Deacon Cornellís Homily


Acts 4:8-12
1 John 3:1-2
John 10:11-18


May 2-3, 2009 Fourth Sunday in Easter - Cycle B

This weekend and next, some of our young men and women are making their first communions. Back in Advent, most of them made their first penance, celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. The reading for that Advent penance service was the story of the Good Shepherd from Gospel of Luke. It is fitting today that we hear another Gospel, this time John's, that pictures Jesus as the Good Shepherd because it highlights a connection between reconciliation and Eucharist that most Catholics seem to have forgotten. What would we think of someone who tried to run the Boston Marathon without any preparation? Or even someone running a few miles for exercise that did not take some time to stretch or did not put on good running shoes before running?

So why is it important that we prepare ourselves for receiving communion? To answer that question, we need to talk about what the Eucharist is all about. As you may remember from your catechism days, a sacrament is a sign or symbol that makes real what it symbolizes. So we might start by asking what does the sacrament of Eucharist make real? If we listen to the prayers the priest says for us from the Offertory through the end of mass we hear that by celebrating the Eucharist and receiving communion, we are made more completely part of the body of Christ. Through baptism we are incorporated into the body of Christ, in Confirmation we are strengthened in our mission as part of the Church, and in communion we are continually formed more completely into that body. The common name we use for Eucharist indicates this: communion, together, becoming one. The signs we use in the Eucharist remind us of it: bread - one loaf from many grains of wheat, wine - one drink made from the juice of many grapes. Even our posture speaks to it. Here at St. Isidore we all stand while we all receive communion so that our posture is reinforcing what the sacrament is doing. This is why the 2004 guidelines from the Vatican specify that the normative stance for receiving communion is standing. This is hard for some of us because we grew up going back to our pew and kneeling. But if you remember, when a lot of us first received communion, we knelt to receive so it made sense to kneel when we got back to our pew so that we would be one in posture with all who were receiving. Now that we stand, we all stand until we all have received, then we all kneel or sit to reflect silently.

And the purpose of being formed into the body of Christ is to bring salvation to all creation. It is so that God's kingdom comes and God's will is done here on earth as it is in heaven. How God makes this happen is a mystery so we will never completely understand it, but those two short verses from the first letter of John give us one image of how God's plan to transform the world into His kingdom works.

Those verses say that we are now children of God, really and truly because Jesus' paschal mystery has made us his brothers and sisters. The author goes on to say that we we will be has not been revealed, and here we can understand this "we will be" to refer to what will happen to us individually when we die and stand face to face with God, or to what will happen when at the second coming all creation will be transformed into paradise and stand face to face with God. In the first letter to the Corinthians it says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9). But even though we cannot comprehend what we will be like when we come face to face with God, the author goes on to say that we know that we will be like God because we will see God as God really is.

When we come face to face with someone who really and deeply loves us, it changes us. Those of you who have experienced any kind of deeply loving relationship know that. Love changes us. Coming face to face with Love itself will change us into love. That is God's plan for changing the world. By becoming incarnate, God who is Love changes anyone who takes the time to encounter that love for the better. This plan started with God choosing a special people to incarnate his love in the form of the Law. Then in the fullness of time he sent his only begotten Son, who is God, to become human and make Love incarnate in the person of Jesus. Now Jesus calls us who have been baptized to be the mystical Body of Christ making the God who is Love incarnate right here and now, and through all of the world and all of time.

This is one way that I visualize God's plan. How many here have ever done one of those jigsaw puzzles with hundreds of pieces? When you only have a few pieces together you can’t tell what the picture is. But as you start to put in more pieces, even before you have it filled in, if you step back and squint a little, you can start to see the picture. If all of us who have been baptized start to act like Christians, start to love the way Jesus loves us, then someone passing by might stop and squint and see God. That person will then be transformed and want to join us, adding one more piece to the puzzle so that the next person coming by can see this image of God a little better, and so on and so on till we become like God because we see God as God really is.

Salvation has come to this world through Christ. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved. We have to realize that these words are not talking about who gets to heaven when they die. They certainly do not mean that everyone has to become a Christian. They are simply stating the truth about God's plan for the salvation of all creation.

But that salvation is not yet complete. That completion depends on the body of Christ making Love increasingly more present in this world by living out our initiation into the Church. Eucharist is the continual renewal of our initiation to be the body of Christ to all we meet.

Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. Let us make sure that we are prepared to live out that gift, so that salvation comes sooner rather than later.

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