Deacon Cornell's Homily


Acts 8:5-8,14-17
1 Peter 3:15-18
John 14:15-21

Date: May 17, 2020 Sixth Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, Cycle A

In that second reading, Peter tells us: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear.

Both our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel reading unpack what Peter says is our responsibility as Catholics, and give us an example of how we are to do that. Last week in the reading from Acts we heard the institution of the Order of the Diaconate, the ordination of the first deacons. This week Acts continues with the story of one of those deacons. Philip goes to Samaria, a place and a people who are hostile to Jews (and vice versa), and proclaims the Gospel. The people respond to Philip's witness and become followers of Jesus. This simple story encompasses the soul of what it means to be a deacon. During the ordination rite for deacons, the Bishop hands a book of the Gospels to each new deacon and says,"Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read,  teach what you believe, and practice what you teach." Now deacons are not ordained to be set apart from the laity. This is powerfully symbolized by the fact that most deacons live with their families, work alongside others in their jobs, and move and act as members of their communities. In fact Deacons are ordained to be a sacramental sign of Christ the servant, living in a way to remind all the baptized of our call to be people of service and ministers of justice in the world, in other words to be permanent and public signs of what it means to be baptized.

All three of those directives in the rite of Ordination are necessary if we are to follow Peter's instructions. We need to base our belief on reading the scripture; we are not called to blind faith. Reading the Gospel is shorthand for getting to know Christ up close, personal, and authentically. That is where we all need to start. Peter's directive to always be ready to give an explanation reminds us that we have a responsibility to learn our faith, to continue to develop our relationship with Christ because until we do that, we cannot give a useful explanation to anyone else. Sometimes we Christians are our own worst enemies because too often we live in ways or say things that are anything but Christian, thta push people away from Christ instead of drawing them in.

Then teach what you believe. The old adage is true that if you want to master something, teach it. But it is only true if you teach responsibily by making sure you rely on valid sources for what you teach.The good news is that we have so many resources available to learn our faith, maybe even more so in these times as many organizations are making their resources available. Just check the collaborative web site for many of those.

And then finally practice what you teach. This is at the heart of today's first reading. Philip put aside the common distrust and even disdain that most Jews had for Samaritans and, filled with his belief in Christ, went to Samaria and shared that belief.

Which brings us to the Gospel. Learning about Christ, entering into deeper relationship with him, and being so filled with that understanding of being loved that we live in a way that spreads the Gospel, are all possible, and only possible, because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. It is possible for us to really come to know Christ only because Christ lives in us through the indwelling of the Spirit.

Living out our baptismal call is not so much an exercise in discovering something "out there" as it is a development, or to use the wonder of spring that is unfolding around us, a flowering of something that has been planted deep inside us. So believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach. And there will be great joy in our city!

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