. We do it, and we do it without consciously thinking, to preserve the peace. It works. We seem to need others who are different to get a sense of our own identity and unity. We need the sense of “otherness”, of one who is somehow distinctive, the enemy, in order to feel comfortable together. Interestingly, the dynamic is the same whether we consider small ad hoc groups or nations forming their “coalitions of the willing”. We experience the “peace that the world gives”. But it is a fragile peace; and is hardly a truly satisfying peace. In its favour is that it does not cost us much, and it does not require us, whatever about the other, to change.

The peace that Jesus offers us is different. He offers a peace that respects individuality, that is inclusive rather than exclusive, that is not threatened by difference, that does not need clear boundaries and certainly does not need enemies. But there is a catch. Given the pervasive influence of our world, it does not come naturally. The dynamic of the world’s peace is what we learn from our earliest years; and it becomes so much second-nature that we are not even aware of it. We need consciously to change, and the change begins with noticing. And noticing is only the start. We need to learn to love, which means in practice that at least we begin to accept difference and learn to be at ease with it, that we respect the human dignity of everyone without exception, that we somehow acquire and practice the skills of listening, of resolving conflict, of compromising where necessary, and of graciously learning to live without always getting our own way. Effectively, it means that we learn to mature, to grow up.

As we learn to love – the price at the micro level of genuinely satisfying and lasting peace, we discover that we are not powerless. Indeed, our maturing is indispensable if there is to be much chance of our world finding peace at the macro level. 

The way of peace is Jesus’ gift. Its realisation begins with us.

 Homily 3 - 2019

"My gift to you”, said Jesus to us, is “a peace that the world cannot give”. That got me thinking, and asking myself, What might the “world’s” description of peace be? What came to mind was: absence of hostilities, no credible threats of terrorism, reasonable prosperity into the foreseeable future, harmony in the family, and in the community generally, manageable health…

I started to look at that, and it occurred to me that it was quite “me” focussed. So, I thought, it might also involve a similar experience for my family, my friends, too – though less so. I think that for some, peace might also involve the absence of gross suffering of others, at least when unmerited. Depending, of course, on people’s capacity “to weep” [as Pope Francis once commented]. Would it affect our sleep, or, as Jesus said, “trouble our hearts”?

If most of the “world” would agree with that, then what might be the peace that Jesus wants to give us? Would it really be worth worrying about? or just some sort of 'post-graduate’ Christianity? In today’s Gospel, Jesus also said, “Those who love me will keep my word”. What did he have in mind by “keep my word”? What does it suggest to you? Something like: Keep my commandments? Obey me blindly? To me it says something more – like: Think over what I have said; take seriously what I have shared; try to apply it to my concrete situation.

I think that the outcome of seriously “keeping his word” is that, eventually, we don’t keep it merely because he said it, but because it begins to ‘sit right’ with our our own true self. It makes sense with us; it resonates with our own authentic humanity. Probably that is what Jesus was talking about when he said, “My word is not my own; it is the word of the one who sent me”. He had become totally convinced himself of what the Father wanted of him, almost without having to think hard about it at all – it had become ‘second nature’.

If we are to apply his word to our world of the twenty-first century – in a culture so different from that of Jesus’ time – his word needs to have become, somehow, ‘second nature’ to us. For that to happen, I believe that I need firstly to want, and try, to get to know him well, to get inside him, sort of, and to attune my heart to his. Jesus realized this. That is why he reassured us that, in this project, “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you”. We don’t have to do it alone. And for me, that means spending time with Jesus, with and through and in his Spirit, in quiet prayer and meditation.

What might the outcome of all that be? And how is it relevant to Jesus’ gift of peace to us. When we take his word seriously, we begin to extend our vision beyond self-interest to include equally the interests of others, of all others. We balance personal rights with equal responsibilities. In Social Justice terms, in a continually globalizing world, the mind of Jesus directs us beyond personal and national interests to a true concern, as well, for the common good – for the common good of our global village.

We have just had our Federal Election. Sadly, politicians, of whatever persuasion, rarely move beyond what they think the electorate wants. We seem to lack true statespeople who can educate their electorates to broaden our horizons and to reach out to all in need, even though it will inevitably cost something. As disciples of Jesus, our commission remains what it always was: somehow to sensitise ourselves and others to the priority of love, of respect, of non-violence.

That is the only way to the peace with which Jesus wants to gift us, indeed, to saturate and delight us.

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.