HOMILY: 5th SUNDAY OF EASTER ‘C’ 2019
Today’s First Reading and today’s Gospel highlight for us two contrasting, but equally essential, aspects of our Christian calling: first, our calling to proclaim the Faith – our calling to bring others to the knowledge and love of God; and, secondly, our calling to build up and nurture our own personal Faith within the communion of the Church. Both aspects of our calling are equally important. Maybe our temperament inclines us more towards evangelising than doing some work on our own spiritual life – or vice versa. So too, in the New Testament itself, we find some authors seeming to put the emphasis on proclamation rather than on the inner life of the Church; and others seeming to do the opposite. Today’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles and today’s Reading from St John’s Gospel present us with clear examples of these two contrasting aspects of our Christian calling.
In the First Reading, we heard about St Paul and St Barnabas engaging in much activity and travel: so as to bring the Good News to one new place after another: Lystra, Iconium, Antioch, and so on… For us, in this parish, bringing the Good News to others often involves us in taking the opportunities that come to us, or making opportunities for ourselves, to engage as Catholics in everyday secular life and in whatever non-Church social activities we may feel drawn to. Then again, the so-called ‘New Evangelisation’ urges us to do what we can to welcome back to the Church those who have fallen away from the practice of their Faith. Often for us this means reaching out to members of our own families who have given up going to Mass.
Today’s Gospel may seem at first sight, or first hearing, to present us with a rather different challenge. St John’s Gospel comes to us from what is often called ‘The Community of the Beloved Disciple’. Again and again, the call to grow in love and the call to build up the community in love is such a prominent theme. In our Parish, I know that so many take prayer seriously. And I am sure the very encouraging response to our ‘Exploring Personal Prayer’ programme that has just begun, shows that, as a parish, we are well aware of the importance of this dimension of our Christian calling.
In our day-to-day experience, we often feel tension between on the one hand proclamation, evangelisation, mission – and, on the other hand, the need to build up a deep and loving and strong Church life among ourselves. But whatever tension there may be between these two aspects of our Christian calling, today’s Second Reading opens our eyes to how we may not merely cope with the tension but how there is in fact a ‘third way’ that rises above the tension and resolves it. In this Reading from the Book of the Apocalypse, we are drawn into the vision of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, ‘coming down from God out of heaven’: the Holy City, where God lives among us, is not of our making – it is entirely and absolutely God’s GIFT to us. That is the truth at the heart of this Reading – the truth that ultimately ‘all is GIFT’. If we can grasp this truth, we shall see that, as regards our calling to proclaim the Faith, our part is fundamentally to prepare others to receive the GIFT of faith. We are not expected by God to force the Faith on others. So too, our calling is to let God nourish us – to open our whole being to the love and devotion he wants to pour into our hearts and minds. Our part is primarily to make ourselves ready to receive his GIFT of love and prayer; and this not solely for our own sake, but so that we may be at least on the way to being a blessing for others.