Sunday, May 17, 2009

6th Sunday of Easter

The following is a homily for today from

Homily from Father James Gilhooley 6 Easter

Sixth Sunday of Easter - Cycle B - John 15:9-16

In 1941, the German army began to round up Jewish people in Lithuania. Thousands of Jews were murdered. But one German soldier objected to their murder. He was Sergeant Anton Schmid. Through his assistance, at least 250 Jews were spared their lives. He managed to hide them, find food, and supply them with forged papers. Schmid himself was arrested in early 1942 for saving these lives. He was tried and executed in 1942.

It took Germany almost sixty years to honor the memory of this man Schmid. Said Germany's Defense Minister in 2000 in saluting him, "Too many bowed to the threats and temptations of the dictator Hitler, and too few found the strength to resist. But Sergeant Anton Schmid did resist."

Name a person who better obeyed the admonition of the Christ in today's Gospel. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." The hero Schmid went beyond what even Jesus encouraged. He laid down his life for strangers.

What a welcome the court-martialed Anton Schmid must have received from Our Lord when he entered the Kingdom.

Being a Christian requires all the character we can summon up. However, in the face of people such as Sergeant Schmid, we should not grow weary and give up the quest. When our Master returned to His Father, he sent to us the Holy Spirit. It is He who increases the spiritual marrow in our Christian backbones. It is He who empowers us to stand up and be counted as Christ followers. As one pundit says, "What Jesus accomplished for us in His lifetime, the Holy Spirit accomplishes in ours."

With the Spirit, we can face the might of hell and win.

William Barclay suggests the Teacher has chosen each one of us to be advertisements for Himself. Our lives should be billboards for Christ. He is most anxious that we produce abundant good works. The only authentic method of spreading the Gospel message is to be oneself a genuine Christian. History proves we waste our time arguing or forcing other people into becoming Christians. They do not want to hear about Christianity. They want to see it work. Our lives must attract them to the truth of the Gospel.

It was Socrates who told us that the greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.

When the Catholic Al Smith, later four time Governor of New York, was a member of the New York State Assembly in the 1920s, he roomed with a fellow Assemblyman, Robert Wagner, in the state capital. Wagner, who was later to be a distinguished member of the US Senate, became a convert to the Church. He was asked what prompted his conversion. He replied simply, "Watching Al Smith get down on his knees every night to say his prayers."

Like Smith, each of us is an ambassador with portfolio for Christ. Oftentimes, we are completely unaware of the role we are playing. But the non-Christians watching us do not forget that we follow Christ. Frequently we disappoint them. Said one agnostic, "I expected nothing and he did not disappoint me." You have tried many times to be a Christian only to fall on your face. Do not grow tired.

Reflect, as an historian tells us, that the first electric bulb was so faint that a lit candle had to be used along with it. Thirty-two hours were initially required to make the trip by steamboat from Albany to New York - a trip of but 150 miles. The initial flight of the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina lasted but 12 seconds. The top speed of the first car was anywhere from two to four miles each hour. We know what those inventions can do today.

Remember the aphorism that God makes a great finish out of a slow start and nothing can be done until we take the first step. Be patient. It takes an oak fifty years to produce an acorn.

Once you have begun to make progress, speak that prayer of the old man: "Lord, I am not yet what I would like to be. But thank you, Lord, because I ain't no longer what I used to be."

Jesus gave up His life for our sins. We must give up ourselves for His service.

Finally one person can make a difference. If you have any doubt on that point, check it out with any of the 250 people whose lives Sergeant Anton Schmid saved.

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