A few weeks ago Pope Francis published a new letter called “Rejoice and Be Glad”. If you haven’t read anything from Pope Francis before it’s worth picking this one up. You can find it online for free or pay for a printed book. Like you might expect from the way he talks and acts, his writing style is also fairly readable… much more simple and approachable as a writer than the past few popes. In “Rejoice and Be Glad” he talks to us about holiness. He says right on the first page, “my goal is to re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges, and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us ‘to be holy…’”. So if you want a vision of holiness for your life that is rooted in joy and possible to do in what is already your own unique, real experience of daily life… this is something worth reading.
I don’t know if I should call it a long letter or a short book, but right in the middle of it Pope Francis gives a reflection on the beatitudes. And he says at the end that, “We cannot forget that the ultimate criterion on which our lives will be judges is what we have done for others.” That statement is precisely what we find in the scriptures that we all just heard. The first reading said that despite their lives being in danger the early Church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria was at peace… because it was being built up and walked in fear of the Lord. The second reading told us to love not in word or speech but in deed and truth… that we have confidence in our hearts when we do his commandment which is this: believe in the name of Jesus Christ and love one another as he commanded. And of course the Gospel. The Gospel says that we must bear fruit, that God will prune us and shape us to bear more fruit, that whoever remains in Christ will bear much fruit, and that the Father is glorified by bearing much fruit and being disciples. So what the scriptures remind us today and what Pope Francis reminds us in our present age is something both challenging and comforting. The challenging message is that one day you and I will stand before Christ and he will ask us what was the fruit of our lives, what have we done for others in his name. But the message is also comforting because if we believe in Christ and remain in him it will be impossible for us not to love others and bear that fruit.
Maybe you walk out of here and read Pope Francis’s letter and maybe not, that’s not the point of this homily. The point is that you should have joy in your heart as you bring to the center of your life the good things, the fruit, the ways that you have cared for others. Take that joy and place it upon the altar today. Take that fruit and take those works and present it along with the gifts of bread and wine so that when I say “lift up your hearts” you lift up your hearts glorifying the Father by the fruit you bore this week. Do that this week, do that next week, do that at every mass you have the privilege to be at and you will know the holiness that we are all called to. “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.