My mother was a writer. Now notice I did not say she was an author: she did not write any books. . . but she was a passionate letter writer.
I left home for college when I was 18 and my mother died when I was 58. . . and in those intervening 40 years – like clockwork – my mother – faithfully wrote me a letter twice a month.
Letters that were filled with information about what was going on in my family, in the parish, on the farm, and in the neighborhood. What was going on with my dad, my siblings, my aunts, uncles, and cousins, my nieces and nephews.
What meetings or social gatherings she had gone to - and one of her favorite things to write about - detailed lists of the food served at these events.
All of these letters were handwritten with a neat penmanship, which unfortunately none of her children inherited.
When I am really missing my mom, as still happens from time to time – I will get one box of many out of the closet - and sit and read a letter or two my mother wrote me 10 - 20 - or 40 years ago.
Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally known speaker on bereavement – calls those letters of mine a “linking object” I have with my mother. Something I can pick up and read which immediately connects me with my mother.
Linking objects come in all shapes and sizes. That’s why I kept a cooking pot of my mother’s, several tools of my father’s, a jigsaw puzzle of my sister’s — along with pictures, and other sentimental items: from grandparents, friends, and others I have lost through the years.
When we miss those we love – there is a need to foster a connection with them in some way - to ease the pain, lessen the hurt, and heal the heart.
“When Jesus had said these things while the disciples were looking on – he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”
The disciples then went through what we all go through when we loose someone we love - they grieved. And then they had to begin looking for ways to continue fostering a connection to Jesus: some way to ease the pain, lessen the hurt, and heal the heart: because of his physical absence.
What did they do? We heard about some of the things they did as we read the Acts of the Apostles during this Easter season – things they did to keep the spirit of Jesus alive and well among them.
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.
They praised God and enjoyed favor with all people. [2 Easter]
They repented of their sins and were Baptized.
They followed the example of Christ and walked in his footsteps. [4 Easter]
To keep the spirit of Jesus alive and well among them - they devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.
They continued to spread the word of God so that the numbers of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly.
They formed themselves into a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own: and announced their praises of God. [5 Easter]
They gave an explanation to anyone who asked them for a reason for their hope.
And they suffered for doing good - if that was the will of God. [6 Easter]
And most fortunate for us – as the early followers of Jesus began to be martyred and die off – they began writing the stories of Jesus down instead of just telling them to one another, and they preserved the letters written by St. Paul and others to the early Chrsitian communities — giving us what would become the New Testament. So that just like those letters my mom wrote – we modern-day Chrstians would have a linking object to Jesus and to the early Church communities.
All so we would know how to keep the spirit of Jesus alive and well among us – by devoting ourselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers – and all the many other things they did.
And like those in the early Church - we now await the outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that we might become sharers of Christ’s divinity.
And so our prayer these next few days should be: Come Holy Ghost, creator blest -
And in our hearts take up they rest.
So that we can go out to the world - and preach the cross where Christ renews life’s worth. And seeking God’s presence in each time and space. AMEN!
So let me start by asking you what all of these statements have in common:
The world sure is a nice place.
Our country, and our Church, have their best days ahead.
There is more peace in the world now than ever before in history.
Things in our parish are just great!
People are kinder to each other than in the past.
So what do they have in common? Think about it – and in case you can’t come up with something – let me tell you:
They are things we almost NEVER hear people say.
Well, I guess it’s more correct to say that they are things I rarely hear. But something tells me that it’s probably the same for you.
Now the OPPOSITE of these statements I hear all the time. I’ll ask someone how they are doing or what’s new or what’s on their minds – and they will come back with something along the lines of:
-The world is going to hell in a handbasket.
-The future of our country, and our Church, sure looks bleak.
-People are never going to stop fighting one another?
-Let me tell you what’s wrong with our parish.
-How much meaner can people get with one another?
NOW you might be asking - what’s wrong with saying things like that? I feel the same way all the time. And you would not be alone. These concerns are on the minds of many people these days.
But are these just concerns. . . or is something more going on??
When I hear people talk this way – I have two reactions.
First – it makes me sad. I feel really bad for people who carry this kind of negativity around with them everywhere they go. Don’t they get tired of being weighed down with all of that negative energy – that they then try to inflict on me?
The second thing that happens when I hear people talk this way is that I immediately wonder where faith fits into all of it – I wonder if faith is still foundational for most of us – wonder if faith is still the lens through which we view the world.
OR has faith’s power gotten buried somewhere – no longer molding and shaping our attitudes, and viewpoints and our way of thinking about things.
It gets me thinking about the hearts and minds and lives of people – and even my own heart, and mind and life.
Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”
This is one of many Scripture passages which should have the power to move us toward a more positive outlook on things.
We heard how Jesus has prepared a place for us, and how we can come to know God by knowing Christ – and how Jesus wants us to do the same sorts of things that he did - all good and life-giving stuff. All meant to inspire us and give us hope.
But the one statement of Jesus that anchors all the others is: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
In a very real sense – Jesus is telling us that we need to put him at the center of our lives.
And by listening to him and following him and in imitating him – we will be safe – we won’t get lost – and we will be with God for all eternity.
That should be very comforting to us – a pledge from Jesus that assures us that our faith in him is our salvation – our hope – and our life.
And yet faith in Jesus has to be MORE than just saying, “Yes, God, I’d like to go to heaven someday.”
Rather, true faith, authentic faith is so much more than that.
Being faithful to the teaching of Jesus and placing him at the center of our lives also means:
We believe in the value and potential of every human being - the possibility for every person to be loving, and kind, and compassionate.
We believe that God’s presence is in every place, situation and person – and that no matter how dark things look at times – the light of Christ will always overcome the darkness.
We believe that each of us can help make this world an even better place - and have the responsibility to do so: we are to help build the kingdom of God here and now.
We believe that the world is not falling apart or going to hell in a handbasket – but rather the world is how it’s always been since the Fall of Human Nature –
back there in the Garden of Eden – the world is imperfect, wounded, broken, and in continual need of healing.
We believe that humanity’s best days aren’t behind us – but with the help of God’s grace – are ahead of us – since God is constantly offering us the gift of new life – which means every single person can be changed for the better.
We believe that no problem we face has more power than God’s love.
And we believe that what Jesus has done for us – suffered, died, and was raised - has changed absolutely everything – and consequently must shape the way we see the world and one another.
In other words – as followers of Jesus – as believers in the power of the resurrection – it is our responsibility to NOT feed negativity and cynicism and hopelessness. We can’t be people who constantly speak of “doom and gloom”. Can we really say that we have faith, that we say we believe what we say we believe – if we constantly speak to the contrary??
And I don’t mean to suggest that we are supposed to ignore the problems of our world or pretend they don’t exist – but I am saying that being a true Christian means that we must be people of HOPE. And JOY. And COMPASSION. And PEACE. Otherwise we are not living up to the full of potential of who Christ is calling us to be
And if people don’t see those qualities in us - then our faith has lost its power, lost its ability to make a real and lasting difference in our lives – the kind of difference that changes hearts and ultimately changes the world.
We need to be precisely those kinds of people– the kind who embody the deep hope that comes with letting the Lord Jesus lead the way.
If that is what we truly believe – then it will certainly dominate what we say, how we see, and what we believe is possible.
And that’s a much different reality, a much different world from the one we often speak so poorly of.
So let’s stop being so negative – and through the gift of our faith – open our eyes to start seeing as God sees. Open our ears to start hearing as God hears. Open our hearts to start loving the way God loves. . . or have we really lost our senses???
I live within you. Rest now in me.
Moments in time...