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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Love One Another As I Have Loved You

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
5th Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

“Love one another as I have loved you."

In today’s Gospel (John 13:31-35), Our Lord is preparing for His passion, and as He prepares, He gives His disciples a new commandment. 

What is this new commandment? It is love.  “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is a commandment that every person must live if he or she wants to attain to eternal life.

Although Our Lord Jesus speaks of love as a new commandment, it is technically not new. For example, the commandment to love one another is found in the Old Testament in the Book of Leviticus Chapter 19 where God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Yet, there is something new about this commandment: Our Lord introduces Himself as the standard for love. We must learn to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord Jesus has shown us the most perfect example of love. Even though He is God, He humbled Himself and came into the world as a slave. He suffered the most extreme torture on the cross so that we can come to know God’s love for us and share in His love for all eternity!

The love that Christ gives us is a love that renews our entire person. It is a love that divests us of our former selves and clothes us with a new self. Therefore, when we love as Jesus loves, we become a new man or a new woman. We clothe ourselves in the white of purity so that we can share in the very life of God at the end of time.

We get an image of our new life with God at the end of time in today’s second reading (Revelation 21:1-5). Saint John sees a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth -- the world we live in today -- passed away. John sees the holy city, a new Jerusalem, come down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband.

John hears a voice saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God… for the old order has passed away.”

Our world is passing away. Our Lord is coming again soon to establish His Kingdom of pure love. Whatever is not of Christ's love will be purified or destroyed.

Therefore, if we want to share in eternal life,  we must strive to follow Our Lord’s commandment of love.

Such a commandment is not a superficial love. Our Lord’s love on earth was faithful, sacrificial, and truthful. His love was selfless and whole. Our Lord’s love was a commitment to His Father. He calls His disciples to follow His example of faithfulness and commitment, loving God and one another. 

Love means we want the best for the other person. We want to help all who God places in our lives to go to heaven. But love always requires truth. It requires that we don't live the lies that society teaches us but the divine truths Christ handed down to us.

To live love in truth is not easy. It requires sacrifice. Yet, sacrifice and difficulty are essential if we want to attain eternal life. We are reminded of this in today’s first reading (Acts 14:21-27). Saints Paul and Barnabas remind the disciples to persevere in faith, saying, "It is necessary that we undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”

If we want to enter into the Kingdom of God, it is necessary that we undergo many hardships. We must make many sacrifices.
In our time and culture today, people don’t want to sacrifice. We want things easy. Yet, faith is not meant to be easy. Faith requires a change of direction, and this means that we must be stretched to the limits of our endurance.

Our Lord has said that if we want to be His disciples, then we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross. As Christians we are called to deny whatever in our world is contrary to God’s plan of eternal life.

The cross is a contradiction today. Many  seek to indulge in the pleasures of the world, to live as they want.  Our society teaches  there is no sanctity in marriage, nor is life sacred. The world's message is just use one another, and your own body as you want. Your bodies do not belong to God, but to yourself. 

Yet, Jesus teaches this is not so. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. God created our sexuality as a means to share in His love. In fact, the gift of sexual union between a man and woman in marriage is the most perfect and sacred way that humanity can share in  God’s love. But the world has trampled on this most sacred gift, turning it into an act of selfishness, perversion, and self-gratification.

Fr John Paul Shea 
My brothers and sisters, in today’s Gospel our Lord gives us a new commandment. He teaches us that we must love one another as He has loved us. Our Lord’s commandment is not easy, but it is a commandment each one of us must embrace if we want to be His disciple and attain to eternal life. May God bless us and help us.

Did you enjoy this sermon? There are many more. You might like I Am the Good Shepherd    

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Please Lord

A Heartfelt Prayer

By Christopher Ziegler

Please, Lord Jesus, have pity on me, 
For I am weak.

My will is broken and weary.
I cannot love you as you love me.
Your love for me is mighty and binding.
My love for you is real but frail.

Yet I know that by your mercy and by your grace,
I can become what you want me to become.
I believe it and know it to be true.

You are powerful. 
You made me. 
You can heal me.
Please, Lord, I want to be healed!

Cure me and make me holy,
For the glory of your name.

Christopher Ziegler can be found @CZWriting on Twitter

Friday, April 22, 2016

I Am the Good Shepherd

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
4th Sunday of Easter, April 17, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

Today, we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday where we are reminded we need Our Lord Jesus Christ to protect us and guide us on our Christian journey so that we can attain eternal life.

In the beginning of today’s short Gospel (John 10: 27-30), Our Lord Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. No one can take them out of my hand. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
As we hear these words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we are reminded that the goal of our Christian life is to become one with Our Heavenly Father. Our Lord Jesus, who is the second Person of the Trinity, is one with His Father, and He has come into our world so that we can live forever as one with His Father in Him. 

In other words, God wants us to share in His Life for all eternity. Yet, if we want to share forever in God’s munificent plan then we must listen to the voice of Jesus Christ in the scriptures and the teachings of our Church, and we must live our lives accordingly.

In today’s first reading (Acts 13:14, 43-52),  Paul and Barnabas are preaching, but the Jews rejected the words of Christ. 

In the midst of this rejection, what does Paul say? “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life we now turn to the Gentiles.” 

As Paul reminds the Jews of their condemnation for rejecting the preaching of Christ, let us be reminded that we too can condemn ourselves as unworthy of eternal life by rejecting the truths that God has given to us. 

It is easy for us to think we can enter into heaven even while living a life that contradicts the teachings of Christ and His Church. But this is not so! 

No, heaven is not easy to attain. In the Gospel of Matthew, for example, Our Lord
says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate that leads to destruction is wide and the broad, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that lead to life. And those who find are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
My brothers and sisters, following our Church and its teachings is to enter by the narrow gate. Our Lord Jesus Christ is Our Shepherd who wants to lead souls through this gate. He wants to protect us from the influences of the world in which we live today that separate us from God and His plan for us! God wants us to be one with Him in His Son Jesus Christ. Yet, if we want to live as one with God for all eternity, we must first be purified of whatever is not of God’s kingdom.

In our world today we hear much about tolerating sin. For example, now that so called same sex “marriage” is legal in our country, the spirit of the world tells us that our Church needs to be more tolerant toward or even embrace immoral relationships.

Yet, let us be reminded that acceptance does not bring souls to Heaven. Only the Truth will lead souls to heaven, and those who knowingly reject the truths of our faith by not striving to change their lives in accord the word of God “condemn [themselves] as unworthy of eternal life” (Acts 13:46).

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He wants to save us from our sins. God sent His Son into our world so that all who believe in Him may have eternal life. Yet, our belief must be real. Our belief means conversion and a change of life! 

Our Lord calls us to deny the ways of the world. These ways  lead us away from the necessary sanctify that will allow us to live with Our Heavenly Father for all eternity. 

Let us ask Our Good Shepherd to protect us and keep us safe from everything that leads us away from eternal salvation. Let us strive to become one with Our Lord Jesus for all eternity by living lives worthy of this great gift of eternal life that God wants for each of us. Amen!
Early Christian Image of the Good Shepherd