1 John 4:11-16
Bowery is a neighborhood in New York
City, famous to most of us only because of a song by
that title from an 1891 Broadway musical. [*]
About 30 years ago, before Mayor Rudy Giuliani brought some sanity and safety
back to that great city, a teenage boy stood on a ledge high above a Bowery
street, ready to jump to his death. Some
in the crowd yelled for him to jump. A
police officer talked with the boy for nearly two hours. The boy told him of his life of beatings and
abandonment by his parents, culminating in a lonely runaway existence in the
Big Apple and his despair on that rooftop.
The boy’s story went to the officer’s heart. His desperation brought an unexpected
response. The policeman told the boy
someone does care for him. In fact, the policemen said, “I’d be proud to
have a son like you.” The boy took a big
risk about that cop – that he was not being conned just to get him off that
roof. So he went down with the
weeks later that policeman won legal custody of the boy, took him into his home
and helped him get settled in a new school and a new life. It was a well publicized story at the
time. It had that “human interest” that
attracts people’s attention, celebrating the idea that life can be restored to
a dying person, just by showing some love.
Saint John wrote, “If God so loved us, we also
must love one another.” Just when we
thought we could have a nice, comforting and comfortable religion – with its
Easter message that Jesus gave everything for us (even his life), that Jesus
forgives every failing in us, that Jesus understands all our needs and
temptations and consoles us in our anxiety and doubt – just then, we are
reminded that this is not the entirety of what the gospel is about.
Jesus returns, we proclaim a gospel with a mission. We are a people commissioned. The love we experience in our faith in Jesus
as Lord must be shared. The Lord loves
us. And implicit in this love is that
you and I are expected to love others.
There is a story that one time Eve asked Adam in the Garden, “Adam, do
you love me?” Adam shrugged his
shoulders and answered, “Who else?” If
the Lord were to ask us whether we loved him, would our response be a similar
non-committal answer, “Who else, Lord?”
The Lord wants more than that. He
desires some action behind any of our protestations of love.
years ago, I received a photocopy of a sort-of “newsletter” that some gentleman
produced, a fellow who, to put it kindly, we could probably call
eccentric. His most recent issue was
about how the Cardinal was such a phony leader, because he supported activities
in the Church like the St. Vincent de Paul Society (which gives practical help
– like food or heating oil to the poor) and Catholic Charities (which provides
social services like counseling and, at that time, used to do adoptions). Our faith, this gentleman protested, is for
going to church and receiving Communion, not for “travesties” like St. Vincent
and Catholic Charities.
misguided man should have considered what Saint
“Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him
and he in God.” Is that our
reality? Are our life’s choices guided
as if God – who is love – dwells within us?
And are we prepared to share this love – which is of God – that we have
experienced? What if Jesus, filled with
the Father’s love, kept this a cozy little secret to himself? As Jesus shared the love of his Father, so
are we commissioned to share. Our faith
in Jesus must surpass an individualistic, private acceptance of Christ and our
living a passive, quiet life. Our faith
in the Lord Jesus means believing deeply enough to love others. That was Jesus’ intent when he prayed to the
Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.”
are sent to love. Of course, “love” is
only a word. In English it is almost a
meaningless word, for we can love our country, love our children, love Milky
Way bars, love fishing. And some people
diminish that already tepid word to mean just sentiment or emotion. But love is a commitment to others; love is a
motivator to act, specifically to act on behalf of another person.
love into action will not always be as dramatic and life-changing as taking a
lonely, desperate boy from a rooftop into one’s heart and home. It may be something as simple as being really
nice to the kid in school who doesn’t have many friends. It may mean stopping on a road to help a guy
change a flat. It may mean doing earnest
prayer and fasting on behalf of someone who is in spiritual turmoil. And here is where it really makes a difference:
to do these things for the Lord – and not because it somehow is to our
own advantage. Jesus was not proposing a
Christian form of karma – what goes
around, comes around. We do not love
because it is a “you-scratch-my-back-and-I`ll-scratch-yours” kind of world, but
because in loving one another we love God in us.
God so loved us, we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God. Yet, if
we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection
[*] “A Trip to Chinatown” by Percy Gaunt and Charles H. Hoyt.
Fictional characters sometimes seem
more real than our actual friends. And
we want to know all about their make-believe lives: Harry Potter, for example. There are TV shows that have been around so
long that we need to know all about their characters. NCIS begins its 13th year next
season. Over time we’ve come to
understand how the murder of his wife Shannon and daughter Kelly affected
Jethro Gibbs, his failed marriages, and his testy relationship with his
dad. We learned that Ziva had been an
assassin for Mossad and Tony was once a patrolman in Baltimore City. Writers call these their characters’ “back
stories.” Real people have history or
So it is with today’s reading from
the Acts of the Apostles. The selection
about the encounter of Cornelius and Saint Peter was probably chosen because it
segues with the gospel verse “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose
you….” Cornelius had not chosen God; God
had chosen him.
Now here is the context of the
Cornelius story as found in the Acts of the Apostles. It takes 67 verses to tell the story. Our reading from Acts is whittled down to 8
verses. Here’s the story: Peter – whose birth name was Simon – was in
Joppa staying at the home of another Simon, who was a tanner  of
leather. Joppa is modern day Jaffa, a suburb just
south and west of Tel Aviv. While Tel
Aviv faces wide, sandy beaches along the Mediterranean,
rises atop steep, rocky cliffs that drop suddenly into the choppy waves of the
Med. Joppa provided Simon Peter a cool,
breezy place of rest.
While there, Simon Peter was praying
at noontime on Simon Tanner’s rooftop terrace
and he had a vision in which a large sheet descended from the sky in which
appeared various animals, reptiles and birds that Jews considered unclean. A voice was heard, telling Peter three times
to slaughter and eat, but he refused these profane or unclean foods, professing
faithfulness to the dietary laws of Moses.
Then was heard: “What God has
made clean, you are not to call profane.”  As it happened, at that very moment the
friends of Cornelius arrived.
Cornelius was a Roman centurion, not
a Jew but still a spiritual man sympathetic to Jewish culture. While at prayer, Cornelius himself had had a
vision directing him to seek out a certain Simon Peter in Joppa. His Jewish friends interceded with Peter on
his behalf,  so Peter
traveled to Cornelius’ home in the Roman seaside port of Caesarea,
whose ruins are a tourist destination in Israel today. Upon Peter’s arrival, Cornelius humbled
himself, but Peter raised him up saying that Peter was only a man, like
himself. Though it was not religiously
lawful for a Jew to enter a non-Jew’s home, because of his vision Peter had
come to understand that he “should not call any person profane or unclean.” 
Cornelius related to Simon Peter his
own vision. And while Peter was telling
Cornelius and his household about John the Baptist, 
and about Jesus’ preaching, crucifixion and resurrection, and his commission to
believers to bear witness to all this and to forgive sins, the Holy Spirit was
suddenly poured out onto Cornelius and his household and they began speaking in
tongues and glorifying God. So Peter
baptized them all.
Simon Peter had to justify his baptizing non-Jews. He related this story. When the other Apostles heard it “they
stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, ‘God has then granted life-giving
repentance to the Gentiles too.’” This was the watershed moment when the Church
began reachng beyond Judaism to the whole world.
now that we’ve heard the context of today’s first reading, we are left with the
question of what difference it is supposed to make in our lives. What has this story of Cornelius to do with
us? What difference does this baptism in
first century Caesarea make in our lives?
of all, it reminds us of the importance of prayer. Perhaps we may not have visions like
Peter’s sheet full of unclean animals or of
angelic message to send for a stranger named Simon Peter. But if you and I don’t make time for quiet
prayer, surely God will never be heard speaking to us or guiding us. If a husband does not listen to his wife’s
voice, then he won’t be picking up the milk on his way home and there won’t be
milk for cereal in the morning. If we
are not making time to be quiet, to listen to the still, quiet voice of the
Spirit, and to surrender to God’s will, we shall have missed some significant
opportunities in our lives.
second thing we take from Peter and Cornelius is their response to prayer. We must be people who are responsive
to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It
is incomplete to hear God; one also must act.
Had Cornelius not sent for Peter as the angel bade him, had Peter not
shed his reliance on the laws of Moses as the vision prompted him, had Peter
not broken the taboos of Judaism and entered a Gentile’s home, then you and I
today might be Jewish or we may have never even heard of Christ Jesus at all.
Cornelius reminds us that there are people waiting to hear the good news of
Jesus Christ. You and I have good news
to share with a hungry world. And sometimes
the people who hunger for spiritual growth are not the “safe” ones we might
have expected or even preferred. God
touches people’s lives in ways unexpected.
Who would have thought the commander of a hundred Roman soldiers, would
respond to the preaching of a Jewish fisherman?
Who would have thought an observant Jew would associate so generously
with a Gentile?
expanding our expectations of others, Simon Peter reminds us to enlarge
our expectations of ourselves. It
is your vocation and mine to share the good news of Jesus Christ with
others. Who else will do this? Saint Teresa of Avila said, “God has no hands in the world
but our hands.” To paraphrase Teresa,
the voice through which God usually speaks to others is our voice. You and I are called by Christ Jesus to share
boldly our Catholic faith. God has
chosen you and me. Who – us? Yes, us.
Jesus himself said it: “It was
not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear
fruit that will remain….”
May 3, 2015
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Psalm 22:26-28, 30-32
1 John 3:18-24
The forsythia at my home finally
bloomed. For a brief week or so these
shrubs will explode in all directions their fiery, yellow blossoms that will
soon implode into ordinary green leaves.
Forsythia love to climb things, but my home’s previous owners
established a row of eight free-standing forsythia to preserve privacy from the
next-door neighbor’s long driveway at the side of the house. I like the privacy. But it’s hard to keep forsythia in check and
in a few weeks I’ll get out a tall step ladder to again re-shape the shrubs
into spherical hedges that block the neighborhood’s view of my favorite, shady
reading place. The andromeda along the
street also will need my attention soon.
don’t talk to plants. I don’t think they
have feelings, as some gardeners do. But
if they did have feelings, I wonder
what they would be thinking as they see me approach with loppers and pruning
sheers. Perhaps it would be like
watching the dentist approach me with a syringe full of Novocain®. Yikes!
And I wonder if the plants would
appreciate the difference between
lopping off the dead branches and pruning back some healthy ones. The need to get rid of dead branches is
obvious even to people who don’t garden or landscape. Pruning is a bit harder to understand; it
takes skill and experience. A branch may
grow long and display several buds along its length. It takes a lot of energy for a plant to
sustain a branch with many buds, so if one cuts away some of the healthy buds
at the end of the branch, the remaining buds will receive more of the plant’s
energy and may blossom more fully, potentially producing beautiful flowers or
Jesus borrowed the image of vines
and branches from the Old Testament  to
portray our relationship with him. It is
obvious that “a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the
vine.” But even a branch connected to
the vine needs care. This is what
pruning is about. Jesus is the vine and
Heavenly Father is the vine grower; we are the branches. Barren branches are taken away. What remains is pruned “so that it bears more
fruit.” Then Jesus said, “You are
already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.”
I am not talking to those who may be
withered branches. They follow their own
ideas and have their own pursuits. They
neither feel nor want a connection to the vine.
And they are not here. I pray
that some day they may perceive the fruitlessness of their lives apart from
But the rest of us understand we’re
connected. And we face pruning. That is not fun. It’s understandable that we might become
anxious as we see God approaching us with loppers and pruning sheers. Sometimes the pruning process seems excessive
and our faith is challenged. We may not
be able to distinguish that God’s hand is pruning away the excess of our life
so that we may bear greater fruit –
as opposed to the impression that God is discarding us as dead weight. The struggles in our life may sometimes feel
as if we have been abandoned by Heavenly Father.
So here Jesus reassures you and
me. He encourages us to stay with
him. “Remain in me,” Jesus says. “You cannot bear fruit ‘unless you remain in
me.’” “Remain in me, as I remain in
you.” That is the key.
some occasions the “pruning” may be the closing of a door that we had preferred
to enter, a hope or plan of ours that seemed so important at the time. But that way might have led us away from a
relationship with Christ. At other times
the “pruning” may be more dramatic, even painful. It may be an illness, an estrangement from or
loss of a loved one, or a financial setback.
being pruned may feel as if God has disappointed us, or even abandoned you or
me to our troubles and worries, Christ Jesus always remains with us. If we do not surrender to doubt, even the
most troubling circumstances will
bear fruit. It is part of God’s
plan. “If you remain in me and my words
remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear
much fruit and become my disciples.”
Saint John wrote in his first epistle, “We have
confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his
commandments and do what pleases him.”
Here John speaks as Jesus did: “Those who keep [God’s] commandments
remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is
from the Spirit he gave us.”
So the alternatives are set before
us. Somerset Maugham, the great Catholic
novelist, had one of his characters express the first alternative. He wrote, “It is not true that suffering
ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering, for the
most part, makes men petty and vindictive.”  That is our first alternative: As the people around us take note of our
struggles, they can be negatively affected by what they witness, because they
observe that we ourselves have become disheartened. So, doubt and despair grow. This adds nothing to the glory of God.
if you or I remain with Christ, confident that the struggle is not a sign of
God’s wrath but is part of a painful pruning leading to new fruit, other people
may be edified – not that we are such long-suffering saints, but that in us
they may come to accept that Christ is present even amidst trouble and
turbulence. In this way, we do become
disciples. In this way is God glorified.
 Hosea 10:1;
Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 15; Psalm 80:9-16.
 Somerset Maugham, Moon and Sixpence (1919), Ch. 41.
April 19, 2015
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Psalm 4:2-4, 7-9
1 John 2:1-5a
We’ve all heard the saying, “What
happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” I’ve
never been there. You? Gambling and the night life of Las Vegas hold no
attraction for me. For those who’ve
been, it may be prudent to keep to them selves how much money was lost, how
many scotches were imbibed, and so forth.
But, I suspect, just the aura of having been to Vegas leads people to wonder
about a person who’s been there, adding to the glamour (or the shadiness) of
that tourist’s reputation. Some people
like the idea of keeping other people wondering about them.
Let me suggest another saying: “What happens in church, stays in church.” And that, by the way, is not a good
thing. Too many Christians live this
way. They say they believe in God and they live as if they do not.
Faith is reduced to worship (which, by the way, is how secular humanists
think religion ought to be). We participate
in Mass on Sunday, but there is no difference in the way life is lived on
Tuesday. Faith is minimized to mean
going to Mass. “What happens in church,
stays in church.”
St. Peter had just healed a crippled
beggar outside the Temple.
The passers-by were amazed. Now that
Peter had their attention, he taught the crowd.
He reminded them of what their leaders – and they – had done to Jesus,
choosing freedom for Barabbas instead of for the Son of the Father. Peter testified of Jesus that “God had raised
him from the dead.” And what ought the
response to this great news be:
Forgiveness would not be granted just because they felt bad about their
poor decisions. Forgiveness would be
granted if they changed their life, if they were converted.
St. John’s first letter confirms this. John wrote boldly, “Those who say, ‘I know
him,’ but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in
Jesus himself, in those spectacular
Easter appearances, calmed his terrified and confused disciples. Cleopas and his companion had encountered
Jesus on the road to Emmaus and only recognized him when Jesus broke bread with
Then they ran back to Jerusalem
to report what had happened. (This is
where today’s gospel selection begins.)
And Jesus appeared again. The
disciples thought him a ghost. But he
reassured them, ate with them, and explained yet one more time the prophecies
concerning the Christ, crucified and raised from the dead on the third day so
“that repentance, for the forgiveness of sin, would be preached in his name to
all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
And then Jesus added a phrase that
we might dismiss as pertaining only to those
disciples. But it applies to you and me
as well. “You are witnesses of these
things.” To “witness” is not only to
observe some event. To “witness” means
to give testimony. You and I say we believe
in Jesus Christ. Now is the time to give
testimony to our faith, to witness. Do
not keep our faith inside the walls of this building.
is a story of a young girl visiting her grandmother in a small country town in
the South. She attended a very emotional
religious service, where people expressed their feelings by jumping around and
shouting. It was a completely new
experience for her. She asked her
grandmother if all the activity really meant that people were being touched by
the Spirit or whether it was merely a huge piece of self-indulgence and
emotional release. Her grandmother
wisely answered, “Honey, it does not matter how high they jump up, it is what
they do when they come down that will tell you if it is the real thing!”  We don’t do much jumping up at a Mass. But the same can be said of you and me: It does not matter much how profoundly we genuflect,
how intently we listen to the gospel, how enthusiastically we sing hymns of
praise. It’s what we do when we leave
all this behind and go into that world out there that will tell if this worship
is the real thing.
real thing begins with conversion, a change nurtured by grace in the way you
and I are determined to live. The
greatest witness you and I can give is to be our better self. Authenticity will convince. This authenticity must inevitably spill over
into acts of Christian charity.
front of Christ the King Parish in San
Diego there is a statue of Jesus. This Christ figure has no hands. But the statue had not been vandalized. Instead, it was the intent of the sculptor to
illustrate that Jesus needs the hands of his followers now. Those who believe in and love Jesus are
changed by the quality of that relationship; they act differently than they
would if they did not believe in and love Jesus. 
give no one the impression that our motto is “What happens in church, stays in
church.” We believe that Jesus is the
Christ, crucified and risen from the dead.
This faith impels us to our own repentance. And we accept that the message of repentance
is to be preached in the name of Jesus to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem and continuing
from this place. And we hear Jesus’
commission to each one of us: “You are
witnesses of these things.”
 As quoted from Good News (homily
service), 1992, p. 663.
 William A. Barry, God’s Passionate Desire
and Our Response (Notre Dame, IN:
Ave Maria Press, 1993), p. 103.