Annual Mass Acknowledging Scouts
7th Sunday of Easter – June 2, 2019

The context for today’s gospel passage from Saint John is his account of the Last Supper.  After Jesus shares his final teachings to his disciples before the events of his passion begin, Jesus prays to his Father in heaven.  He prays first that he will bring to completion the work entrusted to him by his Father.  Next, he prays for his disciples that they may faithfully proclaim the word that he taught them.  And finally, in today’s gospel, Jesus prays for the future Church – ultimately for you and me – that we may be united – that we may live together as one people in the same love that binds Father, Son and Spirit together as one God – and that through the love that we share for one another, the world may come to know God.

This intense gospel with its terms of “unity” and “I-in-them, you-in-me” gives us a clue into the nature of the religion that Jesus left us following his death, resurrection and ascension.  …  He left us a religion of connectedness and of community with one another and with him.   …  That’s why we will soon share a sign of peace with one another, as we gather as community of believers – and not simply as individuals.  …  That’s why we will pray in just a few moments not “my Father” – but “our Father, who art in heaven.”

Let’s look a bit more closely at the words of Jesus, proclaimed just a moment ago.  He prays to his Father for all believers – for us – “that they may be one, as we, Father, are one, I living in them, you living in me … that their unity may be complete.  So shall the world know that you sent me and that you loved them as you loved me.”

Notice what Jesus says.  Notice the force of the word “so.”  The only way the world will know that God is around and that his love is present is when we – his people – love and forgive and accept and serve one another.  In other words, the credibility of all that we believe and assert as Christians is evidenced only when we live out what we profess.

There’s an old song that became popular in the when I was a boy and when Catholics first started to sing in Church following the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council.  It’s entitled “They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love.”  …  Do you remember it?  …  In other words, the world will know we are Christians not simply because of where we worship on a Sunday morning and less because of the words that we profess in the Creed.  …  Our Christian faith – our belief in Jesus – is made credible when we live his gospel – when we love selflessly – and when we serve generously every soul that God weaves into our lives.

In short, while some of us may find this too much to bear, too hard to engage, and well beyond our political sensitivities, Jesus’ prayer for our unity is rooted in the very reality of the Trinity – the one God in whom we believe – made up of three persons – Father, Son and Spirit – bound together in and through a relationship of love.

It follows, then, that the revelation of God’s love would best be found in our relationships one with another.  The Christian religion is relationship!  …  It begins with the relationship of three persons in one God.  …  It blossoms forth through the selfless, loving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross offered for the sake of the people entrusted to his care – believers like me and you, down through the ages.  …  And it continues whenever you and I open our hearts to Jesus and live his love – the heart of his gospel message – in unity, oneness and community.

It’s certainly not by chance but through the providence of God that we honor and celebrate scouting today during this Mass.  For all of the good and noble elements of scouting, the spirit of today’s gospel message lies at its heart:  service of God and country and respect for the lives that make their way into our own through the relationships that we are given.  …  Thank you for who you are and for the great values that you embrace.  As a Church, we are so very proud of you!

There’s a wonderful old Christian legend that sums up so well the message of the gospel on this 7th Sunday of Easter.  Maybe you’ve heard it before.

A woman’s happiness was shattered by the loss of her brother, a good man who was dearly loved.  Torn by grief, she kept asking God, “Why?”  But hearing the silence, she set out in search of an answer.

She had not gone far when she came upon an old man sitting on a bench.  He was weeping.  He said, “I have suffered a great loss.  I am a painter and I have lost my eyesight.”  He too was seeking an answer to the question, “Why?”  The woman invited him to join her and, taking him by the arm, they trudged down the road together.

Soon they overtook a young man walking aimlessly,  He had lost his wife to another man.  He joined in the search of an answer to the question, “Why?” 

Shortly they came upon a young woman weeping on her front doorstep.  She had lost her child.  She too joined them.  Nowhere, however, could they seem to find an answer.

Suddenly they came upon Jesus.

Each confronted him with their questions, but Jesus gave no answer.  Instead, he began to cry and said, “I am bearing the burden of a woman who lost her brother, a young woman whose baby has died, a painter who has lost his eyesight, and a young man who has lost a love in which he delighted.”

As he spoke, the four moved closer and they embraced each other.  And they grasped Jesus’ hands.  Jesus spoke again saying, “My kingdom is the kingdom of the heart.  I cannot prevent pain.  I can only heal it.”

“How?” asked the woman.

“By sharing in it.  …  By carrying your pain with you,” he said.  …  And then he was gone.

And the four?  They were left together, holding each other and giving each other hope.