Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Sunday Cycle A

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).

Special Love

One of the obvious things we notice after the Lord was resurrected is that he was no longer seen by anybody as when he was not yet resurrected. Before Jesus was resurrected, that is, up to the time he died and was buried, anybody could see him. The disciples saw him, the soldiers saw him, the chief priests who condemned him to die saw him, the multitudes saw him. But after his resurrection Jesus was seen only by those to whom he wanted to be seen.

Our Gospel reading tells us that on the first day of the week early in the morning three persons went to the grave of Jesus: Mary of Magdala, Peter and John. They no longer saw Jesus in his tomb. In the later part of the Gospel which is not part of our reading we read that these very soon saw Jesus.

Of these three persons one is described as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Almost all scholars agree that this disciple was John the writer of this Gospel. This is not the only instance when John describes himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. There are four other instances where John describes himself as the disciple whom Jesus loves. So there are five instances in all. The first is John chapter 13 where he describes himself as reclining close to Jesus (23). The second is in chapter 19 where John describes himself with the mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross. Then we have the passage in our Gospel reading. The fourth instance is in chapter 21 where John cried to Peter "It is the Lord" when he saw Jesus on the shore (7). And the fifth and final one is still in this chapter where he described himself as following Jesus and Peter (20).

Five times John identified himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved.

Does this mean that Jesus did not love the other disciples? He certainly did. John's description of himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved only tells us that John felt that he was the object of Jesus' special love, the kind of love which he described Jesus had towards the sisters Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus.

John wrote, "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus very much" (11:5).

Why did Jesus love them in a special way?

Before we answer this question we cite another incident where this time it was not John who noticed that Jesus loved someone in a special way. This was written by Mark. Presumably because Mark was Peter's disciple it was Peter who told Mark that Jesus loved this person in a special way.

This was the incident when someone came to Jesus to ask him what he must do to share in everlasting life. Jesus told him to observe the commandments. To which the man replied that he had kept all these commandments since his childhood. Then Mark wrote, "Then Jesus looked at him with love and told him" to sell what he had and to follow him. Jesus loved this man in a special way and Peter observed this and handed down this information to Mark who wrote the Gospel.

Now we go back to our question: Why did Jesus love certain persons with a special kind of love?

The cynic may answer, "We do not know, ask Jesus why he does so."

Our experience gives us the answer to this question. Do we not feel a special love for certain persons? If this happens to us, this could happen to Jesus who was a full human being like ourselves.

Even today Jesus still has a special love for certain persons.

How do we know that he has a special love for certain persons? I suggest three signs that tell us Jesus has a special love for a particular person. And these sings apply even today.

The first is found in Psalm 127:2. This verse says, “It is vain for you to rise early, or put off your rest, you that eat hard-earned bread, for he gives to his beloved in sleep.” The commentary on this in our New American Bible says, “Our Lord taught the same truth, that God’s blessings come to those who do not worry but trust in his loving providence.” Those loved by Jesus in a special way are enveloped by his loving providence. Their needs are provided for in providential ways, as though God is visibly there giving them what they need on time. Some of you can identify with this situation. You have experienced instances when God, although invisible, was there to give you what you needed at a particular time, such as food for the table, the money for the tuition fee of your child, or the amount for the hospital bill, etc.

The second sign is found in two psalms, Psalm 60:7 and 108:7. These two verses say the same thing word for word in our translation, “That your loved ones may escape; help us by your right hand, and answer us!” Those who are specially loved by Jesus escape calamities or sudden accidents. Again some of you can identify with this situation. You are prevented from riding a plane or a bus which later on you found out met an accident. Tradition tells us that of the twelve Apostles only John the specially loved by Jesus escaped a martyr’s death. Even when he was thrown into a cauldron of oil he escaped unhurt.

The third sign that a person is loved by Jesus in a special way I find in the first book of Samuel, chapter 16. The prophet Samuel and Jesse were looking for the person whom God chose as the next king of Israel. None of the sons of Jesse who were present qualified. Jesse called for his youngest son who was tending the sheep. When he appeared, the Holy Spirit remarked, “He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance” (12). This was God’s favorite, David, a man after God’s heart, we are told in another part of Scripture (Acts 13:22). The third sign is that there is a comeliness, an attractive quality in the person beloved in a special way by Jesus. Again many of you can identify with this sign. You have seen people who have a certain attractive quality in them. They may not be physically beautiful, but there is a comeliness in them very difficult to describe. They may be disabled or differently abled physically, even with no hands but their face shows a comeliness not of this world. They are specially loved by Jesus.

We here are all specially loved by Jesus. The proof that we are specially loved is not only by these three signs. We are loved specially because of all the persons in the world it is us with whom he shares his resurrected life. Jesus is risen, Alleluiah! He has resurrected, Alleluiah! And it is this resurrected life that he shares with us. We too are special in his eyes. In baptism he poured his resurrected life on us, in addition to our natural life given to us by him also through our parents.

Our second reading tells us this plainly. Paul tells us, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.”

We have been raised with Christ because his resurrected life is in us. Christ is seated at the right hand of God. We are there in Christ. We have already died, and in a sense we are already resurrected. Our bodies are not visible as resurrected, but our spirits are living the life of resurrected Jesus. That is why Paul says, our resurrected life is hidden. It is not yet seen by all. But as the first reading tells us this is visible “not to all the people, but to us,the witnesses chosen by God in advance”. We possess these three signs I have spoken of a while ago. We are providentially cared for by God himself, we are preserved from all dangers, and we exhibit a comeliness in our manners. We are indeed specially loved by Jesus. He shares his very own resurrected life with us. This is the real cause of our rejoicing today.

Let us pray with bowed heads. Lord Jesus, thank you for resurrecting. Thank you for sharing your resurrected life with us. Thank you for making us your special friends, as you made John the Apostle your special friend. Help us to make this known to others to whom you have given the grace of baptism so that they too can enjoy the life you give. Amen.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

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