Homily for Third Sunday of Easter 2007
fund raising idea courtesy of the Irish:->
Muldoon lived alone in the Irish countryside with only
a pet dog for company. One day the dog died, and Muldoon
went to the parish priest and asked, "Father, my dog is
dead. Could ya' be saying' a mass for the poor creature?"
Father Patrick replied, "I'm afraid not; we cannot
have services for an animal in the church. But there are
some Baptists down the lane, and there's no tellin' what
they believe. Maybe they'll do something for the creature."
Muldoon said, "I'll go right away Father. Do ya 'think
$5,000 is enough to donate to them for the service?"
Father Patrick exclaimed, "Sweet Mary, Mother of
Jesus! Why didn't ya tell me the dog was Catholic?
A news item during the week spoke of a fear people have that with increasing use of electronic communications people are less likely to have face to face contact with one another. The isolation of many in our world today is highlighted by the disturbed young man who killed all those students in America this week.
Parents know very well how difficult it can be to have what we once called a "family meal." Work, increasing mobility, a hectic social life, all conspire to fragment families. And what did we read the other day in the newspaper? The traditional family is no longer living in the majority of homes on the Sunshine Coast. Most homes are inhabited by people living alone, single parent families, and the like. Many people regularly eat alone. Some become isolated from family and community. At the very least then, it is imperative that our Sunday Eucharist if it is to be a genuine Eucharist, should be a place and time when we connect with one another as we seek to discern God's voice in our lives.
At a meal we are brought face to face. However, you can go to some meals which are so formal that no real communication takes place. Just the niceties of polite society. A meal can be where many issues are negotiated in family, business and politics. Over a meal we can relax and be willing to share. It can be an expression of love.
As we "break bread" at we share life.
So often Jesus shares a meal. I have mentioned it several times recently as a feature of Luke's Gospel. Here in John's Gospel he invites Peter and the others to a breakfast of fish cooking on a charcoal fire.
Fish stories and fish meals are so common in the gospels that the fish became a symbol of Christ. Even the letters of the greek word ikthus was interpreted as a secret sign for the Christian in times of persecution. "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior" [Iesous (Jesus) CHristos (Christ) THeou (God) Uiou (Son) Soter (Savior)].
But inseparable from the presence of Jesus in the Eucharistic meal is the mission to be fishers of people. His disciples must continue what he has begun.
Our Eucharist is so formal because it is celebrated in large groups these days with many centuries of tradition. So it is very different from the Last Supper where Jesus insisted on washing the disciples feet as we heard on Holy Thursday. Even though Jesus is their Lord and Master, as he says, he does not want to relate to them as a human Lord and Master would. He does not want to Lord it over them. He comes as one who serves, not to be served. So he says: "This is my body given for you". "This is my blood poured out for you". It is given "for you", he said. He wants us to be present to one another in our need as he is present to us.
He does not give his life for his own vanity or some selfish purpose. Jesus is a martyr not that he dies for his own faith, but that he lives who he is so completely, that he is willing to suffer any consequence, even death, in order to be faithful to his mission from the Father. He dies not for himself but for us. It is love alone that motivates him.
Being prepared to express one's faith and love to others means there is need for communication with each other as we celebrate the Mass. Of its nature the Mass is a constant prayerful dialogue, or conversation. A dialogue between Jesus and the Father, between the Body of Christ and the God, between priest and people, between reader and listener, between Eucharistic minister and recipient, between choir and congregation. Listen to what we say to one another as we pray at Mass.
The Eucharist is given for us that we might grow in faith together. In a large congregation that personal encounter is more difficult, of course. But the intention of Jesus is that all of us, saint and sinner alike, are invited to a close encounter with him. We are invited to break down the barriers between us that we might carry out our mission and be a sign of reconciliation to the world.
Like the apostles, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles today (5:27-41), who were full of joy that they had been judged worthy of ill-treatment for the sake of Jesus' Name, we have to be willing to suffer pain and persecution, to be broken like Jesus as we make this sacrifice of praise, before we rise with him.
As we come to Communion let our "amen" be true.