Homily for May 1, 2016
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Each year during Easter, we hear large sections of the Acts of the Apostles – part of the story of the early community. While we are presented with a rather idealized picture of that community for the most part, every now and then we see the humanity of those early Christians peeking through in the story. Today is one of those moments. Great discussion developed, and no little controversy, because of the insistence of some of the Christians of Jewish origin that Gentile Christians must be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses in order to be part of the community.
We see that the community dealt with difficult issues by talking things through, in faith, under the guidance of the Spirit. They trusted in the promise made by Jesus in today’s Gospel that the Spirit would be with them as guide, teacher, comforter, advocate, lawyer, friend. That trust is identified in the announcement to the communities: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and ourselves” – the apostles and elders discussed and debated, but trusted in the guidance of the Holy Spirit in making their decision.
We may not have such weighty matters to decide in our local community, but we are constantly challenged to reflect on our life in community, on our attitudes and actions. During the week, I received an email with this short story, which I believe is a parable for our times and our community:
A little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with a bag of potato chips and a six-pack of root beer and started his journey.
When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old man. He was sitting in the park, just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to him and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old man looked hungry, so he offered him some chips. He gratefully accepted it and smiled at him.
His smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer. Again, he smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.
As twilight approached, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave; but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old man, and gave him a hug. He gave him his biggest smile ever.
When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “what did you do today that made you so happy?”
He replied, “I had lunch with God.” But before his mother could respond, he added, “you know what, He’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”
Meanwhile, the old man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and he asked, “dad, what did you do today that made you so happy?”
He replied “I ate potato chips in the park with God.” However, before his son responded, he added, “you know, He’s much younger than I expected.
We know that we are called to be instruments of God’s healing, love and compassion in our world. We are the face of Christ, his hands and his voice. We also know from the Gospel that we are to see the face of Christ in those we meet each day. As a community we are very good at serving the poor who come to the Supper Table and the Food Bank. We welcome those who utilize the Women’s Centre. But do we really see the face of Christ in each of the people who come to our doors? Or are we content simply to fill their material needs and send them on their way.
We are very particular about welcoming all at the beginning of our celebration, but how willing are we to recognize the face of Christ in the person sitting next to us with whom we have had a disagreement during the week? How about the youngsters who decide that the butterfly banners make great instruments for a sword fight during Mass? Are we willing to be as welcoming to the individual who wanders in off the street during our celebration and wanders around looking for lunch, disrupting the prayer and quiet that we are trying to maintain? Am I willing to give a few hours during the week to serve food to the hungry, or am I satisfied simply to put my money in the collection and let someone else do the work? How do I portray the face of Christ to those I encounter at work, at home, on the street or when doing my shopping?
We need to ponder these questions as individuals and as a community. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Are we willing to see the face of Christ in everyone, and are we willing to portray his face always?