May 25, 2016: Pentecost C
Click to hear audio homily
Recently I saw a funeral program for a young religious sister who suddenly died of a cardiac arrest at the tender age of 28. Claire Metrejean was a graduate of a nursing program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. A year and a half ago, she entered the Missionaries of Charity and was sent to a convent in Mexico City to serve among the poorest of the poor. Her cousin wrote a moving tribute about her for the funeral:
And a year and half ago, she made that evidently clear when she gave up all the worldly possessions that I honestly can’t imagine living without, all for the sake of following God and serving the poorest of the poor as she joined the Missionaries of Charity.
Though she was soft-spoken and sweet, she was also brave — brave to leave everything she knew and everything that had grown comfortable to her to serve others.
About a month ago, she told her dad just how happy she was to be doing exactly what she was doing. She was overflowing with joy and contentment. This is the outflow of loving others selflessly.
As I read the tribute, I felt something move within me. It was an inexplicable force like a wind prompting me to do something beautiful for God just as that young sister did in her short life. It also prompted me to ask, ‘what keeps me from responding to this inner movement or inspiration?’ What keeps me from carrying out a good thought into action? Don’t we all experience it? We all have had moments when we felt trepidation and doubt from doing something for God.
In Today’s gospel, the disciples are trapped by doubt, trepidation, and fear. The disciples were in hiding behind locked doors because they feared the Jewish leaders who had just crucified their Lord. Perhaps they thought they might be next. Suddenly, with no knock at the door or no one opening the door, the risen Lord Jesus stood in their midst. Imagine how startling it would be to have the risen Lord suddenly appear in a locked room where you were already afraid! Keep in mind that these were men who fled in fear for their own lives when Jesus was arrested. Peter had denied the Lord three times. They all had doubted the initial reports of Jesus’ resurrection. Rather than rebuke them, the Lord graciously extended His peace to them. Furthermore, he breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
What kind of peace is Jesus imparting to us? Is His peace the same as that defined in a dictionary--quiet, tranquillity, mental calm, freedom from disturbance? The peace of Christ, as Jesus himself tells us, is not just peace as the world gives or understands it. The peace of Christ is something alive and active, something liberating and dynamic. It is life and love and joy. Paradoxically, it is a gift that both calms and challenges us - it does not grant us an immunity to pain and suffering, or even death, rather it enables us to face all these painful realities and triumph over them in union with the victory of Christ himself. The peace that Christ imparts to us is intimately connected with His sacrificial love for us; and we can experience this peace when we love as God loves us. This love is the source of new life in Christ made possible because we have received power from the Holy Spirit. Just as we cannot see the wind that sways the tree branches and leaves, we only see the fruits of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Certainly Sr. Claire‘s family and her friends saw the fruits of the Holy Spirit in her joyful disposition and desire to carry on Christ’s mission.
How can we live and move in the power of the Holy Spirit? First is to experience the intimate and personal love that Christ has for each of us. This experience is like sunlight which makes the sap of life rise and the buds of sanctity bloom. Second is to make every opportunity to do small things with great love. Mother Teresa advises, “Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Risen Christ...We all long for Heaven where God is, but we have it in our power to be in Heaven with him right now to be happy with him at this very moment. But being happy with him now means: loving as he loves; helping as he helps; giving as he gives; serving as he serves; rescuing as he rescues; being with him 24 hours a day; touching him in his distressing disguise in the poor and suffering.”
Striving daily to do small things with great love allows us to come to know the Father’s love and His care for each of us. God desires for each of us to have a joyful heart which is the result of a heart burning with love which is also the gift of the Holy Spirit. Today, let us pray in a special way that our life may experience a new birth in God and become a light that will radiate from within us, so that we may become witnesses of God’s presence and joy in the world to every person who lives in darkness.
-Fr. Paul Yi