Easter 6 A - Homilies - Love and Communion in the Spirit


In the Footprints of Loneliness, the Servant of God Catherine DeHueck Doherty (d. 1985) wrote: 

Loneliness is a terrible thing, and we must do something about it.  It is here that tenderness, gentleness, and understanding helps us to live…  Gentleness and tenderness assuage loneliness and make it possible to disappear…Tenderness is the ability to be present, extending the warmth of my heart to your heart.

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Roald Amundsen, the great Norwegian explorer who discovered the South Pole took a homing pigeon with him on his trip. He told his wife that if he reached the end of the world, he would release the pigeon. His wife sat for hours, all alone in their big house looking up the sky for the promised pigeon. One day she looked out the bedroom window and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above. “He’s alive!” she cried, “My husband is alive!” (Munachi, cssp)
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A sailboat got caught in heavy seas. A rogue wave flipped the boat over. The heavy keel righted the boat, but there was heavy damage. A SOS brought the Coast Guard (CG). The seas were so rough the CG ship could not rescue the crew. So, it placed itself as close as it could to the sailboat. The CG protected the sailboat from the brunt of the 10 foot waves. Finally they made port.  

 The Holy Spirit plays the same relation to us. He takes the brunt of our troubles. He not only lives inside us but also He walks beside us. He brings us into port. (Unknown)

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He begins by making the statement; If you love me, you will keep my commandments.? Jesus teaches us to view commandments in a new way, that was different than how the first followers had been taught by the Pharisee Commandments are not merely a list of behaviors to be followed or avoided out of duty. Commandments are to be lived as an act of love. If we love someone we do what pleases them. This love moves us to do things we might not want to do, and even things that we might see as being difficult or a sacrifice. Jesus calls us to look at the commandments through the prism of love and to live them out of our love for God. (Killian Lock, OSB) 

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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration 

We gather to celebrate in the presence of the risen Lord. We are called to be the people who bear witness to his victory over death. We are the people who proclaim the Father’s forgiveness to the ends of the earth by being people who are forgiving.

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Michel de Verteuil
General comments 

Like last Sunday’s passage, this reading will seem abstract to you at first, but situate it in the context of the Last Supper and you will recognize the movement of Jesus’ thought from your own experience and from the lives of great people you have known or read about. As always, it may be helpful to divide the passage and meditate on one section at a time.
       Verses 15 to 17: Jesus makes a difference between the way he has been present to the disciples until then and the way he will be present to them after he leaves them. Read it from the point of view of a teacher or a parent who must leave children, or from your memories of any teaching that was outside yourself and then became part of you.
       Verses 18 and 19: The same movement expressed in a new metaphor – being orphaned and then realizing that we are not lost after all.
       Verse 20: This is a precious verse. It describes the moment when we read the story of Jesus in the gospels and discover that it is not the story of someone outside ourselves, but our own story, and that therefore our stories are really sacred. Great teachers can promise their followers that one day they will experience something similar.
       Verse 21: Jesus describes the process of getting to know him, starting from a different point – the person follows his teaching and then enters into a deep relationship with him. 

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Prayer Reflection 

Lord, we thank you that you have called us to be leaders in our community.
       At present things are going well:
       there is trust among us, we share many things, and we are working together.
       But we know that this will not last forever,
       and so we pray that the values we have grown to believe in may become part of us,
       so that even though the majority of people around us do not accept them,
       we may continue to live by them,
       and even though outwardly we will no longer be a community,
       we may remain one because of that inner bond that unites us. 

Lord, from time to time you send us a wonderful person
       who guides and inspires us;
       when they die or leave us we feel orphaned.

       But then we discover that they are still with us.
       Others – even our friends – cannot understand this,
       but we know that this person is alive,
       and we know that our lives are fuller because of this.

Lord, forgive us that we always want to see things:
       – we have become so dependent on external stimuli;
       – we must be listening to the radio or watching the television;
       – we need to hear sermons or read spiritual books.

       Teach us to quieten ourselves so that we may listen to our inner rhythms:
       – the memories we have, both painful and happy;
       – the deep longings of our hearts;
       – the instincts of our nature.
       Remind us that Jesus prayed for us
       that you would make your presence known to us within the truth of ourselves. 

Lord, we thank you for those wonderful moments of grace
       when we knew that our lives were sacred.
       We had read the story of Jesus, but it was the story of someone else
       – the story of the saints, of extraordinary people.
       Now we experienced that we too are living Jesus lives,
       and we are your presence in the world. 

Lord, we thank you for people we have known who are not Christians
       but who love the teachings of Jesus and keep them.
       We know, Father, that you love them as we love them,
       and we pray that you may continue to show yourself to them. 

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REFLECTIONS:

1.     Connections: 

THE WORD: 

In legal terminology, an advocate defends the accused on trial.  For John, Christ is the first “Advocate,” who comes to liberate humanity from the slavery of sin.  The second “Advocate,” promised by Jesus in today’s Gospel, is the Spirit of truth, the Church’s living, creative memory in which the mystery of God’s love, revealed by and in Christ, lives for all time.

HOMILY POINTS: 

The Spirit of truth, “whom the world cannot accept,” illuminates our vision and opens our hearts to discern the will and wisdom of God.  The Spirit/Paraclete “advocates for what is good, what is right and what is just, despite our scepticism, rejection and blindness to the things of God. 

The Risen Christ challenges us, in the gift of the “Spirit of truth,” not to approach truth in terms of profit, power, comfort or convention, but to embrace the truth of God’s justice and compassion present in our world. 

Throughout his Gospel, the writer of John’s Gospel never allows love, as taught by Jesus, to remain at the level of sentiment or emotion.  Its expression is always highly moral and is revealed in obedience to the will of the Father.  To love as Jesus loved -- in total and selfless obedience, without conditions and without expectation of that love ever being returned -- is the difficult love that Jesus expects of those who claim to be his disciples. 

The Spirit of truth is the creative, living memory of the Church.  Through that “living memory,” the Church enters into the mystery of Christ himself.  Jesus -- the wise Rabbi, the compassionate Healer, the Friend of rich and poor and said and sinner, the obedient and Humble Servant of God -- is a living presence among us to give us hope, strength and light as we struggle to balance and direct our lives until he calls us to the new life of his Resurrection. 

2.     Andrew Greeley: 

Background:

John's Gospel obviously displays a much more developed theology then the three synoptic gospels. However, it was still written early in the so-called sub-apostolic time. The remarkable fact is not that there is a strong theological slant to it. Rather it is surprising how relatively early in the history of the early Church a strong Trinitarian perspective has emerged. The trajectory towards Nicea and the other early councils has already been set, thought he elaborate explanations have yet to appear. Associated with God even by the time of St. John are Jesus, and the Father, and the Paraclete, the advocate, the teacher, the protector, the guarantor of the peace that Jesus has given. Already we have hints that God is a community of relationships, that there is so much knowledge and love in God that the knowledge and love explode into distinct personages.   

This truth is revealed to test our faith, not to provide theologians with raw material for their speculations (though there is nothing wrong with that), but to dazzle us with the brightness of God's glory, the power of God's knowledge and the passion of God's love. The use of the word "spirit," a translation of the Hebrew word Shekenah hints at a maternal protection in God because the word is feminine in Hebrew - and was used in Hebrew folk religion as the name of Yahweh's consort. St. John had no thought of such matters, yet the gender of the noun might well be part of the meaning "in front of the text."

Story:

Once upon a time back in the last century there was a young woman from Ireland who had lost her parents and all her family. Some kind people wrote to their relatives in America and said we have this fourteen year old orphan here who is very bright and very pretty and very hard working, We don't want her to go to the orphanage because she won't have any opportunities there to develop her talents. Would you eve consider hiring her as a servant girl. You'd have to pay her way over on the boat, but she'll work for nothing until she earns her fare. You won't go wrong with her.  

 So the Americans who could afford a serving girl, but never had one and weren't altogether sure what they would do with such a person talked about it and said, well, what have to lose. So they sent the fare for the boat and the train. And waited for the young woman to come. She sailed from Kinsale.  

The last she saw of Ireland were the twin spires of the church as they faded into the background. Weeks later, sick and thin and exhausted, she arrived in the city where her master and mistress lived. They took one look at the poor child and said, Dear, we don't need a servant, but we have room for another daughter. When they brought her home the other children hugged her and said, hooray! We have another sister. With their help she grew up to go to college and university and become very successful and was a great credit to those who took her into their family. (The Trinity is a family into which God has invited us).

3.     Fr. David Vincent Meconi, sj 

We Are Never Alone 

Purpose: One of the great secrets of Christianity is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  We are the     new temples of God’s chosen people (1 Cor 3:16), we are the ones in whom God now literally dwells.  Because of this urgent need to tell contemporary society God is still with them and given the readings today, I will preach on (1) the communicative indwelling of   the Holy Spirit, (2) examples of Christian community over and against secular loneliness, and (3)the Eucharist as the actual place to get up and go to when feeling a greater need for personal intimacy. 

In his now famed interview with Antonio Spadaro, S.J., Pope Francis responded on why he originally became a Jesuit in terms of community.  From his youth he always knew he was the kind of person that drew life from being around other people and he was not going to live his pontificate in seclusion away from others.  He therefore has chosen to live in an apartment in the Casa Santa Marta instead of the customary papal apartment in Vatican City’s Apostolic Palace: 

And then a thing that is really important for me: community. I was always looking for a community. I did not see myself as a priest on my own. I need a community. And you can tell this by the fact that I am here in Santa Marta… because when I took possession of the papal apartment, inside myself I distinctly heard a ‘no.’ The papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace is not luxurious. It is old, tastefully decorated and large, but not luxurious. But in the end it is like an inverted funnel. It is big and spacious, but the entrance is really tight. People can come only in dribs and drabs, and I cannot live without people. I need to live my life with others. 

Today’s readings provide the scriptural warrant for such a move.  The baptized are never alone and if we would just foster the kind of interiority the Church’s saints show us, we too would be more at ease with the Holy Spirit’s promptings within us.  I like this anecdote from Francis’ first day on the job because it shows that the Pope does in fact commune with God and is a man who is so in touch with the divine, he can abandon himself to the movements of the Holy Spirit within him.  All of us are offered the same intimate grace, the same new life in the Spirit.

Commenting on the Lord’s Prayer, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that:

When we pray to the Father, we are in communion with him and with his Son, Jesus Christ. Then we know and recognize him with an ever new sense of wonder. The first phrase of the Our Father is a blessing of adoration before it is a supplication. For it is the glory of God that we should recognize him as “Father,” the true God. We give him thanks for having revealed his name to us, for the gift of believing in it, and for the indwelling of his Presence in us (CCC §2781). 

This indwelling effects sanctifying grace within the souls of God’s sons and daughters.  This is the beginning of the beatified life and a foretaste of eternity.  We need not wait to get to heaven to commune personally and effectively with God (again, as we stressed last week, Christ is not only our home but our way as well). Or as the great Jesuit catechist, Fr. John Hardon, expressed this:

The immediate effect of the divine indwelling is sanctifying grace, which is the created result of the uncreated grace of God’s presence. Its effect on the person is an experience that spiritual writers compare to a foretaste of the beatific vision; the mind is able to understand something of the mystery of God and the will is enamored of his goodness beyond anything possible by the light of reason or the natural affective powers of humans (Fr. John Hardon, S.J., Modern Catholic Dictionary). 

That is why Acts today stresses the concord and unity of the Christian life and why the Gospel emphasizes how God dwells and in fact remains in us if we only stay open to his presence.  This is a key theme on which to preach, the communal nature of Christianity.  Today so many people fight loneliness and the temptation to doubt whether they matter in the eyes of another or not. While loneliness is a perennial threat to every child of Adam, it seems that today’s fast-paced and very mobile societies have heightened each person’s sense of alienation and wondering where he or she belongs.  Reflecting on Mary’s pilgrimage in her loving Father’s plan, Caryll Houselander once wrote: 

Emptiness is a very common complaint in our days, not the purposeful emptiness of the virginal heart and mind but a void, meaningless, unhappy condition.  Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures, doubts, anxieties and fears; and these sometimes further overlaid with exhausting pleasures which are an attempt, and always a futile attempt, to forget how pointless such people’s lives are.  Those who complain in these circumstances of the emptiness of their lives are usually afraid to allow space or silence or pause in their lives…  They have no sense of being related to any abiding beauty, to any indestructible life: they are afraid to be alone with their unrelated hearts (Reed of God). 

Pope Francis refused to surround himself with diversion and any appearance of aloofness, so he sought out community and the riskiness of relationship. 

Similarly, in her highly-recommended collection of writings, In the Footprints of Loneliness, the Servant of God Catherine DeHueck Doherty (d. 1985) saw this and wrote how: 

Loneliness is a terrible thing, and we must do something about it.  It is here that tenderness, gentleness, and understanding helps us to live…  Gentleness and tenderness assuage loneliness and make it possible to disappear…Tenderness is the ability to be present, extending the warmth of my heart to your heart. 

We will never be released from so much of our self-imposed alienation if we do not foster a spirit of presence and tenderness toward the other.  To do that we must turn off our cell phones and computers and foster intentional silence and tender attentiveness toward one another.

To show us that we would never be left orphans, on the night before he died God himself transferred his divine presence into otherwise normal appearing bread and wine.  The God made flesh knew he had to keep his flesh with us in order to be personally and visibly present to those who would come in the flesh after him.  For this Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist and this is primarily the way he keeps his promise never to abandon us.  The world might not understand this but we who are given the gift of faith see, hear and receive Christ here.  What a greater way to hear the Spirit of God than before the Son of God in the silence of a chapel or in the beauty of Eucharistic Adoration?  Foster these practices in your preaching this day, of making a visit and making time for weekly or monthly adoration.

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4.     B. Thomas 

I. OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST AS THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF LOVE TO HIM. "If ye love me," etc. Where there is love to Christ, there is scarcely any need of a command to obey him; but it will follow as the stream from the fountain, or light and heat from the sun. Where there is love to Christ:  

1. There is a recognition of his Divine authority. Where there is no authority, there is neither right nor power to command. There may be commands, but they are weak and powerless. Love to Christ recognizes his personal and administrative authority - his authority over the heart, the will, the intellect, the conscience, and over all the physical and spiritual nature. His kingship is freely owned by love.  

2. There is a recognition of a close and essential connection between him and his commandments. The king is in his laws. Christ is really in his commandments; they are expressions of his will; they are his will, spoken or written; they are parts of himself; they are, in fact, he himself acting upon and addressing man's moral nature.  

3. This recognition is ever practical. "If ye love me, ye will keep," etc. Genuine love ever manifests itself in genuine and practical forms. It does not begin and end in mere sentiment, in good wishes, in sighs and tears, but is essentially practical, and practical in the most pleasing way to its object, in the way requested. "Ye will keep," etc. Filial love ever manifests itself in filial obedience. 

4. This recognition is most thorough and comprehensive. "Ye will keep my commandments." Not some of them, but all. The obedience is commensurate with the Master's expressed will. Love is very careful to keep whatsoever is commanded, however apparently small and insignificant. It keeps a sharp look-out whether a command bears the Divine signature and the seal of Divine authority. It seeks not its own way of obedience, but is thoroughly satisfied with the one prescribed by the great Law giver. "What wilt thou have me to do?" is ever the question of love to the Master.

5. This recognition is devotional. "My commandments." They are kept from love to him, from respect for his authority, from sympathy with his nature and character - kept because they are the recognized expressions of his will. Some of them are positive, the reasons for which are not stated; but love will obey them simply because they are his, and obey them for his sake. Jesus is now physically absent, but is ever present in his commands. Love to him finds its manifestation in ready and willing obedience to these. Personally he is now above practical hatred or love, but in his expressed will he is still the Object of both. Love is loyal to him behind his back, and ever true to the absent Savior; to it his laws are "more to be desired than gold, and sweeter than honey." 

II. LOVE TO CHRIST AS THE NECESSARY BASIS OF OBEDIENCE TO HIM. "If ye love me," etc. As obedience is the essential consequence of love, so love is the essential basis of obedience. It is essential:  

1. To make obedience real. Obedience which does not proceed from genuine love to Christ has no reality in it; it is not the genuine offspring of the heart, the real act of the soul; it lacks the essential motive and inspiration of all Christian deeds. It is formal, mechanical, legal, and empty.  

2. To make obedience easy and delightful. Obedience not arising from love is forced, burdensome, and even painful - painful to the man himself and to others. Obedience which springs from fear, selfishness, legality, self-praise, or from mere custom, is insipid and wearisome; while the obedience of love is easy, natural, and pleasant. To such the words of our Lord are full of truth and significance: "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." The least duty, in the absence of love, is really heavy; while the heaviest, with it, is really light. Many have counted it joy to suffer, and even die, for Christ. They rejoiced in chains, and sang in flames. Theirs was the obedience of love, the offering of affection, and the tribute of a willing heart.  

3. To make it spiritually and personally valuable. There is no spiritual value in unloving obedience. It may be acceptable with men, and pass as a genuine coin in human markets, but it is a counterfeit in the spiritual and Divine. It may benefit society, but will not spiritually benefit the man himself; and however extensive, minute, and ostentatious its performance may be, it will not score in heaven. It is found wanting in the balance of God, and even in that of the enlightened conscience. "Though I speak with the tongues of men," etc. Love alone can impart spiritual value into obedience, and fill it with life and Divinity.  

III. LOVING OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST ENSURING THE DIVINEST BLESSINGS. "If ye love me," etc.; "And I will pray the Father," etc. It brings into the soul the richest blessings, and in its interest the mightiest spiritual agencies.  

1. The Holy Spirit.  

(1) The Holy Spirit as the Father's Gift to them. "And he shall give," etc. The Spirit is sometimes described as coming of himself, or sent by Christ, but here as the Gift of the Father. All these descriptions are true and highly significant, but not one of them more endearing and attractive than the Spirit as the Father's Gift to his obedient and loving disciples.  

(2) As his Gift to them in consequence of Christ's prayer. "I will pray the Father, and he shall give," etc. There is an inseparable connection between the Father's gifts and the Son's prayers. When the Son prays the Father gives, and gives because he prays and what he prays for. What an inestimable blessing to the disciples is the intercession of the object of their love!  

(3) As his additional Gift to them It is not that the Spirit is given instead of Christ, but is given in addition to him. It is another installment of Divine love. The Father gave the Son, and this, one would think, was as much as even infinite benevolence could afford to give. But this was only the beginning of his munificence. Here is "another," and there will be another and another still.  

2. The Holy Spirit in some of his special characteristics.  

(1) As a Comforter, an Advocate, or a Helper. It was some of the special functions of the Spirit to comfort, to intercede for and in, and help believers. And these were the special purposes of the precious Gift.  

(2) As the Spirit of truth. Its Source and Essence, its very Spirit, and the Revealer of truth to the soul. Christ was "the Truth," its incarnation and outward expression. The Holy Spirit is its inward Revealer, and who can reveal and communicate truth to the Spirit of man as well as the Spirit of Truth himself? 

(3) This was specially required by the disciples now, and required by disciples at all times; and one was already sick at the prospect of the Lord's departure. They would immediately and through life meet with inward and outward troubles, and they required consolation and help. They would, through ignorance and weakness, be exposed to errors and mistakes, and they required inward guidance and light; and these are promised. "He shall give you another Comforter, even the Spirit," etc. There is a most fascinating correspondence between the Father's Gift and the disciples' need.  

3. The Spirit as known to them, but not so to the world. On the part of the world there was a terrible inability to receive him - inability arising from spiritual blindness and agnosticism. The world only receives what it can see and handle. It walks by sight and sense, therefore cannot receive the "Spirit of truth." But it was not so with the disciples. The Spirit is promised to them: 

(1) As a present Acquaintance. "Ye know him; for he abideth," etc. Not a stranger is introduced to them, but one at least partially known. The Spirit was known to and actually with them in Christ and his teaching. They were prepared to receive him, not as the world.  

(2) In his closer fellowship. "And shall be in you." In the Person and life of Christ he was rather without them; but in his special advent he would be within them - in the heart, will, conscience, and reason.  

(3) In his permanent indwelling. "And shall be in you and with you for ever," as their ever-present Light, Help, and Comfort.

LESSONS. 

1. Love is the great law of Christ's kingdom. It is established on this. There is no compulsion, no carnal weapons; but he reigns through love, and he is the only King whose subjects, without an exception, love passionately.  

2. Loving obedience to him is most spiritually enriching. It insures the richest blessings and the most powerful spiritual agencies; for the prayers of Christ and the gifts of the Father are not made at random, but made to loving and obedient souls.  

3. The supreme importance of possessing love to Christ. Where this is present all besides will naturally and inevitably follow. "If ye love me," etc. - B.T. 

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ILLUSTRATIONS:

From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:
 
1: The Winners:  
Upon until 1987, only eleven horses had won the coveted Triple Crown in Thoroughbred racing. What is it that makes some horses winning thoroughbreds? Why is it that some horses have more speed, strength and stamina than other horses? Essentially, of course, these traits have to come from within the horses themselves: from their own inner capacity and from their inherited gene structure. Still, it seems that they also need help from outside. To become champions, they need the help of expert trainers and skilful jockeys to activate and develop their inner powers.  It is the same with us. Born human, we have within us capacities to love, learn, choose, work and so on. But we need the help of parents, teachers and friends to activate and develop these capacities so that we can reach our full human potential. That is why we need the Holy Spirit and why Jesus promised to send Him to us: “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete – to be with you always; to remain with you and be within you.” (Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds)’
2: A multimillion dollar airplane, running out of fuel:
In 1991 an Air Canada flight ran into big trouble. Passengers were enjoying an in-flight movie on the Boeing 767 when the jumbo jet's massive engines abruptly stopped. At first only those without earphones on noticed anything. However, soon it was apparent the jet was in trouble. The pilot came on the speaker system and announced that Flight 143 would be making an emergency landing in a nearby aerodrome.  The 69 people on board were trapped in an agonizingly slow but inescapable descent to earth. For several minutes a desperate silence hung over the cabin. Then fear gave way to screams of anxiety as the landing neared. All the latest technology could not keep the jumbo jet in the air. What had happened was this. The electronic digital fuel gauge was out of order. So the flight crew had depended on the figures given them by the refuelling crew before takeoff. But someone on the refuelling crew had confused pounds with kilograms. Therefore, eight hundred miles short of its destination, that mighty jet simply ran out of fuel and was forced to make an emergency landing. Fortunately no one was injured. A multimillion dollar airplane, headed in the right direction, but running out of fuel – that's what's happening to a lot of people today. They have everything in life going for them -- a new car, a wonderful home, a good education, and a good job -- and one day they wake up out of fuel. At the center of their lives there is emptiness. They don't know why they are living. There is nothing outside of themselves to live for. Don't let that happen to you. Jesus tells us that the power for successful living comes from God. It is the promised gift that Jesus offers us. "Peace be with you," he says. "My peace I give to you, not as the world gives you. Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me."
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One of the best newspaper cartoons of all time is Calvin and Hobbes. One day Calvin and Hobbes come marching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in her favorite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin's head is encased in a large space helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, down his back and is dragging on the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat. 

"What's up today?" asks his mom.
"Nothing, so far," answers Calvin.
"So far?" she questions.
"Well, you never know," Calvin says, "Something could happen today." Then Calvin marches off, "And if anything does, by golly, I'm going to be ready for it!" 

Calvin's mom looks out at the reading audience and she says, "I need a suit like that!" 

That's the way many of us feel as we see the news and deal with life. Sometimes this world seems quite violent and people seem to be at each other's throats. A suit like that would help, so we can say with Calvin, "Whatever may come my way, I'm going to be ready for it! Bring it on!" 

Well, I don't have a suit like Calvin's to give you this morning, but I do have word for this morning: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 

There is a defining phrase in that statement. One that tells us what kind of peace it is that Christ gives us. Listen to it again and see if you can pick it out: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." The defining phrase is: "Not as the world gives." Do you see how that defines God's peace? The world promises peace through the rule of law. Law and order is the only way for a society and a people to experience peace and law and order must be kept by the aggressive use of force. That's the only way that the world can bring about peace.  

But here is how Jesus will give you peace. If you obey his word He and the Father will come to you and make a home with you. Right in your heart. Not by force but by choice. They will abide in your heart bringing peace. The world's peace is peace through strength. The Lord's peace is peace through surrender.
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These days the sight of an enormous white ship floating into exotic ports is commonplace. The cruise ship industry is huge - almost as large as the horizontal skyscraper ships that serve it. Like huge hotels turned onto their side, these glowing, white behemoths dot the oceans. They are the twenty-first century's "white whales."   

But before the commercial cruise lines ruled the deep, there were other big white ships that traveled the seas, ships that purposefully put themselves and their crews in harm's way. Naval hospital ships, appropriately designated as "haven class" ships, often offered the closest, most accessible care to wounded troops during World War II and the Korean War. One of those ships was aptly named the "U.S.S. Consolation," a floating hospital capable of caring for over 800 patients and housing a host of medical professionals. These "white whales" offered the best medical treatment possible under hostile, combat conditions. Although hospital ships were painted white and were emblazoned with a red cross to advertise their non-hostile identity, their close proximity to battle zones did not ensure their safety. The business of saving lives is always hazardous duty . . . without hazard pay.   

The U.S.S. Consolation served as a hospital ship from 1944-1955. It offered healing and comfort to the wounded in both World War II and the Korean conflict. The "Consolation" was decommissioned in 1958, but instead of being sold for scrap or made into a floating museum the Consolation was reborn in 1960 when it was turned over to a newly formed civilian service organization - Project Hope. "HOPE" was the acronym for a civilian medical volunteer service organization - ""Health Opportunities for People Everywhere" (today think "Doctors Without Borders"). In short, the "U.S.S. Consolation" got a new coat of white paint and was re-named the "S.S. HOPE" - a name that was painted in huge red letters across her bow. For the next fourteen years that "HOPE" floated across the seas of the world, pulling into ports from Malaysia and Indonesia to South America and the Caribbean, bringing hands-on medical care to whomever needed it, offering medical training for any and all local care-givers, and extending medical education to families to help them keep healthy.  

What a different image from a cruise ship( aka hangover ship) - a hope ship. Instead of a light-blazing, music-blaring, hangover-bringing big white party ship, every time the "S.S. HOPE" pulled into a new port its mission and message spelled out simply four big letters: "H.O.P.E" 

The clear declaration of hope is what 1 Peter's letter is all about. Hope in Christ...
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C. S. Lewis on Love 

To love at all is to be venerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable...The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers...of love is Hell.  

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1960, p.169.
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God Surprises the Hopeless  

When Christopher Columbus was sailing to the new world his hired sailors were threatening mutiny. The voyage was long and hard and there was no land in sight for weeks. One day Columbus saw an encouraging sign. Floating on the ocean swells was a small tree branch. The branches' leaves were green, indicating that land could not be far away. The green branch gave the sailors enthusiasm and a renewed hope. Soon after its discovery land was sighted from the sailor in the crow's nest.

When all seems hopeless God has a way of surprising us and being present, even in the loneliest places. It is not God who is absent but we who have ceased to believe in a God who loves us more than we love ourselves. 

Keith Wagner, Who Said Loving Others was Easy?
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When Doubt Sets In 

Years ago I read something rather odd: "The reason mountain climbers are tied together is to keep the sane ones from going home." Whoever said that was playing with us a bit, for we know mountain climbers are tied together to keep from getting lost or going over a cliff. But there's another piece of truth here. When things get tough up on the mountain, when fear sets in, many a climber is tempted to say, "This is crazy! I'm going home."  

The life of faith can be like that-doubts set in, despair overwhelms us, and the whole notion of believing in God seems crazy. Jesus knew his disciples would have days like that. So he told them we're tied together like branches on the vine-or like climbers tied to the rope-tied together by the Spirit, to trust in one who is always more than we can understand, to keep us moving ahead on the journey of faith, to encourage us when believing seems absurd. "I will not leave you orphaned," said Jesus. "I am coming to you." 

Barbara K. Lundblad, I Will Not Leave You Orphaned
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Always Alongside Us 

A student named Steve Winger from Lubbock, TX was taking a challenging class in Logic. The course and teacher were known for exacting and demanding exams. The final exam was looming, and the professor mercifully told the class that each student would be permitted to bring in a single 8 x 11 ½ inch sheet with as much information as they could put on that one sheet for help during the test. On exam day, each student came to class clutching their precious pieces of paper with as much information as possible. Some students had crammed lines and lines of font so tiny and so numerous onto that single sheet that you had to wonder how they could read it. But Steve walked in with a single blank sheet and a friend who was a senior student and who had an 'A' in logic. Steve bent down and placed that single, blank sheet of paper on the floor next to his desk. His expert friend stood on the paper. 

 The professor noticed the extra body in the room and asked what he was doing. Steve piped up, "You said we could bring in whatever we could fit on a single piece of paper for help on this test, well, this is my help and he can fit on the paper!" He had followed the instructions to the letter and was the only student in that class to score an 'A' since he had his expert friend standing alongside him.   

The Holy Spirit is like that friend, standing alongside us, supporting us, and guiding us.  

Adapted from an unknown source, Staff, www.Sermons.com
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I'm Not Allowed to Cross the Street 

A little boy was riding his tricycle furiously around the block, over and over again. Finally a policeman stopped and asked him why he was going around and around. The boy said that he was running away from home. The policeman asked why he kept going around the block. The boy responded, "Because my mom said that I'm not allowed to cross the street."

The point is clear--obedience will keep you close to those you love.  

Michael Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching.
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Martin Luther on Love for Christ 

As usual, Martin Luther said it so well: "But, as Christ said earlier, it all depends on whether you feel and find that you love this man [Jesus]. For if you truly believe this, then love will be there, and your heart will be moved to say: 'Christ, my dear Lord, has done so much for me. He has reconciled the Father to me and shed his blood for me. He has fought and defeated my death and given me all his possessions. Should I not require this love? Should I not thank, praise, honor and serve him with my life and my goods? If not, I should be ashamed that I am a human being.'  

"Therefore Christ declares: 'Sincere love for me is part of a true Christian.'" When you believe in Christ, when you live with him, love and good works just naturally flow. They come from living together with Christ; his good influence just rubs off on us.  

Mark Ellingsen, Preparation and Manifestation, CSS Publishing Company
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Playing God  

Mee Spousler of the Mount Hope United Methodist Church, in Aston, PA., tells how she was trying to put her three-year-old son to bed for a nap.

When she was unsuccessful, she put him in her bed and laid down with him to encourage him to rest. She fell asleep, but he didn't. When she woke up, she saw him sitting on a chair at the end of the bed, and asked, "Luke, what are you doing?"

"I'm playing God," he replied.
"Playing God?" she asked.
"Yes," he said. "I'm watching over you while you sleep." 

 Children understand more than we do sometimes. God IS watching over us. Jesus gave that promise here in talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Not only will God watch over us but through the presence and reminder of the Holy Spirit, we will be reminded of what it means to "Love Jesus and keep his commands." And God will help us to create the environment of love, grace, faith and security that we need for our homes today. Our challenge is to listen to the Holy Spirit and to trust Christ.  

Billy D. Strayhorn, If You Love Me....
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Responding to the Spirit, Responding in the Spirit  

When Jimmy Carter was running for President of the United States, one of the more vivid moments in the campaign passed by almost unnoticed. One Sunday morning, candidate Carter had been worshiping at the Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. When the service was over, he exited the church into the swarm of press encamped on the church's front lawn. Cameras whirring, video lights glaring, microphones thrust forward, the media mavens moved in for interviews, pushing themselves to think of clever questions to ask a presidential candidate on the way out of a Southern Baptist Church -- "Did you like the sermon?" "Did you enjoy the choir this morning?" "Do you plan to remain a Baptist in Washington?" -- on and on the banal questions spewed. 

Suddenly, a reporter, probably in a stroke of luck, shouted out a question that genuinely mattered: "Mr. Carter, suppose when you are President, you get into a situation where the laws of the United States are in conflict with what you understand to be the will of God. Which will you follow, the laws of the state or the commandments of God?" 

Carter stopped, looked up, and blinked into the bright Georgia sun, obviously turning the question over in his mind. Then, perhaps still "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day," perhaps with the Spirit gently whispering the lyrics of the gospel into his ears, he turned toward the reporter and replied: "I would obey the commandments of God." Alert aides, alarmed by this candor, unnerved by their candidate's near-treasonous remark, hurriedly whisked him away from the press and into a waiting car. Carter the politician should have avoided the question, or hewed closely to the law of the land, but Carter the Christian had the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ whispering in his ear, "Do you love me? The world cannot see or know me, but do you love me? Do you keep my commandments?