The season of Easter is gradually drawing to a close, as this Sunday we celebrate the sixth Sunday of Easter. But we still have two important Solemnities ahead of us. This weekend we continue to read from the Gospel of St. John, which draws our attention to Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper.
“The heartbeat of today’s gospel and of the second reading from 1 John is “love.” As disciples, we are called to feel this pulse and make our lives beat in rhythm with it. The love commandment that Jesus gives to his disciples depends on God’s limitless love for the world (John 3:16). This love is made incarnate and dwells among us in Jesus, the one who is “close to the Father’s heart” (John 1:18), and so Jesus’s own relationship with his Father, his own life and death, become the norm of the costly love he asks of his disciples. This must not be a cramped or grudging love, but joyful and expansive, encompassing the world for which Jesus was sent.
One of the most priceless human gifts is friendship. It allows us to disclose ourselves to and receive from another in complete openness and trust. With a friend we can think aloud; participate in one another’s joys and sorrows, hopes and fears; survive loneliness, indifference, hostility. Small wonder, then, that in today’s gospel Jesus calls his disciples by this most precious of names: “my friends.” Drawn into and abiding in the mutual love of the Father and the Son, disciples are no longer called servants but friends.
The Johannine community was to live as friends and so, throughout his gospel, John introduces us to various occasions of friendship: John the Baptist, the precursor and “the friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29) who, like a best man, hands over the bride Israel to Jesus; the family at Bethany, especially Lazarus, the friend for whom he wept at his grave and for whom Jesus was the tomb breaker (John 11:35-44); Pilate, who at a critical moment preferred to be a friend of Caesar rather than Jesus (John 19:12); the disciple beloved of Jesus (John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7); and Peter, the forgiven friend who will lead and shepherd the community of the forgiven (John 21:44ff.). As we gather (still virtually) around the table of our eucharistic supper, we hear that we have been chosen by Jesus as his friends and commissioned to befriend the world in and with the love he has shown us.
The most startling, profound, yet simple naming of God is proclaimed in the reading from the First Letter of John: “God is love.” The letter is addressed to the “beloved,” those with whom God has taken the initiative, who are parented by God’s love, and this self-giving love is the source of human love. Like today’s gospel whose heartbeat is love, so love beats strongly in this reading – named nine times in its four verses. It is love that is expansive and global, yet also intimate and personal, revealed most fully in Jesus, the Son of God and our brother.
In a remarkable photographic event, at the turn of the millennium invitations were sent to 192 countries inviting photographers to submit entries that captured and celebrated the essence of humanity’s “Moments of Intimacy, Laughter and Kinship.” Ultimately, seventeen thousand photographers from 164 countries entered with over forty thousand photographs. As well as becoming an international traveling exhibition, the winning photographs are published as three incredible books entitled Family, Friendship, and Love. As love always does, the images reach across all continents and races, youth and age, poverty and affluence, to reveal the heart of humanity and, surely, the heart of God. The viewer has no idea if the God of Jesus Christ is known or unknown to the 6-year-old “policeman” in the slums of Calcutta who is holding up his hand to stop the traffic so that three blind men, their hands on one another’s shoulders, can safely cross the road; whether any prayers are being murmured by the 84-year-old woman saying goodbye to her dying 92-year-old friend; or what is the faith of the parents welcoming their womb-wet, wailing newborn. But the Christian gazing on these photographs, or on such realities in our everyday lives, can surely say: “God is love.” (Living Liturgy 2021)
We will be offering a number of online gathering opportunities for our parishioners starting soon, which will allow us to connect through the means of Zoom to have some time for conversation, games and prayer together. An email will be sent sometime at the beginning of next week inviting each one of you to be part of this parish initiative. The first Games Night is coming up this Wednesday, May 12! It will run from 7:00-8:00pm and will include 3 games that can be played through Internet links or screen sharing, with prizes up for grabs! Come play as an individual or as a family! For more information, or to get the Zoom information, please contact Wes at email@example.com. More details to follow about the other upcoming online gatherings.
This year, our parish will join Catholic communities around the world in celebrating Laudato Si Week! Six years ago, Pope Francis published his encyclical entitled “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home”. In it, he talks about how we are shaping the future of the Earth, and he calls the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path. During Laudato Si Week, our parish’s new Laudato Si Circle group will be hosting three events that they hope that individuals and families from our parish will join in with: a live-streamed liturgy on the theme of Creation, a week-long recycling challenge with the opportunity to win prizes, and a Zoom session also on the topic of recycling. For more details about these events, you’re invited to visit the online bulletin or the Circle’s brand new Facebook page, which is called “Laudato Si Circle – St. Francis Xavier Parish, Stoney Creek”. A printable score-sheet for the recycling challenge will be shared in the bulletin and on the Facebook page next weekend.
After many years of hard work and tremendous exhaustion, to the point that there is nothing that we can do to extend their lifespan any longer, it is time to retire our church roof AC units which have served us for at least 30 years. After obtaining permission from the Diocese, this necessary work to replace them will begin this coming week. We hope that by the end of May, or maybe even sooner, we will be able to have new HVAC units in place so that when we finally reopen, we can welcome you back with cold air (but very warm hearts!) during the hot summer months.
Come and celebrate the Sunday Mass virtually with us on our YouTube channel! This weekend Deacon Carmelo is preaching and it’s going to be a revitalizing, ravishing homily (if it is not then we will fire him – just kidding!!). Before the Mass we will pray the Rosary at 9:30am
God bless, everyone.