Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter Sunday of Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Jesus Has Favorites

Today my homily will be addressed especially to a select few among us who are dear in a special way to Jesus. This does not mean that the others need not listen. They  need to listen also because they too may belong to these few who are most dear to Jesus and they are not aware of it. This homily may make you aware that you also are very dear to Jesus.

In the Gospel reading for this Easter Sunday we encounter two persons who were very dear to Jesus. They were Jesus' special friends. Jesus loved all his apostles and disciples. But among them he had a special liking for two who appear in our Gospel reading today. They were Mary of Magdala and John the Apostle.

It was Mary of Magdala who was mentioned first among the women who went to the tomb of Jesus very early Sunday morning. In Mark's Gospel it is explicitly stated that Jesus first appeared to Mary of Magdala or Mary Magdalene (16:9). How this happened is narrated in the continuation of our Gospel reading today. It was also Mary Magdalene who was told by Jesus to tell his apostles that he had risen from the dead. Because of this she was called "the apostle to the apostles" by the 3rd century theologian Hippolytus of Rome. The basic meaning of "apostle" is the one sent. Thus Mary Magdalene was the one sent by Jesus to tell the ones chosen by Jesus as sent ones (that is, apostles) that he was risen from the dead. The title "apostle of apostles" as applying to Mary Magdalene was later on repeated by other writers and saints, among them St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

The other person who is mentioned in our Gospel reading as a special friend of Jesus is John the Apostle, the author of the Gospel we just read. He called himself here "the other disciple whom Jesus loved". It was he who leaned on Jesus' breast during the last supper. Five times John in his Gospel refers to himself as the disciple Jesus loved. This does not mean that Jesus did not love the other disciples. He loved all of them, but John felt that Jesus had a special affection for him. He was the only one who remained close to Jesus from the time he was arrested up to his crucifixion. The other male disciples fled. At the cross Jesus gave John to his mother Mary as her son, then he gave her to John as his mother. From that time John took care of Jesus' mother as his own. It was only John among the Apostles who did not suffer martyrdom. There is a tradition that he was thrown into a large cauldron of boiling oil but he was not burned. Indeed he was a favorite of Jesus. He died a peaceful death.

There is a passage in John's Gospel which tells us that Jesus had other special friends. John 11:5 reads, "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus."

We can also say that Jesus loved the Apostle Paul in a special way. He was not one of the original disciples of Jesus. At first he hated the Christians. He might have been that young man whom Mark mentioned as loved by Jesus (10:21) although he went away.  Because Jesus loved him, he pursued him until he overtook him on the road to Damascus, and Paul became a most devoted follower of Jesus, an Apostle to the non-Jews.

All throughout history Jesus had special friends. Some of them are canonized saints. Others were not canonized but we know they were special friends of Jesus. Among the canonized saints we can mention St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis of  Assisi, St. John of the Cross. Among those not canonized we can mention Nicholas of Cusa, Copernicus, Blaise Pascal.

Some of us here may be special friends of Jesus but we are not aware of it. Francis Thompson the English poet was not aware that Jesus was pursuing him to love him. He fell into drug addiction. But later on he wrote a most beautiful poem, THE HOUND OF HEAVEN, which described how God was pursuing him to love him and how he constantly tried to escape God until he was finally caught in his loving arms.

How do you know that Jesus wants to befriend you in a special way? I give here four indications which can tell you that Jesus wants you to be his special friend. These signs are to be taken together, simultaneously.

The first is that you fall in love with him in a way like falling in love with a boyfriend or girlfriend. When this happens Jesus is always in your mind and heart. You keep thinking of him day and night and you entertain an affection for him.

The second is that you want to be near him always. You may want to stay very often in front of the tabernacle in the church or chapel conversing with him there. Or you may want to carry a bible in your pocket to open it as soon as you are not pre-occupied with your duty or work and you just love to read your bible, the written Christ. Or you may just want to be alone conversing with Jesus in your room or outdoors.

These signs do not tell you that you have to be a priest or a religious sister. These can happen even if you are married or are planning to marry. These signs happen because Jesus has first fallen in love with you and you are just responding. These signs may also be a call for you to live a life of single blessedness.

The third sign is that you are concerned primarily with the work that Jesus has given you. You may have a work to support your family but deep in your heart you know that Jesus has given you a work which you must attend to. This work may be very simple, like teaching catechism to children, or a little complicated like teaching in a university. It can be the work of a carpenter as Jesus had or the work of an astronomer as happened in the life of Copernicus. Whatever it is you know that it is a work Jesus gave you and you give priority to this work, along with your obligation as a family man, as the case may be.

The fourth sign is that new, original ideas are coming out of your mind. New ways of doing things are revealed to you. Or new ways of understanding are being shown to you. These new ideas are not just in the field of religion. They may be in biology or in business. When this happens to you it is advisable that you write down these ideas. If you are able, look for someone who has this experience so that you can be directed properly.

Spiritual direction is important because you can be misled by other spirits. When Jesus becomes your special friend you may encounter painful and strange trials. And you may be tempted to give up this relationship. But look for one who knows that he is a special friend of Jesus. This person may be a priest. Or he may not be a priest. St. Teresa of Avila listened to lay people.

Of the twelve apostles only one was a special friend of Jesus, John. Of the many disciples of Jesus only a few were his special friends, Mary Magdalene, Martha and her sister Mary, and Lazarus. Today of the thousands who say they are Christians maybe one or two only are Jesus' special friends.

If you think you are one of these few, give thanks to God and be prepared to suffer everything for Jesus. He is the most faithful friend but he also tries us so that our love of him becomes purer and purer every day until even in this life we see him, as it were, face to face. As he said, Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. To see God is to be most happy. Nothing else can compare to this happiness.

This season of Easter is a time of rejoicing because a completely new life is offered to us, the resurrected life of Jesus. Let us rejoice with the special friends of Jesus because they can show us more clearly and more sweetly the love Jesus has for us.

Let us bow down our heads to pray.

Lord Jesus, if I am your special friend, make me aware of this and guide me so that I will be faithful to you. If I am not your special friend, help me to find your special friends so that I can serve you through them. Amen.

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