Homily for 6th Sunday of Easter, 2014

May 28, 2014

Homily for May 24/25, 2014 6th Sunday of Easter

With some frequency I’m required to do just what’s asked of all of us
in today’s second scripture, that is:
to be ready to give an explanation of my reason for hope.

Do you recall the words?
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…

People do ask me for a reason for my hope for the Church
how and why I stay in and with the Church
through what have been and continue to be some disastrous times.

So, allow me to give an explanation for the reason of my hope.

I have hope for the Church because of what I see in nature.
I see all around me a universe covered with the fingerprints of God:
indescribably beautiful and terrifyingly powerful.
I believe that even as creation is ours from the hand of God
so, too, is the Church
and I believe that everything that comes from God
is worthy, good and deserving of my faith, my love -- and my hope.

Of course, nature is also covered with the fingerprints of humanity
and sometimes, even often, those prints are forensic evidence
of the harm we’ve done to what God has given us 
and how we’ve wasted what was entrusted to our care.

So too, the Church - no stranger to carelessness and abuse.
But just as humankind’s damage to nature doesn’t tempt me to doubt
that God is its origin, its life and its sustainer,
neither does the damage done by some to the Church
tempt me to doubt that God is still its soul.

I have hope for the Church
because I know the natural resiliency of human beings.
I know the capacity of human beings to grow, to develop, to heal,
to forgive, to mature, to change, to adapt -- to survive!
I know how human beings survive
harm, hurt, illness, pain, disappointment, abuse, abandonment,
scorn, infidelity and sin, their own and others.
While that’s a resiliency common to all human beings,
the same is certainly true for people of the Church
and the natural human resiliency we all share cannot but be
enhanced, deepened and strengthened by faith.
And so precisely because the Church, with God as its soul,
is made up of human beings,
I have hope for its resiliency, its capacity not only to endure
but to survive whatever harm might come its way
from within or from outside the household of faith.

But the Church is not just a collection of resilient human beings.

I have hope for the Church because its people,
its graced, redeemed resilient people, all of them,
are the Body of Christ.
Or, to put it another way,
Christ’s Body in the world today is the people of the Church.
I have hope for the Church because I believe,
as Scripture and Tradition testify,
I believe that the Church is more, so much more,
than just the sum total of its membership.
We are not the Church because we call ourselves that.
It is because Christ names us his sisters and brothers
that we are his body, that we are the Church.

Were we the Church on our own, I would have no hope at all.

But because we are baptized into the Body of Christ,
because Christ has chosen the likes of us to be his Church,
because the Spirit of the Risen Christ is the soul and breath and pulse
of who we are as the Church -- I have hope.
And on the worst of days,
when the headlines and stories are tragic and seem without end,
when I’m most tempted to lose hope
that’s when I look for and find my hope for the Church
in the power of the gospel which is ours to preach
and in the grace of the Eucharist which is food for our souls.

Our greatest hope is not in our virtue.
Our greatest hope is in the message we’ve been given 
to live and to share: the gospel of Jesus.
In the gospel we have the most powerful Word ever conceived,
ever spoken, ever heard, ever lived, ever preached.
What fools we would be to hang our heads in defeat
as if we’ve been rendered powerless by our and others failures.
I have hope for the Church because we, the Church, have the gospel,
that Word of God’s love made flesh in Jesus
and ours, now, in his Body the Church.

And it’s that very Word that brings us to this place today
and to this table.
In the shadow of the Cross of Jesus
whose defeat is our victory, whose death is our life,
we gather as his Body, the Church,
to receive his Body, his Blood, in the Eucharist.
In the gospel and in the Supper we share
and to deepen our love for our neighbors.
In this Word and in the sacrament of this altar,
I find reason for my hope for the Church
and, gladly, this morning,(evening)
I share the reason for my hope with you.