Monday, April 29, 2013


Deacon Jerry Franzen        Cathedral           April 28, 2013
Acts 14:21-27    Revelation 21: 1-5a   John 13:31-33a, 34-35

The news is filled with examples of people
who have encountered hardships:
Families dealing with loss and pain from a bombing;
Some chased from their homes by floods,
A country dealing with the bird flu,
A school evacuated by a bomb scare,
People victimized by a variety of crimes,
People killed, injured and displaced by a huge explosion
Others out of work
For all of us there have been times when things have not gone well;
we have all had to struggle to some degree.
People enduring hardships –
Mentioned in the first reading as a necessity for entering
“ the kingdom of God” and implied in the Gospel:
Loving others as Jesus loves us can be hard.
More to come, but first a story.


*Maria, a single mother, and her daughter Christina lived
in a small but comfortable house in a poor neighborhood
on the outskirts of a Brazilian Village.
Maria was determined to raise her daughter herself.
By age fifteen, Christina,
had developed an independent streak like her mother.
Christina 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 about life made her keep men at arms’ length.

She often spoke of leaving home for the exciting avenues
and the bright lights of big city life; this worried her mother.
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 Maria’s heart was broken when, on one morning,
she found her daughter’s bed empty.
She knew immediately that Christiana had left for the city, 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 would be 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 reputation.
It seemed that she went to them all.
At each place Maria left her picture taped to bathroom mirrors,
pinned on bulletin boards, even taped in 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 alone on the long journey home.

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.
Yet the village was, in so many ways, too far away.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she noticed a familiar face.
There, taped to the lobby mirror, was 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 go home.         


In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas
reminded the disciples that being a true follower of Jesus
would not be easy.
Things would not go well at times.
The short reading from John’s Gospel occurs,
just after Judas has left to go about his betrayal of Jesus.
Jesus tells the remaining apostles that he is about to be glorified
in his suffering, death and resurrection,
and he wants to leave them with an important message.
He loved them and he loves us
to the point of suffering and dying for them and for us.
It’s a pivotal point in John’s Gospel.
Jesus made it very clear that in order to be true disciples,
they would have to love one another as He loved them.
Paul and Barnabas delivered 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 loved us;
she gave all that she had for her daughter.
Many a parent might shun a daughter with such a reputation.
Maria loved her daughter to the point of giving up all her pride and
welcoming Christina back with complete forgiveness, no conditions.
This is how God so loves us and
we, as followers of Jesus, must do the same.

When Tena, my wife, and I work with a couple
in preparation for marriage,
the first question I ask the couple
after our exchange of introductions is,
“Why do you want to get married?”
We want to hear what the love between them means to them.
We usually hear about many good things,
how they are each so much better
because of their relationship,
mostly what each person GETS from the relationship.

We often do not hear the word “love”, as in
“I want to marry this person because I love this person.”
So I then ask where love enters into their relationship.
Oh, of course, they love each other,
but they often have difficulty describing what this love means.
After I quote from today’s Gospel passage:
“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
I ask them “How is it that Jesus loves us?”
We eventually get around to the love of each of them
being the giving of one person’s life
to this relationship with the other.
It brings me then to the rhetorical question of
“Is this the one you really want to give your life to?”

It turns the love between them from a focus on
what each will get from the relationship,
to a love that focuses on what each will give to it.
And this giving will inevitably mean some degree of hardship:
a hardship of giving up one’s own individual wants and desires
in favor of those of the relationship.

And so we must ask ourselves, “How are we doing as disciples?”

Does our love for others extend to the point of our
suffering hardships, going out of our way for them,
or is it just whatever is comfortable for us?

Did we make the sacrifice to come to Mass this weekend,
because we love God and our neighbors here beside us
or is it just something we always do on Sunday?

Did we make a true sacrificial offering
to the Diocesan Parish Annual Appeal
because we love Jesus in our neighbors in need
around this diocese?

Do we love our spouses
because we love Jesus in them and give our lives to them?

Do we love our children and do whatever it takes for them
because they are Jesus for us
and that is how Jesus teaches us to love?

Do we love our parents;
will we endure the hardships of their aging
because we really believe that Jesus
endured his hardships for us?

When people see our faces, do they see the face of God
and is there an accompanying message of his love?

It boils down the simple question
once posted on my homeroom door at school:
‘If you were accused of being a Christian, a true disciple of Jesus,
would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

* “Come Home” by Max Lucado in “Stories for the Heart” compiled by Alice Gray, pp 153-155, Questar Publishers, Sisters, Oregon 1996.