26th May, 2020

Homily for Sixth Sunday of Easter

Ampleforth Abbey

Homily on 6th Sunday of Easter by Fr Edward Corbould OSB

I was in Limerick Cathedral a few years ago on the weekend after Munster had defeated Toulouse to win the European Cup. I said to some of the local inhabitants ‘Did you celebrate last weekend’?  ‘Last weekend? We have been celebrating ever since’.  Well, we celebrated Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection, five weeks ago and we have been celebrating ever since – celebrating the presence of the Risen Christ with us.  Listen to those extraordinary words in today’s Gospel –  ‘He is with you, He is in you’, ‘I am in my Father and you in me and I in you’.

I don’t think we fully comprehend God’s presence with us, his closeness to us, his love for us, certainly not the depth of that love. Because our love is so limited, so conditional, whereas God’s love is unconditional – it always forgives, it is always there for us, it can never be withdrawn. It is that love which we are called to accept, and then try to imitate. God does not love us because we are good; God loves us because God loves us. We can so easily tie ourselves in knots trying to impress God, and of course we fail miserably. But then we must remember that it is precisely our failures, our needs, our incompetence which draw us to God and make us realise our utter dependence on God’s grace.

If we could live our lives flawlessly, which of course we cannot, we would probably not be aware of our constant need of God’s help, God’s grace. No, we are called to accept God’s help, God’s love, God’s forgiveness; indeed we are called to accept our brokenness and to accept that we are loved as we are.

When we judge and accuse others, is it not because we are unable to accept our own brokenness and so project onto others what we refuse to see in ourselves?

As we become conscious of God’s forgiveness we will learn to forgive others, and to love and accept people as they are. For Jesus is hidden in people as they are, in their brokenness.

If we want to examine the quality of our lives we would do well to look at the quality of our forgiveness of others, the quality of our lack of judgementalism, the quality of our acceptance of God’s forgiveness of ourselves – because true love and forgiveness are inseparable. Then we can understand God’s command – ‘Love one another as I have loved you’.

St Aelred of Rievaulx work a small work entitled ‘De Amicitia’ (on Friendship) in which he talks about ‘the Trinity of Loves’ saying, every time we love God more it follows that we must love our neighbour more, and in turn we must love ourselves more. The latter is often forgotten, and yet it is so very important.

Three weeks ago we celebrated the Feast of St Catherine of Siena that extraordinary lay woman who became a Dominican Tertiary and who made herself the counsellor of Popes and Kings. She had fiends and associates who were haunted by their sins, so she wrote this for them – ‘Isn’t God more ready to forgive than we to commit sin? Isn’t he the doctor and we the sick? Isn’t he the bearer of our iniquities? So open your mind’s eye and see how much he loves you’.

So let us reflect on that, and also reflect on the presence of the Risen Christ in us, his closeness to us, the depth of his love for us. Our awareness of that must fill us with a deep joy which nothing can ever take away. That is why every day we are called to say to God  - ‘Lord, thank you’.