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05/19/19 Fifth Sunday in Easter - Fr. Reggie

The Church, like a good mother, is very wise. She gives us a full seven weeks of Easter season.

We need this extended time to reflect on those lessons Christ taught us in his passion and resurrection. Plants have to spend time outside to gradually absorb the sunlight and transform it into nutrients. Just so, our souls have to spend time basking in the light of Christ's revelation, so that we can absorb the grace God wants to give us.

Today especially, we are reminded of the New Commandment that Christ gave us the day before he suffered. We are brought back to that Last Supper, when Jesus was gathered with his closest companions and opened his heart to them. It was the night when his heart overflowed with love as it never had before. It was the night when he revealed the secret identity of every Christian, the distinguishing mark: "This is how all will know that you are my disciples," he said, "if you have love for one another." And not just any kind of love, but Christ-like love: "I give you a new commandment... As I have loved you, so you also should love one another."

Being a Christian is much more than being a member of a club. Being a Christian means having an urgent, important mission in life. It means being another Christ in the world. Jesus gave his very life in order to fulfill his Father's will and win salvation for sinners. Each one of us is called to reproduce in the unique circumstances of our lives that exact same pattern: dedicating our lives to discovering and fulfilling God's will, and striving to help as many people as possible know, love, and follow Christ.

Christ-like love can take many forms. One of them is simply going out of one's way to show an interest in someone else.

This is what Jesus did with his incarnation. He left the bliss of heaven and came to this sinful world just to extend us the hand of salvation.

About fifteen years ago, one of Jesus' followers, a normal, everyday Christian, a middle-aged Irishman named Liam, decided to do the same thing, and ended up changing the shape of eternity. It was summer in Dublin, Ireland, and on his way to work Liam saw a young man admiring one of Dublin's beautiful Gothic churches. The young man was Darren, an American graduate student on a European tour. Liam interrupted his own business and offered to show the obviously enthralled Darren around the church. Darren accepted. An hour later, after attending a novena to St. Rita with the local nuns and having a cup of tea with the parish priest, the two emerged, fast friends. They exchanged addresses and promised to keep in touch. Before they parted, Liam had a sudden inspiration. He debated about whether he should say anything, but finally he took his courage in his hands and, leaning over, he whispered a question to Darren: "Have you ever thought of becoming a priest?" Darren said he hadn't, and the conversation ended abruptly. Their correspondence gradually trickled off as time went on. Liam hadn't heard from Darren in nearly a year when he received a surprising letter from him... in a seminary! "I'm studying to be a priest, Liam!" Darren wrote. "You have no idea how grateful I am to you for putting that idea into my head with your question! You were an instrument of the Holy Spirit." The years of training passed, and in 2004, ordination day arrived. The church in Fargo, Minnesota was full to capacity. And there in the front pew, smiling broadly was Liam. A few weeks after his ordination, Darren was diagnosed with leukemia. The doctors tried everything, but there was no cure. Fr. Darren had only a few months left to live. He accepted his suffering with spiritual joy, and so did Liam.

Fr. Darren died in September, 2005. He was thirty-four years old. He died young, but thanks to Liam's going just a little bit out of his way to show an interest in Darren on that afternoon in Dublin, he died having discovered and fulfilled his vocation.

One thing that can sometimes hold us back in our efforts to follow the Lord's New Commandment is a false idea of what love should feel like. We tend to think that true love is always accompanied by nice feelings, and if the feelings go away, that means the love has gone away too. That's what radio and TV tell us, but that's not what the Gospel tells us. Love, true love, Christ-like love, goes deeper than feelings. It demands sacrifice, self-giving, and self-forgetfulness. Christ-like love always involves a cross. That's what makes it Christ-like; that's what makes it true love.

If we can get this truth to sink down from our heads into our hearts, we will be freer to love more as Christ loves, and we will lead happier lives, and make those around us happier.

Maybe the words of a real expert in Christ-like love will help convince us of this. Here is a profile of real Christian love from Bl Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

"People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.

If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway."

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.

People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.

Why?  Because in the final analysis, all of this is between you and God…It was never between you and them anyway."

Today when Jesus comes to renew his commitment to us in Holy Communion, let's ask him to convince us once and for all that Christian love doesn't mean nice feelings, but self-giving, self-forgetting, and going out of our way to help our neighbors, just as he went out of the way to help us



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