Deacon Cornell’s Homily


Acts 7:55-60
Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20
John 17:20-26


May 28-29, 2022, Seventh Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

Today's Gospel reading is one of the most powerful and touching passages. In the hours before his passion he prays for his disciples, those who were present with him at the last supper, and those who will follow after them, including us. So it is one of the few places that Jesus prays for us, for you and for me, explicitly. And his prayer is that we be one with him as he is with the Father!

But before we look at what that might mean for you and me, does anyone know who the Stephen in the first reading from Acts is? And why this is a scary reading for a deacon about to preach? He is one of the seven first deacons, and the first martyr after Jesus' resurrection. We don't hear much about him because his feast day is December 26 so his story gets lost in the Christmas story. Stephen had been spreading the Gospel so effectively that some of the people were jealous and had him arrested and dragged before the council. Filled with the Holy Spirit he basically challenged the council members for their closed hearts. He reminds them that out of fear that Jesus might stir up the people and bring Rome's wrath down on them, they chose to put Jesus to death. They chose to bow to the pressure of their culture rather than open themselves to being one with God. And so they had Stephen killed. So that first reading is about a deacon who preached so powerfully to the rulers of Jerusalem that they had him hauled out and stoned to death. I had mixed emotions when I was praying to the Spirit to guide my preaching this weekend.

In today's Gospel, as is so often the case with Jesus, his prayer for us is very simple, but at the same time incredibly profound and challenging. Jesus prays for unity; not some vague feel-good notion of unity but he prays that those of us who are his disciples may be one with Jesus as Jesus is with the Father. Jesus prays that we might participate in the very life of the Trinity; that is what we mean when we hear that "Jesus came to give us eternal life". It doesn't mean life without end; it means the very life of the eternal God. And therefore the mission of the Church is to spread the good news of what being one with Jesus, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit means to us. This is so fundamental to who God is, and who we are, that God sent his only Son to become one of us so that we might know for sure what God created us for, first hand, in humanly understandable language. I hope each of you feels touched to the core when you hear this.

Now for the challenging part. It only takes a moment of looking around to see that Jesus' prayer and the mission it gives the Church and us is completely out of sync with the culture we live in. Our culture tells us that we are fulfilled when we compete and defeat everyone else. We are surrounded by divisiveness and conflict in Washington, in the Ukraine, in Uvalde Texas and Buffalo NY, at our borders, yes, even in our Church. Can anyone really say that they have found peace and fullness of life in aany of that division?

What does it mean to be one as Jesus is with the Father. It does not mean that we are all to be the same, or even think the same. It does not mean that we will not have any differences of opinion or even conflict. It means that we look past those differences to see the oneness that we all share because we are all made in the image of God, and through Jesus' paschal mystery, we all share in that eternal life of God. Think of an orchestra where the sound requires all those different instruments, playing, not in unison but as one.

Last week we were watching a movie with my greatgrandaughter called Tinkerbell: the Secret of the Wings. In it Tinkerbell meets another fairy and the two of them find out that they were born of the same laugh, so they are sisters, even though they are very different. I found that to be a wonderful image for what Jesus is telling us. We are all born of the same laugh of God, and that is the basis of our oneness. If we look hard enough we see wonderful stories of how that oneness plays out and how much more we are fulfilled when we participate in them, or even hear about them. Do you remember the terrible massacre at the Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania almostsixteen years ago now? Somehow in the midst of that terrible pain and suffering those parents and the whole community trusted in God, and opened themselves to his plan. Instead of the usual outcry against the killer, they reached out to the widow and family of the killer, offering them forgiveness and comfort, and even part of the financial aid that poured in from around the world. With God's help, they saw their oneness with that family and brought goodness and light from darkness and pain. There are many stories of political or economic rivals cooperating for a common good. That is how we become fully human, and it is how salvation comes to this world. Paul says it succinctly in several places in his letters: God's plan is to bring all things into one under Christ.

So what would it look like to be one with Christ so deeply that we are driven to share that experience with others? I don't know the answer to that but I think the questions would be very different.

Instead of "How can we get enough votes on our side so we can pass our agenda?" it might be "how can we cooperate with other so we might do the most good for the most people?"

Instead of "How can we get more people to come to mass or how can we increase our collections?" it might be "how can we share what have to help those who are in need?"

Instead of "How can we get our young people interested in coming to church?" it might be "how can we challenge our young people to bring God's love and forgiveness to others?"

Jesus' prayer is for us to be one with Him. My prayer today is for us to pray Jesus' prayer, and really mean it. Be careful though; we might get what we pray for.

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