Deacon Jerry Franzen Cathedral April 24, 2016
Acts 14:21-27 Revelation 21: 1-5a John 13:31-33a, 34-35
Praised Be Jesus Christ. Good Morning!
The news always seems to be filled with examples of people
who have encountered hardships:
families victimized by crime and
those convicted of various crimes,
workers laid off by employers and
companies trying to remain financially solvent,
homes destroyed by floods and earthquakes.
We don’t have to go to the news;
we have all encountered hardships in our lives.
Some of us have had it easier than others,
but hardships have been there none the less:
times when things have not gone well,
times when each of us has had to struggle.
Mentioned in the first reading and implied in the Gospel.
We will look at that connection, but first a story.
*Maria and her daughter Christina lived
in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of a Brazilian Village.
Maria was a single mother determined to raise her daughter herself.
By age fifteen, Christina, old enough to get a job,
had developed an independent streak like her mother.
She wasn’t interested in marrying early and raising a family,
although her olive skin and brown eyes
brought a steady stream of suitors to her door.
Her spirited curiosity made her keep men at arms length.
She often spoke of leaving home for the exciting avenues
and the bright lights of Rio de Janiero; this worried Maria.
She was quick to remind Christina of the harshness of the streets.
She told her that jobs were scarce and life in the city was cruel.
“What would you do for a living?” she asked.
Maria knew just exactly what Christiana
might have to do for a living.
That is why her heart was broken when, on one morning,
she found her daughter’s bed empty.
She knew immediately that Christiana had left for Rio, AND
Maria knew exactly what she must do.
Maria packed a bag with clothes, gathered up all of her money
and rushed to the bus station.
On her way, she stopped at a drug store for pictures;
she sat in the little booth, pulled the curtain
and spent all she could afford on pictures of herself.
With her purse full of black and white photos of herself,
she boarded the bus for
. Rio de Janeiro
Maria knew that Christina had no legitimate way of earning money,
and that she was too stubborn to give up and come home.
When pride meets hunger,
a human will do unthinkable things. Maria knew this.
She began her search in bars, hotels, nightclubs,
any place with a questionable character.
At each place she left her picture taped to bathroom mirrors,
pinned on bulletin boards, taped to corner phone booths.
She wrote a note on the back of each picture.
It wasn’t too long before Maria ran out of money and pictures.
She wept as she rode the bus on the long journey back to her village
It was a few weeks later, that Christina descended the stairs
to the lobby of a hotel.
Her young face was tired, her eyes no longer danced with youth;
they spoke of pain and fear.
Her dream had become a nightmare.
She longed to trade the countless beds for her own pallet at home.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she noticed a familiar face.
There on the lobby mirror was taped a picture of her mother.
Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened
as she walked across the lobby to remove the small photo.
Written on the back was the following:
“Whatever you have done, whatever you have become,
it doesn’t matter, Please come home.” She did.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas
reminded the disciples
that they would have to undergo many hardships
to enter into the
. kingdom of God
Being a true follower of Jesus would not be easy.
Things would not go well at times.
In the short gospel reading we just heard
Jesus, at the Last Supper, told the apostles
that he is about to be glorified,
glorified in his suffering, death and resurrection.
Jesus’ hardships were brutal.
His suffering, death and resurrection were the means by which
Jesus showed his disciples and us the character of his,
and the Father’s love.
He made it very clear that in order to be true disciples,
they would have to love one another as He loved them.
Jesus loved them and he loves us
to the point of suffering and dying for them and for us.
Paul and Barnabas preached that same message:
being a disciple, loving one another as Jesus loves us,
will involve hardships.
Maria’s love for Christina certainly involved hardships.
All the tears and worry, all the time out of her life,
all the money for pictures and travel
all the effort to distribute the pictures,
all the anger and frustration she must have experienced.
But Maria loved Christina as Jesus has loves us;
she gave all that she had for her daughter.
Many a parent might shun a daughter with such a reputation.
Maria loved Christina to the point of giving up all her pride
and welcoming Christina back in complete forgiveness,
This is how God loves us and
we, as followers of Jesus, must do the same for others
as Pope Francis has emphasized in this
Jubilee Year of Mercy.
After I had told the story of Maria and Christina to another deacon as we were talking about our homilies of this weekend,
he said that it was interesting how
Maria had used her own picture in her search,
since when a person goes missing these days,
it is the picture of the missing person
that is usually distributed.
That got me to thinking: “Isn’t that just what God has done for us?”
We, like Christina are the lost ones, separated due to our sin.
God doesn’t put our picture up as being lost.
God put His picture up for us.
His picture is Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the picture we have of God.
Maria put her picture and herself out there.
God has come after us as Maria sought out Christina.
In a famous poem by Francis Thompson,
God is described as the “Hound of Heaven,”
ever coming after us, ever searching us out.
As sharers in the ministry of Christ,
we are called to put our picture out there,
let our faces, our Christian faces, be seen by others.
We are each to be another face of God.
So, “How are we doing?” Are we trying to be the face of God?
Do others see in us the face of someone willing to endure hardships for the sake of others?
Did we come to this Mass with a countenance
that exudes love of God and our neighbors here beside us?
Did we make a sacrifical offering
to the Diocesan Parish Annual Appeal because we love Jesus
and want to help to care of the less fortunate in His flock?
Do we love our spouses
because we see Jesus in them,
want them to see Jesus in us and give our lives to them?
Do we love our children
and do whatever it takes for them
because they are Jesus for us?
Do we love our parents,
and will we endure the hardships of their aging,
because we really believe that Jesus
endured his hardships for us?
It boils down the simple question,
which you may have heard in some form:
“If you were accused of being a Christian,
would your picture be with the most wanted list
and would there be enough evidence to convict you?”