The Church is a wise mother who gives us seven weeks of Easter, because. we need extended time to reflect on what Christ is teaching in his passion and resurrection. Just as plants need time to transform light into nourishment, our souls need time in the light of Christ to absorb what God wants to give.
We are reminded of the new commandment Christ gave us at the Last Supper with his closest friends. Jesus opened his heart which overflowed with love revealing what marks every Christian: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is not just any kind of love, but Christ-like love: “I give you a new commandment… As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”
Being a Catholic is much more than being a member of a parish. It means we are called to be another Christ in the world. Jesus gave his life to fulfill the will of his Father and to win salvation for sinners. Each of us is called in the unique circumstances of our lives to share the pattern of Christ: dedicating our lives to knowing and doing God’s will by helping others to know, love, and follow Christ.
Mahatma Gandhi, the hero of India’s independence, wasn’t a Christian, but he had studied Christianity. Later in life he said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” G.K. Chesterton, the British convert and apologist responding to critics who claimed that since Christianity had been around for so long and hadn’t solved the world’s problems, it must be false, Chesterton retorted: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
These quotes remind us that too often, we Catholics are satisfied with being mediocre Christians. Christ wants more for us. He left his Church to help us to reach the fullness of our humanity, our capacity to love, to know others as Christ knows them and to dedicate ourselves for their good. Only by following Christ can we be truly happy and make others around us happy on earth and in heaven.
How can we fulfill this destiny? It starts right here in our hearts. Christ is the way and his grace helps us. None of that matters unless we decide to walk the difficult path of knowing, loving and following Christ. Only then are we able to answer critics like Gandhi by loving like Christ.
The Church invites us to ask if we have decided to follow Christ in loving God and others. We are tempted to think this is only for people who are saints. It isn’t. The way of selfless love is the path to sanctity and certain salvation. We might think this is too difficult, because of our human faults. If it was too difficult, Christ would not have made an issue of the necessity to love others.
So, what is holding us back? The problem is we can be like Charlie Brown: wishy-washy. We need to make a promise to God and our parish. We all are called to follow Christ by striving to live as Jesus would live in our circumstances.
The Lord will help, teach, strengthen, forgive our sins and inspire us when we are discouraged – the Holy Spirit does all this through the sacraments, prayer and our acts of mercy.
There is only one thing that God cannot do: he will not choose our priority in life, only we decide with grace, due to our religious freedom. This gospel calls us to decide once and for all to follow Jesus as fully active Catholics.
Pope Benedict XVI said in his first homily: “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great… Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.”
Bolstered by the resurrection power of Holy Communion, let’s turn our faith in Christ into a decision to “love one another as Christ has loved us.” This we call stewardship of time, talent and treasure. This is not a capital campaign, but a campaign to renew the face of the earth with a love flowing from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Love, not just with words, but with actions and sacrificial giving for the good of the parish and the needs of a hurting world.
Prayer is the foundation of the Church, so I encourage each family to sign a pledge to pray. It’s not too much to ask for 100% participation in the Annual Catholic Appeal through a commitment to prayer. What you donate is up to you and the Holy Spirit. We should at least give our time in prayer.