Easter 5 C Sunday - Homilies and Stories

Easter V - C Sunday – Homilies and Stories

 Background:

The last supper discourse of Jesus to his apostles is a mix of many consoling things Jesus had said to them in the course of their time together so that they might be sustained in hope after he had returned to the Father-in-Heaven. The consolation today is mixed with a challenge – a new commandment which sounds nice but which turns out to be very difficult.   

For as we know from the experience of our lives it is very had to love everyone, especially those who are closest to us, our colleagues, our families, our close friends, the people next door. 

Story:

Once upon a time an older woman live next door to strange neighbours. Why is it that neighbours are always strange? Anyway these people were noisy, rude, and vulgar. Their televisions were always on full blast way into the night. They fought with one another at the top of their voices. Their kids played baseball in the yard and football on the street and ran over her lawn and flowers – and cursed a lot too, even the girls, though that is very had to believe. All the other neighbours complained, called the police, threatened to get court orders. The loud crowd just laughed at them. Their daddy was a lawyer and he boasted he cold beat any complaint in a court of law.

WELL, everyone else in the neighbourhood refused to speak them. The lady we’re talking about was always polite and friendly. She had treats ready at Halloween, and cookies at Christmas, and she often salvaged their newspaper from the rain or snow. One night a little girl – the one who always had a runny nose – rang the doorbell about midnight. Our Mommy is dying and our daddy is out of town. Please help us. Well, the woman went over to the house and called 911and stayed their till the ambulance came (the mommy had an allergic reaction to some medicine) and stayed there until the daddy came home, and calmed the children down and told them there mother would be fine and got them all into bed. And they all became very good friends. (Andrew Greeley)

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Michel de Verteuil

General Textual Comments

 It is traditional in the Church that on the 5th and 6th Sundays of the Easter season, the gospel readings are taken from the long discourse which St John tells us Jesus had with the apostles at the Last Supper, and which is recounted from chapter 13:31 to the end of chapter 17. This is very deep teaching, so you must make a special effort to experience that it is also down-to-earth, and helps you to understand your own life.

This year’s first extract is the beginning of the discourse. It is in clearly distinct sections:

Verses 31 and 32 are the response of Jesus to the departure of Judas. You may have difficulty interpreting the word “glorify” which occurs several times. It is a biblical term indicating the victory of God’s power. It is significant that “hallowed” in the first petition of the Our Father means the same thing.

In verse 33, Jesus says clearly that he is at a point in his life when he must make his journey alone. The saying is repeated and clarified in verse 36, which is not included in this passage, but which you may want to look up in a Bible.

In verses  34 and 35 the commandment of love – which is the dominant theme of the last discourse – is enunciated for the first time. Read the verses carefully, letting them touch you as if you were reading them for the first time.

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John Littleton

Gospel Reflection

Love is the main characteristic of Christianity because Jesus’ teaching can be summarised in his great commandment: ‘Love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another’ (John 13:34). Also, Jesus taught that it is by our love for one another that people will know that we are his disciples. In addition to loving God through our personal relationship with Jesus, we express our love for God through our love for other people. For this reason, we cannot claim to love God if we do not love them.

There is a significant difference between liking someone and dutifully loving someone in the Christian sense of loving. Many people assume that the two words, ‘like’ and ‘love’, have the same meaning. Such confusion makes it difficult to appreciate Jesus’ commandment to love other people. Unfortunately, reality suggests that there are usually at least some people in all our lives that we do not particularly like.

Loving, in the Christian context, is not a more intense form of liking. To like people means that we experience them as being agreeable or pleasant. In Contrast, to love people means that, regardless of whether or not we consider them agreeable or likeable, we respect them. We are always patient with them and kind towards them. To love people means that we are neither rude to them nor arrogant towards them. It means that we never become irritable and resentful towards them.

True love requires us to care about others, always putting them first. We cannot truly love God if we do not love them. The basic challenge of the Good News is to love all people, including those we dislike.

This does not just mean ‘being nice’ in our relationships. Jesus was known for his ‘hard sayings’ that challenged his listeners to change their lifestyles. We are obliged to be faithful to the truth and to speak the truth with respect and compassion. Thus loving others means having an active concern for their welfare — especially their spiritual welfare. No wonder, then, that Christianity is demanding. Actually it is impossible if we rely only on ourselves. We require God’s grace and strength if we are to succeed.

The message is clear: no matter how disagreeable or unsuitable we find other people, we are challenged by Jesus’ great commandment to love those people always. For Christians, as difficult as it may be, it is possible to love people without necessarily liking them. Loving people is not an optional extra for us. It is a serious obligation.

The basis for Christian love is Jesus’ self-giving which was so perfect that he offered his life on the cross to undo the effects of our sins. His commandment to love one another just as he has loved us implies that we too will be expected to make sacrifices as we put the needs of others before our own needs. That demands considerable effort on our part and, as we know, is not always easily achieved.

The fundamental question is: how genuine is our love? Although we may not like all the people in our lives, Jesus has made love the distinguishing mark of his Church. As Christians, then, we are obliged to love one another, and it is this mutual love that becomes the sign to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples.
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Thomas O’Loughlin

Homily notes

1. Some words keep corning up in Eastertime: ‘new life,’ ‘new creation,’ ‘renewal,’ ‘new birth,’ ‘baptism,’ ‘being a baptised people,’ and you could add many more to the list. However, these words all suffer a burn-out in meaning for people. Baptism is just a fancy name for a christening which is just a party after a new baby – and even those who are regular church-goers will have been to many such family events where they know that christening is an event and that’s the end of it. As for ‘new’ and ‘renewal’, these words belong to the stock and trade of advertising. The effect of this exhaus­tion of meaning within words is that some of our most basic beliefs about the life that the Christ shares with us become, when expressed in phrases like ‘he gives us new life’, sounds that are indistinguishable from trite cliches.

2. So can meaning be restored? The two great means of restor­ing religious symbols – and words are just one kind of sym­bol – are (1) re-inventing rituals which capture the imagin­ation anew, and (2) reflection which brings those symbols into new alignments within our minds (so baptism is not linked to a private family occasion nor new life with some­one offering a ‘lifestyle makeover’).

3. If the theme of new creation, new life through baptism is to be explored and given back its ‘saltiness’ then the homily and the rest of the ritual need to gel together. So make more of the sprinkling with water at the beginning that involves move­ment and action and touch by all concerned: effective ritual always needs at least these components if it is to be affective.

4. At the homily time ask people to reflect with those near them what saying ‘we are a new creation’ means to them? Does it have implications for how we treat one another? Does it mean replacing the instinct for vengeance with that of forgiveness? Does it have any implications for how responsible we must be with the earth’s resources and care of the envir­onment?

Such questions touch some of our most deeply held be­liefs in contemporary western societies – areas of belief where often we do not want the light of Christ to penetrate lest it cause us discomfort. But it is only in discomfort that the basic symbols of our faith can be renovated from flippant phrases into life-giving words.

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Prayer Reflections

“The tyrant dies and his rule ends. The martyr dies and his rule begins.”  Kirkegaard
Lord, we thank you for the great martyrs of our time,
Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Archbishop Romero.
Those who put them to death have long been forgotten,
gone like Judas into the night,
but they have been glorified and you have been glorified in them.

Lord, there was a time when we struggled with some sin for several years,
lust, jealousy, racial prejudice, the inability to forgive.
Then one day we knew that this Judas had gone and left us,
that we had been victorious or rather that you had been victorious in us,
and like Jesus we knew that even if we face  a great crisis,
you will be with us and soon bring us to safety with you.

Lord, forgive us that as a Church community we make compromises
in order to please powerful people, fearing that otherwise they may harm us.
Teach us that sooner or later Judas goes away
and if our trust has been in our fidelity to your teaching,
you will be glorified in us and you will glorify us in yourself.

Lord, all of us who have charge of young people,
as parents, teachers, youth leaders or spiritual guides,
help us not to be possessive as Peter was with Jesus,
wondering why we cannot accompany them in all their crises,
and looking for them even though they tell us clearly
that where they are going we cannot come.

Lord, there comes a time in life for each of us, as it did for Jesus,
when we have to make a decisions alone:
• to marry;
• to enter religious life or the seminary;
• to run for public office;
• to accept terminal illness.
Often before, we have had to distance ourselves from those who did not love us.
Now we say to those dearest to us
that where we are going they cannot come.

Lord, we thank you for the time that we experienced selfless love for someone,
for one of our parents, a friend, a leader in our community.
At that moment it was as if we had understood love for the first time;
we had received a new commandment to love others as we had been loved.

Lord, there is a history of love in the world,
so that when we see people who are able to reach out to one another,
we know that they have experienced love themselves.

Non-violence is the greatest and most active force in the world.”  Gandhi
Lord, when people love unconditionally, as Jesus did,
everyone knows that your disciples are at work in the world. 

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Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Do you remember the tale of the dreadful accident on the battleship USS Iowa. It occurred in the spring of 1989. Forty seven young men were killed in a still unexplained explosion in a gun turret. There is much tragedy in the sad story. But also one can find strong threads of glory. The storyteller reminds us the glory belongs, paradoxically perhaps, not to the survivors but to the casualties. The heroes were not the men who may have kept the battleship afloat after the accident. Rather, the heroes were the sailors who died.

They shall ever be numbered among the Navy's honored dead. Writes the poet, "They shall not grow old...At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them."

As it was for these young men, so it was for Jesus. So can it be for you and me if of course we have spiritual courage and discipline.

Today's Gospel takes us back to the Last Supper. We listen to the opening strains of the Teacher's last talk with His closest followers.

If you listen even with your hearing aid turned down to low, you will detect no anxiety and no fears in the Christ. Clearly He is not running scared. This is remarkable. Remember He knows of the impending betrayal of one of His own. He sees His fast approaching crucifixion with its dreadful pain. The Teacher is circled in majesty. He is the original Mr Cool. He does not require blood pressure pills. This is not a prisoner sitting in a death cell ready to eat the traditional last meal. Rather, He is a King hosting a sumptuous victory banquet.

Let me support my statement with irrefutable proof. In the opening two sentences of today's Gospel, you will find the word glory mentioned an extraordinary five times. Does this sound like a Man who feels He is a loser? Quite the contrary! You would not be surprised to discover this Host pouring aged Napoleon brandy in Baccarat snifters for each of the apostles. Then He would pass around a box of the finest Havanas. No doubt, He would say, "Take a second one for the celebration  Sunday." One scholar sums up the situation succinctly. In John's Gospel, the passion, death, and resurrection of the Teacher are not told as distinct tales. Rather, they are part and parcel of one large story. And the thought that runs throughout the narration is supreme glory.

The greatest glory in life, says William Barclay, is glory which comes from sacrifice. Following long-standing traditions, the crew members of the USS Iowa will come together for regular reunions. Their first toast will not be to the survivors but always to the fallen forty seven. Whenever we Catholics and Christians come together as today, we salute not the apostles who survived that Good Friday but our Leader who sacrificed Himself for us.

John argues today that the more one puts out, the more one will receive in turn. Thus, the generous giver happily finds himself the subject of Bunyan's riddle, "The more he threw away, the more he had."

For example, who was the hero of Charles Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities? The beautiful Lucie Manette or Sydney Carton who allowed himself to be guillotined to insure that she might live a life of bliss? Most would answer Mr Carton.

Thus, if you and I can somehow break out of the confining envelope of our own selfishness, if we stop hoarding our time, money, and energy, the bigger will the payoff be for our own Christian selves.

If we take this Gospel message with the seriousness that John intended, we might well become different men and women.

When you grow weary, bring to mind the tested advice of William Ward.  "When we are unable, God is able.  When we are insufficient, God is sufficient. When we are filled with fear, God is always near."

Reflect daily on the dictum which advises Christianity is not just Christ in you but Christ living His life through you. It goes on to say our love for Christ should be faith with working clothes on, So, we must tell everyone about Someone who can save anyone.

Your sacrifices will someday bring you much glory. That is both the teaching of history as well as a chief principle in life.

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ACP:

Overcoming Discouragement

“We have all to experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God.” This was the warning of Paul and Barnabas to the people of Antioch. Yet, we are told earlier on that the two apostles were filled with joy when they were driven out of Antioch (Acts 13:52). If you read the first book in the New Testament to be set down in writing, St Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians – written, by the way, at least twelve years before Mark’s gospel, and close on twenty years before the Acts – you will find Paul warning his Christian followers in Thessalonika about the difficulties that lie ahead. “Affliction is bound to come our way,” he warns, “we must expect to have troubles to bear” (1 Thess 3:3f). Indeed, Paul himself was to become the persecuted confessor of Christ – a “vessel of election,” that is elected, or called, to suffer, and so bear witness, in his own life, to the sufferings of Christ.

The apostles did not want their listeners to dwell on this theme of suffering in any kind of morbid way. Their purpose, at all times, was to put fresh heart into the disciples, to encourage them to persevere in the faith, just as Paul urged the Thessalonians to comfort one another, to sustain each other’s hopes of the eternal vision of God. “All things work together unto good, for those who love God,” were his words of consolation, later on, to the Christians in Rome (8:28). We can always be certain that our God is the God of love, and God himself tells us, in today’s gospel reading, to allow this love to give direction and shape to our lives. Indeed every single chapter in the New Testament carries a special message from him to us; and ever so often it is similar to that contained in the words of Christ to his Apostles at the Last Supper; “Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me” (Jn 14:1).

We see this exemplified  in the encounter of the risen Christ with the two disciples, weighed down with gloom and despondency, while walking to Emmaus, on that first Easter Sunday. “Their eyes, as yet, were kept from recognising him,” we are told. When questioned as to what they were discussing between themselves, and why they were so downhearted, they endeavoured to explain their grief by giving an account of the tragic things that had taken place in Jerusalem, during the previous days. But their companion’s amazing response to all this was by way of a simple question. “What things?,” he asked them. It is difficult for us to begin to understand this kind of innocence on the part of Christ. It belongs to the mystery of what the French dramatist, poet, and diplomat, Paul Claudel, called “the eternal childhood of God.” For that brief question, “What things?,” conveys the impression that so perfectly has Christ passed into the freedom, and joy, and glory of his Father, that he scarcely remembers the cruel and terrible journey he had travelled in arriving there. There are no dark clouds on God’s horizon, nor any sorrowful memories weighing upon the mind of God.

The disciples at Emmaus were led gradually to make an act of faith in the risen Christ. While he remained visually present to them they had failed to recognise him. When the moment of recognition did come, St Luke says that “he had already vanished from their sight.” In other words, it was not by the sight of their eyes, but rather by the response of their hearts that Christ made himself known to them. “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road,” the disciples said in retrospect. When the true follower of Christ comes to celebrate the Eucharist, his/her primary purpose should not be to complain, or even to ask for graces, but rather to give heartfelt thanks to God.

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Stories/Illustrations:

1. High School Music Band: 

A junior high music teacher had just organized a band in her school. The principal was so proud of the music teacher's efforts that without consulting her he decided that the band should give a concert for the entire school. The music teacher wasn't so sure her young musicians were ready to give a concert, so she tried to talk the principal out of holding the concert, to no avail. Just before the concert was ready to begin, as the music teacher stood on the podium, she leaned forward and whispered to her nervous musicians, "If you're not sure of your part, just pretend to play." And with that, she stepped back, lifted her baton and with a great flourish brought it down. Lo and behold, nothing happened! The band brought forth a resounding silence.

Sometimes we in the church are like that junior high band, unsure of our parts, tentative in our roles, reluctant to trumpet forth the music of faith that God desires of us. And that's because we have trouble deciding what's most important.  

Most of the choices we make in life are not between what is trivial and what is important. Rather, most of the choices we make are usually between what is important and what is more important. This morning's Gospel reading is so timely for us because it shows us what is most important.
As we gather in worship today we affirm that the greatest blessing that God has given us is God's love for us -- God's love that forgives us our sins and makes us children of God; God's love that brings us together into a fellowship with one another. 
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 2. Terms of Service

It is the key you click before you can do anything. It is the box you check before you can go anywhere. You know what it is. It's a "Terms of Service."  

You are online and you sign on to some website that has the information or product you've been searching for. But before you are granted access to that portal you must endure the "Terms of Service" claimer/disclaimer.  

The "term of service" barrier is the twenty-first century version of the cherubim with flailing; flaming swords set up to guard the Garden of Eden. You are SO not getting anywhere without first "agreeing" to the terms of "service" stipulated by the site you are visiting. Even when all you want to do is access some information or establish an account, there is always the underlying, nagging feeling that by checking on the "I agree" tab you have somehow sold off a piece of your soul.

"Terms of Service" contracts require current or potential customers to agree to a series of requirements, or "terms," before they will be granted full access to use of the site. Steeped in dark, deep "legalese," it is probably safe to say that virtually no one knows exactly what they are "agreeing" to when they impatiently hit the "agree" option on their keyboard. Is there anyone here this morning who has actually read every line of one of these "terms of service?"

What is obvious to all of us, however, is that these "Terms of Service" contracts are actually a corporate safety net for "terms of Dis-service." The concern and concentration is not on how the consumer can be provided for, but on how the business can be protected. These "terms of dis-service" offer an extensive list of what does NOT apply, what they WON'T do, and what actions you CANNOT take. Any personal information you need to provide is now "theirs" and you no longer have any control over it. That is their "service." One wit has recently argued that one you are agreeing to when you click the "I Agree" box is in fact not "Terms of Service" but "Terms of Servitude."

It is what it is. It is how a digital age turns. Either we "agree" or we find ourselves forever cut off from the information highway. So we page down to the bottom and "agree."

But these "Terms of Service" have forever changed our personal understanding of the concept of "terms of service." "Service" has become a commodity that is concerned only with the bottom line. "Service" is about maximizing profit, not serving. "Terms of service" is a safety net - an insulator - against personal exposure. 

Proof how confused we are what service means? Let me just name some names: Internal Revenue Service, Postal Service, Telephone Service, Cable TV Service, Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) Service. Ever been to a Customer Service that offered service?  

In our "terms of service" world, "service" and "sacrifice" have no common ground. Any wonder our world cannot fathom the concept that "service" is a word best tied to love and shored up by grace?

The "terms of service" that Jesus taught and practiced had only one "term," not terms. And that one term of service was love. 
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3. How Do You Know My Name? 

I've always loved the little story about the boy who's trying to learn the Lord's Prayer, and one night as he knelt by his bed, these words came out:
Our Father, who are in heaven how do you know my name?

Such individualized affection will always remain a mystery to us mortals, and at the same time, let us never forget we're made in the image of that extraordinary love. And doing what Jesus did in loving each one he ever met as if there were none other in all the world is at least an ideal toward which we can reach even if it always remains utterly beyond our complete grasp.

John R. Claypool, Loving as Jesus Loved
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4. Closer to Christ 

God never intended God's boundaries to be less than the whole world. Therefore, none of us have a monopoly on God's love. We may feel like we do when we look down on someone different than we are, or when we snicker at someone's misfortune, or when we say, "Thank you, Lord, that I am not like them," or when we say, "It's too bad they do not believe as we believe." But woe be unto us whenever we reek of such arrogance! For when we try to restrict God's grace to ourselves, we cut ourselves off from that very grace. Why? Pierre Teilhard de Chardin may have said it best, "It is impossible to love Christ without loving others, and it is impossible to love others without moving nearer to Christ." 

John K. Bergland, Love without Limits, One Heaven of a Party:
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5. Remember You Are Brothers 

I am the eldest of three very strong­-willed boys. When I was growing up we had all of the fights and arguments you can imagine of rambunctious boys. Sometimes our disagreements would get so intense we would go to mother to have our righteous indignation ratified. She would often say to us, "You boys go back and resolve it, but remember you are brothers." "But Mom," we would reply, "he took my ball; he said I was a liar." "Mom, he broke the rules." But all she would say was, "You boys go back and resolve it and, remember, you are brothers." It was eventually clear that what was most important to Mother was that we behave, in such a way that demonstrated our bond as brothers. This was even more important to her than our resolution (which she also expected).

I think this is what God says to the church. "I know you have differences, but you must struggle to resolve them as brothers and sisters. This is what I expect of you because you are my children."

Jesus said it this way in the Gospel of John: "By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" [John 13:35].

Nathan D. Baxter, What a Christian Community Can Offer a Polarized Society
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6. A Sympathetic Gesture 

Edgar Guest, a renowned American poet at the turn of the century, tells of a neighbor by the name of Jim Potter. Mr. Potter ran the drug store in the small town where Edgar Guest lived. Guest recalled that daily he would pass his neighbor and how they would smile and exchange greetings. But it was a mere casual relationship. 

Then came that tragic night in the life of Edgar Guest when his first born child died. He felt lonely and defeated. These were grim days for him and he was overcome with grief. Several days later Guest had reason to go to the drug store run by his neighbor, and when he entered Jim Potter motioned for him to come behind the counter. "Eddie," he said, "I really can't express to you the great sympathy that I have for you at this time. All I can say is that I am terribly sorry, and if you need for me to do anything, you can count on me." 

Many years later Edgar Guest wrote of that encounter in one of his books. This is how he worded it: "Just a person across the way--a passing acquaintance. Jim Potter may have long since forgotten that moment when he extended his hand to me in sympathy, but I shall never forget it--never in all my life. To me it stands out like the silhouette of a lonely tree against a crimson sunset."

[Suggestion for follow-up on this story]

I have wondered how it is that I want people to remember me when I come to end of life's journey.

[name some accomplishments followed by]
 
But I really don't care if someone remembers me for that. I really don't.

I do hope that people are able to say of me at the end of my life's pilgrimage: When we were sick he came to us; when we needed help, he was there; when I was down, he lifted me up. In short, I hope that my ministry is remembered for simple acts of kindness. For if that is the case, then my life would have been worth it and I might have come close to fulfilling the greatest commandment in life: Love God and love your neighbor. 

Brett Blair and Staff, www.Sermons.com
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7. Didn't Look Like an Elephant 

There is a story about a man who had a huge boulder in his front yard. He grew weary of this big, unattractive stone in the center of his lawn, so he decided to take advantage of it and turn it into an object of art. He went to work on it with hammer and chisel, and chipped away at the huge boulder until it became a beautiful stone elephant. When he finished, it was gorgeous, breath-taking.

A neighbor asked, "How did you ever carve such a marvelous likeness of an elephant?"

The man answered, "I just chipped away everything that didn't look like an elephant!"

 If you have anything in your life right now that doesn't look like love, then, with the help of God, chip it away! If you have anything in your life that doesn't look like compassion or mercy or empathy, then, with the help of God, chip it away! If you have hatred or prejudice or vengeance or envy in your heart, for God's sake, and the for the other person's sake, and for your sake, get rid of it! Let God chip everything out of your life that doesn't look like tender-hearted-ness.

James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True
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 8. A Lie 

Now I want to tell you a lie. Hate is an emotion we can't help. Hate is a feeling we cannot overcome. If we hate someone, it is because we just can't help ourselves. We're human. We have no choice but to hate. That is a lie. Unfortunately, it is a lie many people believe. They believe this lie in order to excuse their hatred. After all, if we can't help but hate, if hate is a feeling we simply cannot help, then hatred is never our fault, is it?  

But we can help it. Hatred is a choice. We choose to hate, just as we choose to love. Oh, I know, there are people out there who believe love isn't a choice, that love is primarily an emotion, a feeling, a stirring in the loins. These are the same people who stay married for six months, then divorce. These are the people who love the idea of love but seem unable to stay in it. Love is a matter of the will - something we decide to do. Love is a choice. 

Philip Gulley, For Everything a Season, Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, p. 204
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 9. We are judged by our actions, not our intentions. We may have a heart of gold, but then, so does a hard-boiled egg. (Traditional)
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10. A Great Inheritance: A Child of God 

Craddock has been a great preacher his whole life and has a ton of integrity. Plus, I heard him tell the story almost exactly as it is told below. So, who you gonna believe? If any of you reformedanglican readers have info on this story as urban legend or as an actual Craddock story, please let me know?

"A seminary professor was vacationing with his wife in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One morning they were eating breakfast in a little restaurant, hoping to enjoy a quiet, family meal. While waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. The professor leaned over and whispered to his wife, "I hope he doesn't come over here." But sure enough, the man came over to their table."Where are you folks from?" he asked in a friendly voice."Oklahoma," they answered."Great to have you here in Tennessee," the stranger said. "What do you do for a living?""I teach at a seminary," he replied."Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you?  

Well, I've got a really good story for you." And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down.The professor groaned and thought to himself, "Great. Just what I need -- another preacher story!"The man started, "See that mountain over there?" He pointed out the restaurant window. "Not far from the base of that mountain, there was a boy born to an unwed mother. He had a hard time growing up because every place he went, he was always asked the same question: 'Hey, boy, who's your daddy?' Whether he was at school, in the grocery store or drug store, people would ask the same question: 'Who's your daddy?' He would hide at recess and lunch time from other students. He would avoid going into stores because that question hurt him so bad. When he was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to his church. He would always go in late and slip out early to avoid hearing the question, 'Who's your daddy?' But one day, the new preacher said the benediction so fast, he got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. Just about the time he got to the back door, the new preacher, not knowing anything about him, put his hand on his shoulder and asked him, 'Son, who's your daddy?' The whole church got deathly quiet. He could feel every eye in the church looking at him. Now everyone would finally know the answer to the question, 'Who's your daddy?' The new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could give, said the following to the scared little boy: 'Wait a minute! I know who you are. I see the family resemblance now. You are a child of God.' With that, he patted the boy on his shoulder and said, 'Boy, you've got a great inheritance -- go and claim it. 'With that, the boy smiled for the first time in a long time and walked out the door a changed person. He was never the same again. Whenever anybody asked him, 'Who's your daddy?' he'd just tell them, 'I'm a child of God.' The distinguished gentleman got up from the table and said, "Isn't that a great story?" The professor responded that it really was a great story. As the man turned to leave, he said, "You know, if that new preacher hadn't told me that I was one of God's children, I probably would never have amounted to anything!" And he walked away. The seminary professor and his wife were stunned. He called the waitress over and asked, "Do you know that man who was just sitting at our table?" The waitress grinned and said, "Of course. Everybody here knows him. That's Ben Hooper. He's the former governor of Tennessee!"
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11. Baby girl locked up in a car 

An incident a couple of summers ago in San Antonio, Texas, illustrates what I'm talking about. It was a hot, 99-degree August day when a ten-month-old baby girl was accidentally locked in a parked car by her aunt. Frantically the mother and the aunt ran around the car in near hysteria, while a neighbor attempted to unlock the car with a clothes hanger. The infant was bawling at the top of its lungs, beginning to turn purple and foam from the mouth, a combination of anxiety and the intense heat inside the car. It had quickly become a life-and-death situation when Fred Arriola, a tow-truck driver, arrived on the scene. He grabbed a hammer from his truck and smashed the back side window of the car to free the baby. Was he heralded a hero? Not so. According to an article in the San Antonio Tribune, he is quoted as saying, "The lady was mad at me because I broke the window. I just thought, 'What's more important – a baby or a window?' "
 
From Father Tony Kadavil’s Stable: 

1) The renowned artist Paul Gustave Dore once lost his passport while traveling in Europe.

When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore hoped he would be recognized and allowed to pass. The guard, however, said that many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be persons they were not. Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. "All right," said the official, "we'll give you a test, and if you pass it we'll allow you to go through." Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch several peasants standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skillfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. His action confirmed his identity. In today’s gospel Jesus gives us the mark of Christian identity: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-5).Love is the Christian identity. Love is the Christian uniform. Love is the Christian habit. If you are wearing the habit of love, you are in. If you are not wearing love as a habit, you are out. (Fr. Essau) . Let us remember the words of Shakespeare in Measure for Measure, "Cucullus non facit monachum (the hood does not make a monk).” A Christian name or a cross on a chain will not make us Christians unless we practice Jesus’ new commandment of love given in today’s gospel. 

2) "Wow! I would like to be that kind of brother.”  

In the lovely book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, there's a story about a man who came out of his office one Christmas morning and found a little boy from a nearby project looking with great admiration at the man’s new vehicle. The little boy asked, "Does this car belong to you?" And the man said, "Yes, in fact my brother gave it to me for Christmas. I've just gotten it." With that, the little boy's eyes widened. He said, "You mean to say that somebody gave it to you? And you didn't have to pay anything for it?" And the man said, "That's right. My brother gave it to me as a gift." With that the little boy let out a long sigh and said, "Boy, I would really like..." And the man fully expected the boy to say, "I would like to have a brother like that, who would give me such a beautiful car," but instead the man was amazed when the little boy said, "Wow! I would like to be that kind of brother. I wish I could give that kind of car to my little brother." Somehow that child understood the secret of the “new commandment” of love, which Jesus gave to his apostles during his last discourse, as described in today’s gospel: “Love one another as I have loved you.” True love consists, not in "getting" something from the lover, but in "giving" something to the loved one. The most familiar example of this type of love is a mother’s love for her child. 

3) “Little children love one another:”  

St. Jerome relates of the apostle John that when he became old he used to be carried to the churches and assemblies, everywhere repeating the words, “Little children, love one another.” His disciples, wearied by the constant repetition, asked him why he always said this. “Because,” he replied, “it is the Lord’s commandment, and if it only be fulfilled, it is enough.” John knew that the greatest truth was most apt to be forgotten because it was taken for granted. This is one of the greatest calamities in the Christian Church and the one that causes divisions.  

4) The bomber and the victim:  

Two World War II veterans, a German and an American, were attending a three-day seminar. As they were washing dishes one evening after dinner they exchanged stories about the war. The American told of the horror he felt as a young pilot during the particularly savage bombing of a city in Germany. He had orders to bomb a hospital, which he would know by the huge Red Cross painted on the roof. The German -- somewhat shocked by the story -- revealed that his wife had been giving birth to their baby in that very hospital when it was being bombed, resulting in the death of the mother and the baby. After a few minutes of silence the two men fell into each other’s arms weeping. Imagine being in heaven, at the end of the world, where we fall weeping upon one another, waves of reconciliation breaking upon us as we adjust ourselves to this dimension of pure love which Jesus demands from his followers in today’s gospel passage.  

5) One Sunday a priest was finishing up a series on marriage. At the end of the service he was giving out small wooden crosses to each married couple. He said, "Place this cross in the room in which you fight the most and you will be reminded of Jesus’ new commandment and you won’t argue as much." One woman came up after the service and said: “You’d better give me five crosses.”

6) Catherine Lawes who transformed a notorious prison with love:  In 1921, Lewis Lawes became the warden at Sing Sing Prison, No prison was tougher than Sing Sing during that time. But when Warden Lawes retired some 20 years later, that prison had become a humanitarian institution. Those who studied the system said credit for the change belonged to Lawes. But when he was asked about the transformation, here's what he said: "I owe it all to my wonderful wife, Catherine, who is buried outside the prison walls." Catherine Lawes was a young mother with three small children when her husband became the warden. Everybody warned her from the beginning that she should never set foot inside the prison walls, but that didn't stop Catherine! When the first prison basketball game was held, she went ... walking into the gym with her three beautiful kids, and she sat in the stands with the inmates. Her attitude was: "My husband and I are going to take care of these men and I believe they will take care of me! I don't have to worry." She insisted on getting acquainted with them and their records. She discovered one convicted murderer was blind so she paid him a visit. Holding his hand in hers she said, "Do you read Braille?" "What's Braille?" he asked. Then she taught him how to read. Years later he would weep in love for her. Later, Catherine found a deaf-mute in prison. She went to school to learn how to use sign language. Many said that Catherine Lawes was the body of Jesus that came alive again in Sing Sing from 1921 to 1937. Then, she was killed in a car accident. The next morning Lewis Lawes didn't come to work, so the acting warden took his place. It seemed almost instantly that the prison knew something was wrong. The following day, her body was resting in a casket in her home, three-quarters of a mile from the prison. As the acting warden took his early morning walk he was shocked to see a large crowd of the toughest, hardest-looking criminals gathered like a herd of animals at the main gate. He came closer and noted tears of grief and sadness. He knew how much they loved Catherine. He turned and faced the men, "All right, men, you can go. Just be sure and check in tonight!" Then he opened the gate and a parade of criminals walked, without a guard, the three-quarters of a mile to stand in line to pay their final respects to Catherine Lawes. And every one of them checked back in. Every one! They learned the commandment of love as practiced by Catherine. [Stories for the Heart compiled by Alice Gray (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1996), pp. 54-55.]