|Last Supper by Ilya Repin|
Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for Homily
(We celebrate First Communion in small groups at Sunday liturgies in my parish. This weekend we celebrated the fifth and sixth of seven such liturgies. Thus, the references towards the end of my homily.)
The closer we come to leaving someone we love,
the more tightly we hold that person in our arms and hearts
and the more earnestly we hope and pray we won’t have to let go.
You see it in the eyes of a mom or dad
watching a son or daughter leave for the first day of school…
We know it when someone we love is deployed to a faraway land
and the work of war…
High school seniors know that the joy of graduation
will diminish some friendships they thought would last “forever.”
When a change in jobs uproots a family or a friend
from the neighborhood or the parish,
their last days in town are filled with hugs that last longer than usual,
and everyone saying, “See you soon!”
At the bedside of a loved one who’s ready to go home to God,
we hold a hand, stroke a face, and our fingers comb through hair
as if our touch might keep a loved one here a little longer.
We try to soften moments of separation with our words of farewell:
“I love you… I’ll miss you… Stay in touch…
Don’t forget me… We’ll always be friends… I’m still here for you…
This won’t change things… Don’t be a stranger…
We’ll get together soon... I’ll always remember you…”
If these experiences and images and words find a place in your heart
then you’ll understand today’s gospel.
Jesus is saying goodbye to his closest friends
on the night before he died.
He was leaving them and it wasn’t easy.
His words are filled with intimacy and longing.
Listen to what he says:
I’m with you, I’m in you - and you’re in me
My Father loves you just as he loves me.
I’m leaving but I’ll come back to take you with me
because I want you to be with me.
You’ve been a gift to me and I pray you’ll remain in my love – forever!
He’s saying he won’t forget us
and he’s praying we won’t forget him.
It’s not easy for any of us to say goodbye to those we love.
Perhaps we’re intense in our shared farewells to one another
because we know how easy it is to lose touch
with those who leave us, with those we leave behind.
And it can be like that with us and the Lord, too.
We lose touch with him even if, in the past,
there were times when we were very close to him.
• Sometimes we might feel
as though we’ve “moved away” from the Lord -
but the truth is - he never moves away from us.
• Sometimes we lose touch with the Lord
even though we know how much he wants to be part of our lives.
We might be afraid because we know what the Lord asks of us
and we know how we may have failed in our response to him.
• And sometimes we lose touch with the Lord
just because we’re lazy, too busy or careless and forgetful.
But here’s the good news:
what Jesus prayed for his friends at the last supper
he prays for each of us, every day of our lives.
He never wants to lose touch with us
and he’s always ready to renew our friendship with him.
And there’s no moment when that’s clearer
than when we’re gathered at this table,
and we remember his last supper with his friends.
And when we’re at the altar to celebrate a First Communion,
then the memories of his love for us
might be all the greater and stronger, deeper and richer.
Perhaps a child’s First Communion – today -
will be the time when the Lord says to many of us:
I’ve missed you. Welcome home. Don’t be a stranger.
I offer you my mercy and want us to be friends again.
It’s good that you’re here with me.
At supper with his friends on the night before he died
and at this table today some 2,000 years later,
the Lord’s prayer for us is the same.
He wants us to be one with us
and as we receive his Body and Blood in the Eucharist
he comes into our hearts to make us one with him
and with one another.
Let our prayer today be like a reunion of old friends,
the Lord with all of us
and let this day be a new beginning of drawing close to the Lord
who has never left our side.
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