Homily: Catholic Women's League Conference, 2018

Catholic Women’s League Conference
16th May, 2018

Acts 20:28-38; John 17:11-19

One of those who allowed Jesus’ work to be accomplished in him was Saint Paul. Today we have his farewell address to the Church in Ephesus, when he met with them at the port of Miletus. He describes his sufferings, tears and trials, the imprisonments and hardships that he endured and those that still awaited him, but through all of it, he says, he did not shrink from proclaiming to them the entire plan of God.

Paul was able to say humbly, “I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus.” Everything was with that goal in mind, to proclaim the Gospel of God’s grace by his words and witness.

What a beautiful thing it would be if at the end of our life we were able, like Paul, to look back with no regrets for our cowardice in shrinking away from the Gospel, for the ways we were ashamed of it because we worried more about human respect than others’ salvation. Saint Paul says at the end of the remarks, that savage beasts will come among the flocks to attack it from inside and outside. This of course is just a way of describing evil, and means that there will be plenty of excuses to shirk from the Gospel. But the Holy Spirit who gave Saint Paul courage will give us courage, too. He will help us to live with the purpose God has given us, considering life of no importance in this world provided that we can live in a way to enter into eternity and bring many others with us.

Today’s Gospel is taken from Jesus’ priestly prayer on Holy Thursday. In this we come to understand why Jesus was living. He was living to glorify the Father. He was living to accomplish his work of salvation. He was living to reveal the Father’s name, and as Pope Francis has reminded us, the name of God is mercy. He was living to give us the Father’s words. He was living to consecrate us in the truth of the Father’s word.

In these final chapters of Saint John’s Gospel, Jesus is trying to sum up what his life and mission is all about. He speaks at length of the bond between him and his Father and it is from this bond of love that he is ‘sent’.

Jesus tells us that we too are ‘sent’ to continue his mission. Friendship with Jesus is being with him, and being sent in his name. Our mission as his followers is in the midst of and in the depths of the world. He wants his love and message inserted in the centre of the world, the city, the neighbourhood. In following him in mission and love, we are ourselves sanctified. Maybe one should consider how we live this in the context of CWL? Overall, in my life, how do I experience this ‘being sent’?

Today Jesus continues his prayer for his disciples. He prays for their continued loyalty to the gospel message and for unity among them. He has kept them true to his name. Although as we know, one was lost.
They have accepted the message of Jesus and, because of that; they will be hated by the world as Jesus himself was hated. Because, like Jesus, they do not identify with the world and its values and priorities.

At the same time, Jesus makes it very clear that he is not asking that they be removed from the world’s environment, only that they be protected from its evil influences. It is only by being in the world that they will be able to communicate the Gospel message. Armed with truth, with the integrity of Jesus himself, he is sending them into the midst of the world. That is where they are to do their work.

Jesus prays that they be consecrated in truth, the truth of God himself. This truth does not consist of a set of dogmas. Rather it consists in the living out lives of perfect integrity and wholeness, in perfect harmony with the will of the Father and the Way of Jesus and dedicated to bringing that truthfulness and integrity to the world. They do this by living lives of love, a love expressed in service to the well-being of all. They have the full backing of Jesus: “I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

Jesus’ love for his disciples does not fade. It endures eternally. He asks the Father to protect and guide them. He entrusts us, his friends and companions, to the loving care of his Father.

I am sure that you would all know how parents and guardians spend their best years guiding children in life and in faith. Then there is a gradual letting go as they grow into adulthood. So, like Jesus, we should pray for those who move beyond our active care. The Father’s arms are a safe place for them.

So, let us then pray today:
• for the unity among us which Jesus prayed for in his disciples
• that we may be ready for the hostility and the indifference of the world
• that we may realise that, if we want to give witness to the Gospel, we must be fully inserted into the world by which we are surrounded. To be ‘holy’ is not to escape and distance ourselves physically from that world, which is what many are tempted to do, or even think is the right thing to do.
• that we may be people of complete integrity, that we may be filled with truth and sincerity so that what people see in us is what we truly are and wish to be: disciples of Jesus.