May 19, 2019 – Fifth Sunday of Easter
Readings: Acts , Revelation , John
I will be delivering the following homily at St. Pius X in Indianapolis today:
I have some exciting news to share. I bought a new lawnmower last Saturday. This is exciting on multiple levels. First, it’s exciting because I’m a guy and a lawnmower is a piece of power equipment. Second, I have needed a new lawnmower ever since the self-propelled mechanism died three years ago.
My excitement manifested itself in several ways. For instance, I took pictures of it and sent it to my sons and sons-in-law – who were quite impressed. I also timed how long it took me to cut the grass and shared the comparison between my previous old lawnmower time and my current new lawnmower time with Carol. She was very supportive and pretended to be excited about it, too. And, I cut the grass twice this week – once because it needed cut, the second time just because I wanted to.
I experienced this same type of excitement last year when I gave my Toyota Camry away. It had 270,000 miles on it. I bought a new used pick-up truck with only 80,000 miles – very exciting.
These examples of excitement come from the newness of the experience – a comparison of how I felt previously to how I feel now. My level of excitement is based upon personal experience. It’s not about the brand of the lawnmower or the make and model of the truck. It’s about the rush that comes with a new experience. It’s about getting a fresh start, replacing something that was worn out or no longer working with something new or different or better.
Today’s readings each speak to the new message Jesus brought to the world. Jesus made it clear that the old way was not working, and a new path was needed.
For many, it created excitement. We heard in the first reading that as Paul and Barnabas spread the good news to the Gentiles, they made a considerable number of new disciples. The Gentiles had always been on the outside looking in and Jewish law kept them as outsiders. Now here were Paul and Barnabas inviting them to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, to be a part of something new. The good news gave the Gentiles hope.
In today’s second reading from Revelation we heard: I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away. The One who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
There again is our word of the day – new. The message of hope found in the Book of Revelation is possible because Jesus Christ offered something new – a new heaven and a new earth – a new vision of heaven and a new plan for our life on earth.
What is that plan? It is simple and we heard it directly from Jesus in today’s Gospel: I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.
The excitement of a new lawnmower came from my hope of an easier, quicker, and more efficient way to cut my lawn.
Jesus’ message offered hope to his disciples. They in turn spread the good news and it brought hope and excitement to the Gentiles. It can do the same for us today – the new commandment gives us hope for a better, more fulfilling life.
Those who have left the Church will use my own words against me. They will say, “I have no hope in the Church because nothing is new. It’s the same Mass. It’s the same message. Everything is always the same and I don’t get anything out of it.”
Those that use that argument don’t understand the new commandment of which Jesus spoke. If we love one another as Jesus loves us, we would not be focused solely on whether or not we ‘get anything out of it.’ We would also be looking for ways to put something into it.
I participate in many Masses; they are not all the same. The order of the Mass is the same, as are some of the common prayers. However, each Mass is unique. The priest celebrant, cyclical readings, the homily, and alternating Eucharistic prayers bring new elements to each Mass.
Even the actions that are repeated at every Mass offer a new opportunity to experience Christ in a very real way. Every time we see the priest elevate the host and the chalice and hear the words of consecration – “This is my body, this is my blood” – it should give us chills. It is a new opportunity to experience the unconditional love and sacrifice of Jesus firsthand.
Every time we receive Holy Communion, the minister says, “The Body of Christ” and we respond, “Amen.” Same action, same words – but each time it is a new opportunity to commit to our belief in Jesus. If our “Amen” is mechanical and without feeling or conviction, then it truly is just more of the same. However, if our “Amen’ is said with conviction from the heart – if that “Amen” means “Yes, I believe! I would stake my life on it!” – as it should, then we will have a new experience that brings us hope.
Each time we offer the Sign of Peace, something we do at every Mass, we have a new opportunity to experience community, to engage with the Body of Christ.
Mass is the fingerprint of Christ, and no two fingerprints are alike.
My new lawnmower does not change the fact that I am still cutting the grass. My new used pick-up truck does not change the fact that I am still driving from point A to point B.
However, when we embrace new opportunities, we gain a new perspective.
If you get a new lawnmower every year, the one you buy this year may not excite you or bring you much joy. Likewise, if you believe your current life is fine just the way it is, the Mass or Jesus’ new commandment to love one another may seem like old news – the same old news viewed through the same distorted lens.
The new commandment to love one another was expressed by Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago. However, if we embrace that commandment with renewed conviction each day, we will experience life anew. We will usher in a new day filled with excitement and hope.
“Behold, I make all things new.”