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‘Never be afraid to live what we say we believe’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

May 5, 2021

The following is Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 2, 2021.

Recently, I read about several people standing at a corner of New York City’s Fifth Avenue, waiting for a bus. An elderly man spoke to the young fellow standing next to him. “Today is my 81st birthday and it seems as though the only thing I can remember all these years is the time I spent waiting.” “Waiting?” the young man asked. “Yes, all my life I’ve been waiting for something or someone. I couldn’t wait to go to school. I couldn’t wait to be able to shave. I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license. I couldn’t wait to be 18. I couldn’t wait to have my first date. I couldn’t wait to be married. I couldn’t wait to have my first child. I couldn’t wait to have my first grandchild. I couldn’t wait to retire.”

In terms of realizing our potential to become complete human persons, in terms of experiencing the “good life” that we all need and want, we all play a waiting game. We lean into tomorrow. We imagine that genuine life-enrichment depends on some future happening. We forget that the true source of the good life is fully present to us now. There are scores of middle-aged people all over this land who are convinced that the glory bus has passed them by because they have not made it big.

Our hope of glory isn’t that we will be able to live trouble-free, not that we will have a beautiful second home, retiring when we hit 50, not that we will win the multi-million-dollar lottery. Our hope of glory is that we will be able to experience and embrace the living Christ within us now, today. My hope of glory is to let Christ’s Spirit permeate my entire being: my mind, my emotions, my body, my soul. Our hope of glory is to let Christ shape our lives from within and develop each of us into the beautifully fulfilled persons our loving God intends us to be. As we just heard in John’s Gospel, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

My friends, our Catholic faith can not just touch the borders of our lives today. It must be who we are through and through wherever we find ourselves today. What we profess, what we celebrate within these sacred walls must find expression in our walks of life outside those doors or our faith is dead. The risen Christ must remain within us, deep within us, wherever we find ourselves. Today we must give witness to the fact that we are children of God.

Jesus’ rising from the tomb lifts the clouds that threaten to darken our lives. His concern for us is complete. In His risen life, He now embraces us. We are His sisters and brothers, children of the resurrection. He is the vine, we are the branches. We must remain in Him.

The Church exists precisely to make that happen – to preach the Good News, to heal those who are sick and to bring back those who are lost. Like the Lord Himself, we will often be dismissed, and the message ignored or rejected outright. We shouldn’t be surprised at this. Instead, we are called to imitate the Lord, who loved people and who was prepared to lay down His life for them.

It is the witness of our lives today, more than anything, which speaks powerfully to people and tells them of the hope that is in us. Paul and the other apostles, filled with the same Spirit that has been given to you and me, were not afraid to bear witness by their lives and their words to their Good Shepherd, risen from the dead to dispel the darkness and gloom of this world. We are called to do the same. This is no time to wait. No need to lean into tomorrow, God remains with us today – yes, even in the midst of a pandemic!

In our days, when in vast areas of the world, the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present and show women and men the way to God. In these United States, indeed, in our own North Country, so often it seems that our faith has run out of fuel. We don’t speak or live the faith with the boldness of a St. Paul.

The consequences of such God-less living are clear and sobering: “Anyone who does not remain with me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.” These are not words concocted by an old-fashioned Church to make life miserable and fearful for people. We’ll find them in today’s Gospel.

My sisters and brothers may you and I never be afraid to live what we say we believe. May God praised…forever may God be praised!

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