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Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B

How do we respond when people come round to visit? Some people excel:

they may sure everyone is at ease and has a great time, they make them feel

wanted and valued, and, importantly, that they’re welcome again next time.

Other struggle a bit. At the news of visitors, a dark cloud descends on the

house. The children get shouted at and the cat realises now isn’t a good time to

ask for dinner. Perhaps we’re somewhere in the middle: “It’s great when

friends come round to visit, but it’s even better when they leave. There’s

nothing so comforting as a set of rear brake lights.”


So in the midst of all of this, we are asked in the readings today to love one

another. St John in the second reading says: “My dear people, let us love one

another since love comes from God”. That sounds good. But then there is the

warning: “Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God

is love”. It sometimes creates a slight paradox: how is it that people who don’t

go to church and perhaps don’t believe in God can seem to be such good

neighbours, whilst sometimes, those who go to church seem to be the

opposite? Well, for one thing, the Catholic writer Evelyn Waugh provides a

solution. The perhaps slightly apocryphal story goes that on one occasion, he

was once very rude and his hostess remonstrated: “How can you behave so

badly – and you a Catholic!” Waugh replied: “You have no idea how much

nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would

hardly be a human being.”


If we reflect a bit, we know that all people are different, and we all have

different gifts and deficiencies. We don’t all start from the same position.

Furthermore, if we want to see what divine grace is capable of, we need to look

at the very best examples from the Catholic world, the saints. As St John

Vianney said, the saints didn’t all start well, but they all ended well. So we

recognise that there is hope for us all.


But it just goes to show the importance of our relationship with God, the life-

giving power of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, and staying on the right track,

keeping His commandments.


How much love do we have for someone? How much love do we have for

God? “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his

friends.” Wow. That’s something. Some years ago a priest surprised me

slightly, because he said that, thinking about some of the martyrs in the Church,

such as St John Fisher and St Thomas More, he didn’t know if he would have

the resolve to die for the faith. Like I say, it surprised me slightly, but if we

reflect, we might say now, yes, I would be willing to suffer and die for my

faith, but what about when it came to the crunch? Did not Peter say to the

Lord: “Even if all lose faith, I will not ... If I have to die with you, I will never

disown you.” But we know what happened. The spirit was willing, but the

flesh was weak. That kind of sacrifice requires divine grace. But at the end of

his life, St Peter was crucified upside-down. He did give his life for the Lord in

the end.


Peter didn’t begin as a perfect follower of the Lord. But he died as St Peter.

We are called to love both God and neighbour. But if we struggle with either,

as we all do at times, we still have the chance to improve. Each time we come

to Mass, we are put in contact with the power of Christ’s saving Death and

Resurrection, that Love which loved us so much that He was willing to give

His life for us. That has power to change us. With God, all things are

possible. There is hope, even for us, living in 21st century Thame.


We just sometimes wish that perfection was reached a little quicker. But then,

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Or as a picture I saw once said, please be patient.

God isn’t finished with me yet. In this month of May, let us turn to Our Lady,

that she may intercede for us powerfully with the Lord. St John Vianney said

of her, that before Christ returns in glory, she won’t get any rest. She is much

too busy with her children.

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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