5 Easter Sunday
29 April 2018 at St. Peter the Apostle and St. William Churches in Naples, FL
Acts of the Apostles 9, 26-31 + Psalm 22 + 1 John 3, 18-24 + John 15, 1-8
Jesus never wrote, composed, or built anything. What he left behind was a community. His whole life and mission was about relationships, bringing us to share his relationship with the Father. Whenever there was something that kept people apart from one another it had to go. Martha and Mary lost their brother Lazarus. Two women on their own in that culture was a disaster. So, Jesus called Lazarus back. A widow is about to bury her only son. Jesus raises that boy and gives him back to his mother. Over and over again the Gospels give us examples of Jesus restoring and building community.
On the last night he spent with his friends and disciples, after washing their feet and sharing a meal and prayer, he walked with some of them out to a garden knowing that things were falling apart. He knew that they would scatter and run, hide, and deny him. He knew that betrayals would splinter the relationship he has enjoyed with them. He walked in the darkness of that night through a vineyard on the way to an olive garden, stopped and spoke the words we have just repeated. “Without me, you can do nothing.”
Of all the sayings of Jesus, there is probably nothing said that is more challenging and difficult for our age than those six words. A do-it-yourself age, with all the independent individualists of our time must find this very hard to take. A world of isolation politically or spiritually will not fit with this gospel. If we are disciple of Jesus Christ, we are connected, mutually dependent, and responsible. Yet there is evidence everywhere still fresh in our memories that a lot of people think otherwise. They want to go it alone. They want to be “spiritual” but claim no faith community or relationships. Where are all those people who crammed themselves into this place five weeks ago? The truth is, people are leaving. Our young people walk off thinking what? That they can do something that matters without Jesus Christ? That they can make a difference in this world by themselves? I don’t believe they can. They may make a lot of money, but the world they leave behind will be a wreck, dirty, and uninhabitable.
We sit here all too often unmoved by this. We feel sad and wonder why or we blame someone else, and in this behavior, there lies the problem. Too few of us have ever done anything to call them back, to speak of our need for them, or of our feelings about their absence in the spirit of this Gospel. Too few of take very seriously the importance of their presence here. For them, Mass is a matter of convenience not commitment. This Gospel reminds us: “Without me you can do nothing.”
However, this Gospel says nothing to those who are gone; but it says plenty to those of us who are here about why we are here and what we become because of it. In the end, the absence of everyone else must come as a challenge to us about how seriously, personally, and faithfully we have bound ourselves to Jesus Christ in his Church. His work of building community, healing what is broken, and finding the lost continues for us a Church. This is a lonely world filled with people longing for relationships and connections. Facebook, Twitter, and all that electronic stuff is never a substitute for real communion, for the look and the touch of a real loving person standing beside us or behind us ready to pick us up when we fall or forgive us when we offend and fail. By this, the Father will be glorified, and we shall bear much fruit.