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05/08/16 Seventh Sunday of Easter

When we want to know how something should be, we look to an expert in that field. For example, a serious basketball player will look to Michael Jordan or Stephen Curry in order to see how the game should be played. A writer will read Shakespeare or Charlotte Bronte or Hemmingway in order to see how writing should be done.

When we want to know how to love, we look to God who is love.

And today in the gospel Jesus tells us that there’s a standard for love. It’s very simple. It’s a person. It’s himself. And the great lesson he shows us today is that love seeks union. Love is measured by unity. First he points to his union with the Father. Jesus and the Father are one. Then he points to his union with each one of us. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus is telling us that we can have a relationship with the Father. We are created for God; only in God will our hearts finally be at rest.  As St Augustine famously put it, “You have created us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

And there’s more. Jesus says something that should make us do cartwheels in the aisles of this church. He says: “Father, they are your gift to me.” Who is he talking about? Each one of us. Christ sees each one of us as a gift. Christ receives each person as a gift. And He asks the Father that the very love of God might dwell in us. Through Christ, the very life of God is within us.

Because of all that, Christ can ask us to live united to him and to each other. It’s his love that enables us to do that. It’s his power that enables us to do that.

Christ calls us to be saints. And a saint is someone who is united to Christ, and, in Christ, is united to others through faith. He calls us to witness to the world that he is alive, that he is not just an idea or a nice picture in a Bible. He is real! And our best witness to that is the unity that comes from love.  A father had a family of sons who were perpetually quarreling among themselves. When he failed to heal their disputes by his exhortations, he determined to give them a practical illustration of the evils of disunion. One day he told his sons to bring him a bundle of sticks. He places the bundle into the hands of each of them in succession and ordered them to break it in pieces. He next opened the bundle, took the sticks separately, one by one, and again put them into his sons’ hands, upon which they broke them easily. He then addressed them in these words: “My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as strong as this bundle, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies, but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.”

We’re in the Easter season, when we remember with a living memory the resurrection of Jesus. And we remember that by our baptism, we have died with Christ and risen with him. We believe that we have new life in Christ through our baptism. We believe that as St Paul said, “I live now, not I, but Christ Jesus lives in me, and the life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”

We are not the same anymore. And that means we can live truly united with others, by the power and the life of Christ. Let’s recommit to that today in a very practical way: through our words. Let’s show the world that we believe that Christ has united himself to every person, and that we believe in their dignity and worth.

Let’s get practical now. Husbands, what about telling your wife how much you love and appreciate her? Wives, what about telling your husband how proud you are of him? What about writing a letter to your children to tell them you love them? Or telling your parents how grateful you are for them?

We are about to receive the Risen Christ in Holy Communion. We ask him to make our words worthy of the name Christian. Little cracks can appear in our relationships with others; that bundle of sticks can be whittled away one notch at a time. How do we repair those divisions? By asking for and granting forgiveness.

The word “forgive” means to give fully. So when we forgive we are reestablishing that gift we once gave.

How to do this? I’d like to propose a little acronym: DWM – Daily, Weekly, Monthly.

  • Daily: As Pope Francis put it, don’t let a day end without saying “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”
  • Weekly: Take a few extra minutes each Sunday to reflect on the blessings of the week, and to see if there are any relationships that need the new life of Christ. Then act.
  • Monthly: Pick one day a month to ask forgiveness from God in the sacrament of confession. He wants to forgive us; he’s waiting to forgive us; all we have to do is ask.

So DWM – Daily, Weekly, Monthly. Three simple ways to help build unity. As we draw near to Christ in the Eucharist, the source of unity, let’s ask him to give us forgiving hearts, so that we can be instruments of unity in our world today. 


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