Homily for 6 May 2012 - Fifth Sunday of Easter - Year B

Acts 9: 26-31; I John 3:18-24; Psalm 22; John 15:1-8

In the Second Lesson from the First Letter of John we read, “Beloved, if our consciences have nothing to charge us with, we can be sure that God is with us and that we will receive at his hands whatever we ask.” In the Gospel Lesson from St. John, was this similar statement, “If you live in me, and my words stay part of you, you may ask what you will – it will be done for you.” Hearing these verses, we may think to ourselves, “Well, that hasn’t worked for me, I ask for things and I don’t receive them!” The answer to that is, look at the entire quotation – is our conscience clear? Do we always live in Christ, and keep his words a part of us? Do we know that that for which we have asked is according to God’s will? Do we know that we have not received what we asked for, just in a different form or in a different way? Do we know that someone else involved in the situation isn’t praying for exactly the opposite that we are praying for? It is always risky to try and second guess God. I believe that prayer is always answered, and we must always expect the unexpected and not try to keep God in the box of our limited knowledge and imagination. If we hand something, or someone over to God, we must accept that God will handle it in his own way and time, not ours. Especially in our prayers for other people we must tread lightly, we have no right to dictate to them, or to God, how they will live their lives, we may think we know what is best, but we don’t. Take the example of a loved one who has gotten into some kind of trouble, we may pray that they be freed from it, but God may want them to experience the consequences of their actions, to go through the pain and struggle necessary for spiritual cleansing and growth. Or we may desire an outcome for someone that they don’t want – whose pray should God honor?

It is probably best to pray as Our Lord taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” After all, if our consciences are clear and we are in Christ, then what else could we possibly pray for? Our whole Christian life is a struggle to do God’s will on earth, to harmonize our will, our being, our life, with God’s will revealed in Christ Jesus. And something else we need to remember, this struggle to do God’s will is not going to make us popular, and if it does, we may be doing it wrong.

In our Lesson from the Acts of the Apostles, these words struck me, “Saul even addressed the Greek-speaking Jews and debated with them. They for their part responded by trying to kill him.” Two thousand years later Christians all over the world are still being threatened, tortured and dying for proclaiming the Gospel. And this is not going to change. The Truth of Christ is radical, revolutionary, it turns the world upside down and inside out and many people will resist it violently. Why? I don’t know, other than self-will, sin and the influence of the evil one. I don’t even know, now, why I resisted so vehemently all those years ago, the reasons at this distance and from my current position of faith, seem so silly. At class on Thursday we were talking about how much of our faith only makes sense once one is in the Church, how from the inside it all looks different. That is why a leap of faith is necessary, we cannot understand the Church, the Body of Christ, the Truth of the Gospel before we make a decision to believe. Faith precedes knowledge. Knowledge and understanding are fruits of a life lived in faith and obedience, and cannot be gained in fullness beforehand.

Christ is the true vine and we work and sacrifice to be fruitful branches and not be pruned away. But we must remember that we are not the judges of our fruitfulness, only God is. We can often be more blind to our virtues than we are to our sins, and be convinced that we are failures. We are not called to be successes or failures, we are called to be faithful.

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