I think Jesus is telling us two things in the Gospel today.
FIRST: that it’s easy to get distracted by our fears. It’s possible to spend too much time thinking about our mistakes and our missed opportunities.
We can dwell on how people have treated us unkindly – and waste our energy deliberating on things that out of our control.
Jesus doesn’t want us to think about, or obsess over or waste too much time doing these types of things: fear no one – Jesus tells us – and consequently, I think, fear nothing.
So the SECOND thing I think Jesus is telling us --
what he wants us to do, more than anything else – is to shift our mindset – to have a conversion –
To encourage us to focus on what we love:
The purpose we find through our work.
On all the things that we are grateful for.
And most especially to focus on the God who loves us more than we can ever imagine:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even the hairs on your head are counted. So do not be afraid – you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Now, thinking about all those things we love – let’s just smile. Because it’s hard not to, isn’t it?
This is where we should be spending the majority of our thoughts and our time and our efforts – we need to focus on what we love!
Jesus knows that it’s very easy to incite FEAR. We live in a world where far too many people are pointing fingers, calling others names, and cursing their enemies – sometimes in the very name of God.
And there are too many people just stirring the pot – moving people to new, dangerous levels of violence, hatred, and suspicion.
Fear is one of our most primal emotions and it doesn’t take much for it to become one of the most influential feelings in our communities – driving important decisions and dominating our airwaves.
Again, Jesus wants us to make a shift in our mindset – he wants us to have a conversion ---
Jesus wants us to know that just as it is possible to incite fear – it is just as possible to incite LOVE:
By seeing the best in each other.
By embracing our differences rather than being afraid of them.
By finding ways to make each other thrive.
So as follower of Jesus Christ – we need to replace the scowls with smiles, the derisive comments with encouragement, and the suspicion with mutual respect.
Yes, it is possible to incite love. . .
So in between doing our work.
And the taxi driving for the kids.
And the exercise.
And the writing.
And the reading.
And more work.
And watching tv.
And the shopping.
And the cooking.
And all the mundane tasks around the house.
And all the busyness of life.
Don’t forget to love.
Give it to others
Speak it regularly.
Surround yourself with it.
Find a way to incorporate it in all the activities of your life.
That’s the one change, the one conversion – Jesus wants to accomplish in us more than anything else.
Because Jesus knows if we can shift from all the things that we fear, or all the things that distract us, or all the things that suck the energy and the life right out of us – most of which we have no control over – TO think about, to grow and to expend our time and energy on THE THINGS WE LOVE --
If Jesus, through his grace, can make that shift within each one of us -- -then Jesus knows that we can change the world.
Throughout the Easter season – Jesus was busy feeding us and satisfying our deepest longings. . .
Jesus appeared to the disciples who were locked behind closed doors on the 2nd Sunday of Easter – and he offered his gift of peace: to satisfy their longing, and ours -- for security and freedom from fear. Something we can really use these days as much as the Israelites needed God’s guidance and protection --dodging the serpents and the scorpions in the vast and terrible desert.
On the 3rd Sunday of Easter – Jesus met two disciples on the road to Emmaus – he sat down at table with them and broke bread –
to satisfy their longing, and ours, of having their hearts burn within them with the presence of the risen Lord – in word and in sacrament.
Jesus then told his sheep, that he, himself, becomes the gatekeeper – protecting all of us from harm and satisfying the need to be led in the right direction and to have life – and have it more abundantly.
For Thomas, and the other disciples – including us – Jesus proclaimed he is the way, the truth, and the life – satisfying the hunger for a way to the Father and to the Father’s house that has a room prepared for each one of us.
For anyone who feels alone, unloved, or uncared for – Jesus offers the gift of an Advocate to satisfy the hunger for companionship, help, and a sense of direction.
And then Jesus gave his followers the great commission on the feast of the Ascension: to baptize all in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit – satisfying the hunger for mission and a purpose.
And then Jesus did send that gift of the Advocate, a helper, the Holy Spirit to empower all his followers to be his hands and feet in a world which desperately needs his compassionate presence.
All good gifts – given freely and abundantly –
But, surprisingly, there were and are those who would rather remain hungry and unsatisfied –who refused the offer of Jesus to be fed.
There were the scribes and Pharisees to whom Jesus offered not just once, but many times –the bread of conversion or change – but they refused to eat even a crumb of it.
There were the people in his beloved city of Jerusalem to whom, with tears in his eyes, Jesus offered the bread of peace, but they refused it with the result that their city was eventually destroyed.
There was Pilate to whom Jesus offered the bread of truth, but Pilate had no appetite for it because it meant putting his position, and his reputation, at risk.
Jesus shared himself with others in many different ways, and under many different forms – long before offering himself to them as food and drink at the Last Supper.
Jesus nourishes us in these same ways, and of course ESPECIALLY nourishes us in the Eucharist.
The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist only becomes a problem when we have lost our sense of his presence in all those other ways he chooses to come to us –
Those who have a deep sense of the presence of God in the whole of creation – will not have great difficulty in believing that Christ is present in a very special way in the Eucharist: where the bread we break allows us to become the very Body of Christ.
God alone can satisfy all the longings and hungers and thirsts and desires of our hearts – because God alone can give us the bread of eternal life.
This is the bread we receive in the Eucharist. Without it -- we would not have the desire, strength, or stamina to follow after Christ. So let us receive this gift with open hands and hearts which Jesus gives us today: the one loaf that allows us to become one body.
From time to time, people ask me, “what’s your favorite part of being a priest?”
There are many things I like about being a priest – and it is hard to say which is my favorite.
Although I never would have thought this as I was going through seminary – actually – PREACHING is one of the things I enjoy ---- I like the opportunity of Sunday after Sunday trying to make the Scriptures interesting and doing my best to set hearts on fire with their message.
I like working with a staff and together – trying to achieve a common vision and goals.
Likewise, I enjoy working with the faculty and students of a school – doing my best to shape them little by little into the image and likeness of Christ.
I enjoy celebrating the Eucharist and making the body of Christ available to people so they can become the body of Christ themselves.
And then I really like celebrating --- BAPTISMS.
There is this small green book that priests and deacons use for the rite of Baptism. It has everything spelled out in it – all the readings and prayers: what you are to say in black, what you are to do in red. . .
On the last page of my own copy – which has long since fallen apart because of use –
I wrote the name: Mary Margaret Voerster – May 24, 1987.
That was the first baby I ever Baptized, one week after my ordination as a deacon.
Little Margaret was very well behaved – she did not cry – she was very calm and quiet – I, however, was a nervous wreck hoping that I was saying and doing everything correctly.
Baptisms are typically joyous occasions. It’s a celebration of tremendous possibility and hope – even more so, I think, than weddings.
I really do enjoy having weddings too – although I might have a tendency to deny that --- weddings – more often than not –
become all about the dress, and cake, and the reception venue. BUT BAPTISMS -- are all about the baby. About a new life being welcomed into the Church.
And there is something very particular, very specific, found in that black lettering in the Baptism ritual: the words that must be spoken for validity – that is for the Sacrament to be properly celebrated.
We call it the Trinitarian Formula. Which is: I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
When people come to the Church from another faith tradition and want to become a Catholic – it is probably one of the first questions that is asked: have you been Baptized???? And how were you Baptized – because if those words were part of the ritual, then the Catholic Church recognizes those Baptisms.
So on this Trinity Sunday, if you want a reminder of how important the Trinity is – THAT is it.
From the very beginning of our lives as Christians, we are sealed in, claimed in, chosen in ---marked with the sign of the faith in: THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND THE SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT.
This signifies the extraordinary importance the Church places on this singular belief – this one great teaching – one God, three persons.
It all comes down to the Trinity: which is one of the reasons we celebrate this particular feast – one week after Pentecost – because the Trinity has just recently been revealed to a waiting and anxious world – Father, Son, and Spirit –
and why we remind ourselves of this teaching every time we enter into a Church --- whenever there is NOT a pandemic that keeps us from doing so!!
You may have noticed that the words in the second reading from St. Paul to the Corinthians sound very familiar. I often use them at the beginning of Mass: calling upon Christ’s grace, God’s love, and the Holy Spirit’s fellowship to be with us in this place as we gather to celebrate – in person, or remotely.
But that’s not the first time we have mentioned the Trinity at this Mass – today we began with something that most of us probably take for granted, and hardly think about – but we use it very often:
It’s the sign of the Cross – used not just as a gesture as we enter or a church or to begin and end our prayers – and not just a sign of our Catholicity -------------- but it is a restatement of our BAPTISM.
The words I spoke over Mary Margaret all those many years ago --- the words spoken over each one of us as water was poured over our heads –
the first words that made us members of the Body of Christ. Those words we speak again and again and again – as we in effect re-Christen ourselves.
We brand ourselves with God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit --- and whatever we do or say after---- is done in their name.
Each and every time we use that Trinitarian formula --- we become icons, images, representatives – of the Blessed Trinity.
What an incredible gift.
What an incredible responsibility.
Just think of what that simple gesture – which we most likely do automatically – really means. . .
We touch our heads for the Father – the one whose mere idea, whose smallest thought, brought us into being. This is where we all began – in the mind of God.
We touch our hearts for the Son – the one whose unceasing love took him to the cross, and the one who taught us as well –how to love--- through his own Sacred Heart.
We touch our shoulders for the Holy Spirit – the one who gives us strength, and who enables us to be God’s hands and feet – working to make God’s kingdom present.
When we make the sign of the cross, and pray the sign of the cross --- we make ourselves an offering and a prayer. We embody what the Trinity represents, and we seek to bring that presence with our lives and with our actions to all those we meet. We do it in the name of God: all that God is and all that God does: we do it in the name of the Trinity.
Near the end of the Baptismal ritual, a small candle – lit from the Easter candle -- is given to the newly Baptized child. The priest or deacon says: “receive the light of Christ.”
Let us pray to live in that light – to always be drawn to it, and to always strive to give it to others. In the name of God in three persons –
---in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN!