Homily for May 21

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…

Got hope?
How’s your hope these days? Has the news the last few weeks,
the sound bytes, the tweets, the social media,
has the recent news given you a reason for hope?
The question, of  course, is rhetorical!
But I’m sure that each of us has an immediate response within us.
The recent news has given some folks
more hope than they’ve had in ages
and the recent news has led other folks
to the brink of hopelessness.

And I’m sure there are representatives of both responses
gathered right here, right now, around the altar.

The great divide in our nation reflects the hope and trust we invest
- or refuse to invest - in elected officials
and in their polices and programs.

Of course, St. Peter wasn’t envisioning any elected official
as the reason for our hope.
For Peter there was, and for us there is,
only one reason for our hope
and that is Jesus…  Jesus…  Jesus…

But the plot thickens!
On both sides of our great political divide today
you’ll find people who, with Peter,
claim Jesus as the reason for their hope
and then point to the agenda
of one or the other side of the legislative aisle
as evidence for just that.

But when two camps are so sharply and antagonistically divided
it’s folly to think that somehow Jesus aligns himself with both sides.

Of course, “politics is the art of compromise” and so it’s possible
that those on two sides of even a sharply divided issue might
- in some manner or fashion and according to their own reasoning-
be faithful to some measure of the gospel message.
But here’s the rub:
the teaching, the truth of Jesus, is not a matter of compromise
but rather a command, a matter of conviction,
indeed, a matter of conscience.
We make a great mistake when we begin our political reckoning
by looking first to the choices before us,
siding with those that satisfy our feelings, our biases,
our frustrations and our anger
- and then baptizing our inclinations with a quote from Jesus.
Those on both sides of today’s hot button issues
are too often too quick to do just this.

But for those who truly claim Jesus as the reason for their hope,
            Jesus is the starting place for all our political deliberation.
And this is not meant in any simplistic way.
It’s seldom as simple as asking “What would Jesus do?”
Each Christian is called by Christ
to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.
And implicit in those words of Jesus is the truth that
some things belong exclusively to God
and some things simply do not belong to Caesar.
Put another way, in at least some instances:
what is American might not always be Christian
and what is Christian might very well be un-American.

Although we may in the end need to choose the lesser of two evils,
we need to do that aware that God’s law of love
admits of no compromise,
precisely because for Christians,
compromising the law of love - is sin.

When asked to be ready to give an explanation to anyone
who asks us  for a reason for our hope
the only answer a Christian has is this:
Jesus is the reason for my hope.

I’m reminded of John Paul II’s reflection on who Jesus is - he wrote:

"It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness.
He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you.
He is the beauty to which you are so attracted.
It is Jesus who provokes in you that thirst for fullness
that will not let you settle for compromise.
It is Jesus who urges you to shed the masks of a false life.
It is Jesus who reads in your heart your most genuine choices,
the choices that others try to stifle.
It is Jesus who stirs in you
the desire to do something great with your life,
the will to follow an ideal,
the refusal to allow yourself to be ground down by mediocrity,
the courage to commit yourself humbly and patiently
to improving yourself and society,
making the world more human and more fraternal.”

It is Jesus…  It is Jesus…
It is Jesus who is the only explanation we have to give
to anyone who asks us for the reason for our hope.

Pray with me?

Lord Jesus, help me hope for light
when I'm totally in the dark...

Help me hope for serenity
in the midst of my distress...

Help me hope for tomorrow
when I'm locked in my past...

Lord Jesus, help me hope for joy
when sadness consumes me...

Help me hope for understanding
when I'm lost in confusion...

Help me hope for grace
when I'm tempted to sin...

Lord Jesus, help me hope for love
when I'm most alone...

Help me hope in faith
when I'm lost in doubt...

Help me hope for help
when I fear there is none...

Lord Jesus, help me hope for strength
when I'm at my weakest...

Help me hope for hope
when I'm at a dead end...

And when I feel most hopeless
help me hope in you, Lord Jesus:
help me find my only hope in you...

(My homily ended with a song I sang,
with the congregation joining in on the refrain:
listen to the audio above for the music!)


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