Homily for 6th Sunday of Easter, 5/17/2020
As I started reflecting on the Sacred Scriptures passages for today, my mind kept jumping around to several different levels. The first level was, “What are people concerned about today?” Obviously, the Covid-19 pandemic. We all know people who have been infected. Most have survived – but some have died. We mourn our losses. We weep with those who weep. But at least our children are safe. Children seem to shake off this virus much better than older people. But then, it seems like the virus has mutated and young children were exhibiting symptoms: high fever, rashes, aching muscles. A parent’s worst nightmare. How bad can this get? Is there any good news?
The good news is in our liturgy. As we continue our Easter journey, walking with the Risen Lord, we glimpse something else. My imagination went to our first reading. When persecution broke out, some of the disciples of Jesus scattered. Today we heard how Philip went to Samaria and preached there. We have to keep in mind that Israelites and Samaritans did not like one another. They kept more than a “social distance” from another. Historically, ethnically, religiously they were different. On both sides, they had an “us and them” mentality. But Philip went there and found hearts open to the Easter message of life in Jesus, and many Samaritans were baptized. The Holy Spirit was active there.
And then a strange thing happened. As I reflected on the Gospel, it was as if I entered into a dialogue with Jesus. It started with Jesus saying, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” Now we all know that Jesus’ commandment is “Love one another as I have loved you.” I thought of the rise of anti-Semitic activity in recent months and years. Can I love my Jewish brothers and sisters? “Love one another.” What about those people who are anti-Semitic? “Love one another.” What about those people who are white supremacists, who divide our country into “us and them”? “Love one another. I died for them, too.”
The words of our second reading echoed in me, “Act with gentleness and reverence for all.” I continued with Jesus, “What about those who have hurt me?” “Forgive them, as I have forgiven you.” A couple of night ago I was flipping through the TV and saw a scene from “Schindler’s List.” In it, a Jewish man was dragging his sick wife to the waiting deportation train. Since he was slowed down, the German soldier took out his pistol and shot her. So, Lord, I ask, “Do I have to love someone like that?” “I died on the cross for him, too. Love one another as I have loved you.”
“But, Lord” I said, “What you’re asking of me is just humanly impossible.” “I know,” He said. “That is why, when I return to my Father, He will send another advocate. My Spirit will be with you always. Don’t you see that?”
“Do you see my Spirit in Oscar Romero? Do you see my Spirit at work in all those doctors and nurses, all those EMT’s and first responders who put their lives on the line every day to serve others? Do you see my Spirit in those parents who bring a sick child to an Emergency Room and then stay with that child hour after hour? Do you see my Spirit at work in all those people who work to end hunger, to improve education, to protect the most vulnerable in the world today?”
“My Spirit did not stop working when Philip preached to the Samaritans.”
“I told you I would be with you always, until the end of time.”
That’s where my reflections ended. That is the Easter message – Jesus is alive. His Spirit is right here right now. Amen.