7th Sunday of Easter - Unity

From the Connections:
In John’s account of the Last Supper, after his final teachings to his disciples before the events of his passion begin, Jesus addresses his Father in heaven. He begins praying for himself, that he may obediently bring to completion the work of redemption entrusted to him by the Father. Next, he prays for his disciples, that they may faithfully proclaim the word he has taught them. Finally (today’s Gospel periscope), Jesus prays for the future Church – us – that we may be united in the “complete” love that binds the Father to the Son and the Son to his Church, and that in our love for one another the world may come to know God.

HOMILY POINTS: In his “High Priestly Prayer,” Jesus pleads with the Father that the unique sense of “oneness” that exists between the Father and Son might exist among us, as well. It is a unity of complete love embracing all, from Genesis to the Gospel of the empty tomb to our own parish family. Christ calls us to work for that sense of “oneness,” that sense of “connectedness” and “completeness” within our own Church by recognizing and honouring the essential dignity that every one of us possesses as children of God and in seeking ways to tear down the barriers that divide and alienate us from one another. Christ’s prayer the night before he dies is that we realize his hope for the Church he leaves behind: a Church of welcome and acceptance that refuses to trap one another by labels and categories, a faith that seeks to find and honor what unites and binds us together as the people of God. 

A prayer for busy moms, coaches, and grandparents
Remember the mom who taught your second-grade religious education class the year you received your First Communion?  Now that you’re a parent yourself, you understand and appreciate the extraordinary sacrifice of time she had made and her generosity of heart to prepare you and your classmates for your First Communion with such patience, understanding and love.  Jesus’ prayer in today’s Gospel is for her.
As you watch your own son or daughter play team sports, you see yourself at their age struggling to make contact with the ball or trying to stop an opposing player who had height and weight — and skill — over you.  But there was that one coach who took you under his or her wing, who worked you hard to show you that you could do it.  No, you didn’t make the pros or get an athletic scholarship to a first-tier school — but you left that team with a confidence and work ethic that you carry to this day.  In his Cenacle prayer the night before he died, Jesus blesses that dedicated coach.
Most of us have or had a favorite aunt or uncle or grandparent.  We could talk to them about anything.  Their love was unconditional, their support total — and their advice honest.  They may have taught us to do things we still cherish: tying our own dry flies, baking an old family recipe, playing guitar, painting in water colors.  Our lives have been blessed by the wisdom of their years and the lessons of their experience.  At the Last Supper, Jesus gives thanks for their blessing to us and their families.

On the night before he died, Jesus prayed for and exalted all the family members and friends and teachers and coaches and mentors in our lives who have instilled in us the values of the Gospel.   In John’s account of the Last Supper, after his final teachings to his disciples before the events of his passion begin, Jesus addresses his Father in heaven.  He begins praying for himself, that he may obediently bring to completion the work of redemption entrusted to him by the Father.  Next he prays for his disciples gathered with him in the Cenacle, that they may faithfully proclaim the Word he has taught them.  Finally (today’s Gospel), Jesus prays for the Church of the future — those who teach, reveal, and proclaim God’s love in our midst, and those of us whose lives have been blessed and enriched by their witness.  It is that love of God that binds us together as a Church, that makes us not just an association of good people but a family of faith.  In Jesus’ “high priestly prayer,” we behold our connectedness to the Church of all times and places: from the Risen Christ’s greeting of peace Easter night to our own Alleluias this Easter season.  Christ exalts those who strive to create that sense of unity and calls us to work for that connectedness with one another and with those who follow us by honoring the essential dignity that everyone possesses as a child of God. 

We have a wonderful mystery to contemplate this morning, and it is summarized in a strange formula. It's not really all that complicated, but it is worthy of reflection for it has implications for our lives together. Here is the formula, an equation, really: 1 + 1 + 1 = One.

Rather strange math, isn't it? Well, it's God's math, so let's see how it works.
That strange formula really comes from the gospel text for today. For the past several weeks during this Easter season, our gospel readings have come from that section of John's gospel known as the Final Discourse of Jesus. This last speech, if you will, that Jesus makes to his disciples concludes with these verses from the 17th chapter. It is really a prayer of Jesus to his Father in heaven and has often been called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. In a sense, it is Jesus' last will and testament, his parting shot, his last effort to teach, to exhort, to encourage, to empower his disciples.
Now for the math part. Listen to Jesus' words: "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." Did you hear it? 1 + 1 + 1 = One. It's not too difficult, once we understand the parts of the equation. Let's unravel the mystery slowly...
 One of the most meaningful experiences of my life took place in the Philippines. In the remote village of Lubuagan, high in the mountain provinces of northern Luzon, is a small mission school of some 250 students. The school and its sister church are on the main highway to Manila, which at this point is a narrow, treacherous dirt road, built on a mountain ledge. Few outsiders have been in this area, except missionaries, because it is so remote and primitive.

It had begun to rain on that Monday morning when I began my first day of talks at little Kalinga Academy. We had three convocations ... and some classroom presentations. The principal came to me in the afternoon and said many of the townspeople had asked for a worship service in the evening and would I baptize some of the children of the congregation. There had been no resident minister for some time. Of course I said yes, and we made arrangements for the community-wide evening service.

The missionary nurse who had driven us in said, with despair in her voice, "I don't think we had better use the Jeep to try to get back to the church ... we'd have serious problems getting down and it would be practically impossible to get back up the road again, even with four-wheel drive. It looks like you'll have to walk down by yourself in the dark." There is no electricity in the village ... so I took a flashlight, such as it was, and set out.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I reached the church expecting to find only a handful of people in that awful downpour. Certainly, no one would bring an infant out in weather like this. How wrong could one be! The church was filled to capacity with standing room only. There were candles on the pews and Coleman lanterns on the pulpit. A scene like this was beyond one's wildest imagination. The eerie glow of candles and kerosene lamps, every available space taken, the steady staccato of rain on the sheet metal roof, the foot-pumped organ leading in hymns of praise, an occasional whimper from a child, and beautiful Filipino Christians, silent and earnestly listening to the words of a Galilean Jew as interpreted by a caucasian from America.
What a beautiful scene that was. A congregation rejoicing in common worship of a common Lord, setting apart their children in a centuries-old sacrament and pledging spiritual responsibility to nurture them in Christ. In that moment we were perfectly one. The thing that drew us together....
Human Porcupines  
The German philosopher Schopenhauer compared the human race to a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winter's night. He said, "The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth's winter eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness."
As humans we have been created with the need for companionship. I am always fascinated how Adam, when He enjoyed sinless fellowship with His Creator, still had a desire for one of his own kind (Gen. 2:20). God has created institutions such as marriage and family and church to meet these needs for human intimacy and belonging....

Jesus was well aware of our need for intimate human companionship, and He was also well aware of the challenges and "sharp quills" we face in the process. So in His final prayer to the Father, just hours before He would be suspended on the cross, Jesus prayed for the unity of His church. Second only to the concern for His glory was this longing that His disciples would be united. He knew how much supernatural help we as sinners need in this area. He also knew how an ununified church would fail to bring Him the glory He so much desires.

Randy Smith, Jesus Prays for His Church
A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle;...they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; ...those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. It (the release) comes at last--the only un-poisoned gift earth ever had for them--and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence....a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.
Mark Twain shortly before his death.
God and Creation Are Always One

There's a story told of respected astronomers at the Vatican Observatory who presented the church with evidence of another planet having the characteristics of our own, possibly to the extent of supporting sentient life. Two schools of thought emerged: the first advised the immediate dispatch of missionaries to bring the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to those aliens, presumed to be very much like us. The second school advised against an expedition. Jesus came to us at the right time and place, they argued, and he will go to them when the time is appropriate, too. The astronomers allowed the debate to rage for a while before advising that the light from the new planet had taken so long to reach us that our cousin planet had actually ceased to exist several millions of years ago.

If God is immutable, however, can nothing ever change? We know that to be patently untrue. Theologians have a lot to say on these subjects and I suppose the most straightforward answer is that God and creation are always "one" no matter what part of creation we are looking at, or the era we are considering.

Anthony Jewiss
 A Prayer for the Future

If we assume that Jesus did envision some kind of future for his followers and if he really did have hope that the Father would glorify him despite the dark events soon to descend upon him, then it makes sense that Jesus would pray for the future wellbeing of his disciples and any latter-day people who became associated with them on account of the witness of those same disciples. In this sense, Jesus in the upper room on that particular night was not unlike a father praying to God for the future safety and flourishing of his own children and grandchildren. Far from an unlikely thing to do, it's actually a very natural thing for a person of love to do regarding those whom he held dear. What parent, upon first laying eyes on a newborn child, does not immediately feel welling up within him or her far-reaching desires for this child to grow and be well and to flourish far into the future, including into the years beyond the life of the parent?

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
Humor: Church Unity

The wrong way to achieve unity in the church is to try and appeal to everyone. The church humor magazine "The Door" facetiously announced these newly formed churches seeking to do just that:

Potluck Assembly
Little Bit O'Bible Church
Church of the Big P.A.
The Short-Term Pastor Center
Theology-Free Church
The Inaccurate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Seldom United Church
Bill Gates' Memorial Geek Orthodox
New Wife Fellowship
Church of the Perpetual Building Program
Comfortable Pew Family Center
Clean Bathroom Bible Temple
Better Than the Rest Believer's Fellowship
Legalist Bondage Assembly
The Church Where the Pastor's Family Runs Everything
The Two-Or-More-But-Sometimes-Less-Depending-On-Who-Shows-Up Bible Church
Feelgood Fellowship
Twist-and-Shout Revival Center
John Green, "Newly Formed Churches"
 Reaping a Whirlwind

We have sown a wind of secularism, modernism, and shifting moral values. As a direct result, we are now reaping a whirlwind of immorality, sexually transmitted disease, corruption, and violent crime. The only hope that exists for our individual, national, spiritual and institutional recovery is to return to the spiritual values that originally formed the foundation of North American national life--the teaching of Jesus Christ, as found in the Word of God.

Grant R. Jeffrey, Jesus - The Great Debate, p. 267.
The Universality of the Golden Rule

Despairing of the possibility of ever bringing about religious unity through doctrinal, philosophical or theological dialogue, a great many people have latched onto the Golden Rule as the ultimate expression of their faith. It is provocative and inspiring to discover the remarkable universality of this ethical principle. In Hinduism it is stated like this: "Those gifted with intelligence should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated." The Shinto version is: "The suffering of others is my suffering; the good of others is my good." In Buddhism it is: "A person can minister to friends and familiars by ... treating them as he treats himself." Taoists say: "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and regard your neighbor's loss as your own loss." In Islam: "None of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." For Sikhs it is: "As thou deemest thyself so deem others. Then shalt thou become a partner in heaven." In Confucianism and Zoroastrianism the rule is stated in the same way as in the New Testament except that it is couched in negative terms: "Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you." The Jewish equivalent in Leviticus 19:18 is "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Carl L. Jech, Channeling Grace, CSS Publishing Company
Humor: Are You a Believer?

Max Lucado, tells the following story with wit and style,

Some time ago I came upon a fellow on a trip who was carrying a Bible.
"Are you a believer?" I asked him.
"Yes," he said excitedly.
I've learned you can't be too careful.
"Virgin birth?" I asked.
"I accept it."
"Deity of Jesus?"
"No doubt."
"Death of Christ on the cross?"
"He died for all people."
Could it be that I was face to face with a Christian? Perhaps. Nonetheless, I continued my checklist...

From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

Life Messages: 1) We need to pray for unity and serve one another in unity.  We must pray for unity and discuss the similarities we share with others as well as our differences. Along with prayer, we must put our words into action.   This means that we are to serve one another and to love one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. What unites us is greater than what divides us. As we move nearer to Jesus Christ, in him we move nearer to one another. Such unity is ultimately a gift of the Holy Spirit and of His guidance. The soul of the ecumenical movement then, is spiritual. Only by a renewal of the spiritual, by common prayer and common listening to the Word of God, can we hope to overcome the present ecumenical impasses and difficulties. In the words of Pope St. John Paul II: “The door to ecumenism is opened only on our knees.”
2) We need to have a clear idea about the Catholic stand on ecumenism. In his encyclical Ut Unum Sint, Pope St. John Paul II warns against compromise for the sake of unity. He states, “the ultimate goal of the ecumenical movement is to reestablish full visible unity among all the baptized [77.1].” He adds, “It is already possible to identify the areas in need of fuller study before a true consensus of Faith can be achieved.”

1: Fingerprints and DNA scanners: Fingerprints have long been recognized as a form of personal identification. As far back as the reign of the Babylonian King Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC), convicts were fingerprinted. In China as early as 246 BC, fingerprints were used to “sign” legal contracts. In 1788 a German anatomist, Johann Christoph Andreas Mayer, published findings which proved that fingerprints are unique to each individual. The idea caught on so fast that by the mid-nineteenth century, data banks of fingerprints were being collected all over the world for identification purposes. Now, as we know, micro-processors race and run at breakneck speed through millions of fingerprints in order to catch the bad guys or exonerate the good guys. Science has revealed other ways we are unique and singular. Our DNA is our own. Each cell of our body is genetically coded just for us. God made us in many ways wholly and totally different from one another. Yet, as Jesus offers up to the Father his own personal “Lord’s Prayer,” as given in today’s Gospel, he closes by praying for “oneness” among all those who follow him as disciples. Does this mean that Jesus prays for us all to be the same? Is this a call for “cloned Christians”? A franchise faith? A lemming life? A monotone mission? Is every follower of Jesus expected to keep the same pace, have the same stride, move to the same rhythm? Jesus was praying for generations of believers. The “oneness” that Jesus prayed for is a oneness of heart and a oneness of love. Oneness for Jesus is a love mark of hearts that have experienced the unity of Divine love – the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as they are poured out into the hearts of every disciple. As Christians, our DNA reads the same: we are all part of the Body of Christ.

2. Unity by humble dialogue and loving interaction: If you have seen the academy award winning film Gandhi, you may remember the scene where Gandhi is caught in the middle of intense conflict between Muslims and Hindus. He defuses the situation by saying, “I am a Muslim, and a Hindu, and a Christian, and a Jew.” This is a wonderful attitude to take, so long as it affirms the unique identities and contributions of each tradition and so long as it is a recognition of unity amid diversity rather than a superficial homogenizing of the various faiths. As we noted on Ash Wednesday, Christians in particular may need to begin paying more serious attention to the other major religions of the world. Many folks are so ignorant of anything beyond the Judeo-Christian tradition that when they do run into another faith-system they are immediately swept off their feet and become infatuated. In the name of understanding and unity based on the grace of God, we surely need to avoid the attitude expressed by a group of parents who wanted The Diary of Anne Frank banned from the classroom because it seemed to approve of all religions without recognizing the superiority of Christianity. Ghandi’s sentiment is a great antidote to such, no doubt well-intentioned holier-than-thou-ism. The Charlton Heston movie El Cid (“The Lord”), illustrated both the horrible destructiveness of religious conflicts and the possibilities for overcoming religious-based hostility. The story of El Cid illustrates how the desire to win or claim other people for one’s Faith can become a prescription for cruel tyranny. Faith is shared through humble dialogue and by loving interaction, not by making claims and demands, although Jesus didn’t tell us to “Go, therefore, and ‘have dialogue’ with all nations,” but to “make disciples.”

3: Wrong ecumenism in action? One day, a man was walking across a bridge and saw another man standing on the edge, about to jump off. He immediately ran to him and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!” “Well, why shouldn’t I?” he replied. The other said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” “Like what”? “Well … are you religious or atheist?” “Religious.” “Me, too! And are you Christian or Jewish?” “Christian.” “Me, too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” “Protestant.” “Me, too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?” “Baptist.” “Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?” “Baptist Church of God.” “Me, too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God.” “Me, too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!” To which he said, “Die, you heretic!” and pushed him off the bridge.

10- Additional anecdotes:

1) “I know where to hide it.” This is a story by the Bombay-born, English writer, Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). Once upon a time, when the gods were so new that they had no names and the first man was still damp from the clay of the pit from which he had been dug, he claimed that he too was a god. The gods weighed the evidence and decided that man’s claim was good. Having conceded man’s claim, the gods came by stealth and stole away his divinity, intending to hide it where he could never find it again. Various gods made various suggestions as to an appropriate hiding place, but they could not come to an agreement.  Finally, the wisest of the gods said, “I know where to hide it, give it to me.”  He closed his hand upon the tiny light of man’s stolen godhead, and when he opened his hand again, the light was gone.  “All is well,” said the god, “I have hidden it where man will never dream of looking for it.  I have hidden it inside man himself.” Although Kipling’s fictional god was certain that the light of humanity’s godhead was hidden forever, ours is a God who wills that we know and rejoice in the wondrous discovery of the Godhead within us.  Today, Jesus reminds us that it is this light of Divinity within us that will enable us to receive and maintain the unity among the Christians for which he prayed. (

2) “They think they’re the only ones here.” There’s a story which many of you have heard and it is a fitting introduction for our text. A group of new arrivals in heaven met Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. He began to show them around, pointing out areas of interest and filling them in on the rules of the kingdom. There were many “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd, and they were obviously enjoying themselves immensely. Suddenly Saint Peter stopped a short distance from a massive building which was miles-wide, -long and -high, having no doors or windows. “While we pass this building,” he said, “you must walk quietly and utter not so much as a sound.” So the entourage tiptoed obediently past the monolith without a word. Once they were past, however, an inquisitive soul inquired, “Why did we have to be so quiet when we passed that building?” Saint Peter responded, “God put the Catholics (put your denomination here) in there. They think they’re the only ones up here.” (

3) One with God and one with one another: It is reported that Mahatma Gandhi, in his younger days, was impressed with Christianity. One Sunday in South Africa he went to a church, planning to ask the minister afterwards for instructions in the faith. But as he entered the building the ushers refused to seat him. “Why don’t you visit the colored peoples’ church?” he was asked. Gandhi never became a Christian. “If Christians also have differences, I might as well remain a Hindu,” he explained. Yes, we have differences — but in God’s strange math 1 + 1 + 1 = One. For those who believe that, their eyes look upon their neighbor in a whole new way. For those who believe that, their arms cannot help but reach out to join those who know the same math. For those who believe, God touches and blesses and makes them (us) one with him and with one another. (

4) Denominational traditions: At a large ecumenical gathering of religious leaders the fire alarm sounded. The Methodists gathered in a corner and prayed while the Baptists yelled “Where’s the water?” The Quakers quietly praised God for the blessing fire brings while the Lutherans posted a notice on the door declaring fire to be evil. Catholics took pledges to cover the expenses. Christian Scientists agreed among themselves there really was no fire at all. The Pentecostals praised God and shouted “holy smoke.” Presbyterians appointed a committee to look into the matter and make a formal report at their next session meeting. In the meantime, the Episcopalians formed a procession and marched out of the building in decency and order. (

5) Opening of ourselves to God’s indwelling presence. Group magazine did a survey among junior high young people in youth groups across the U.S. They asked these young people to “describe the God you believe in.” These Junior High kids said things like: “He’ll always be there even when you don’t think he is . . . He’s not a man or woman he’s a spirit, a light that’s everlasting . . . Strong, powerful, loving, caring, forgiving, mysterious . . . The God who loves us no matter what we do the one, true God . . . Awesome. God is a 100% guarantee of a problem-free life.” (Don’t you wish!) Others said things like, “I believe in the God that sent his only Son to die on the cross . . . He loves all people even me . . . Kind, just, merciful, stern . . . Fun has a sense of humor . . . He wants me to obey him. (“Insight,” Sept./Oct. 1996, p. 16.) Those Junior High young people have a pretty good grasp on Who God is. Certainly, God is all those things and more, and all of these are wrapped up in God’s glory. When the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, our bodies house the living God. If God dwells in your life, then you have the glory. You see, the mistake we make is the assumption that glory comes from something we do, that glory is something we accomplish. That may be true in terms of what the world calls glory. But what God calls glory is simply the opening of ourselves to God’s indwelling presence. (

6) “Abide with Me” (hymn): Every January, the city of Delhi, India honors its president and government leaders with a ceremony called Beating Retreat. The centerpiece of the ceremony is an impressive marching display by the members of the military. The marching is highly stylized, and performed to the accompaniment of instruments, especially drums. However, everyone waits in eager anticipation for the finale of the Beating Retreat. Instead of a traditional Indian song, or a military tune, the finale of the Beating Retreat is a Christian hymn. In tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, the musicians play his favorite hymn, Abide with Me. Although most of the spectators, participants, and honorees in the ceremony are Hindu, Buddhist, or Sikh, the climax to the Beating Retreat is this sacred hymn, and it is played with respectful fervor. (Simon Winchester, “The Legacy,” August 1997, p.55.) Gandhi knew that the glory did not belong with him, but with God. That is why he could sing, “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide! When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me.” Glory is not something we can accomplish. It is a gift. All we can do is open our hearts to it.

7) “Let’s go get it straightened out right now.” Jim Cymbala is the pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle Church, a dynamic church in New York City. He started out with about 10 people and now there are over 6,000 people there. For 20 years now, Jim has been saying to every group of new members “Now I charge you that if you ever hear another member speak an unkind word of criticism, or slander against anyone-myself, an usher, a choir member, anyone else-stop that person in mid-sentence and say ‘Excuse me, who hurt you? Who slighted you? Let’s go get it straightened out right now,’ so God can restore peace and harmony to this body.” Is it any wonder that he has 6,000 people in his Church now? God honors that kind of unity of spirit. God honors that kind of witness to the world. (

8) “It’s pretty tough being famous when nobody knows who you are.” Tony Campolo says that some years ago when his children were in their preteen years, he took them with him on a speaking engagement. When they drove into the parking lot adjoining the auditorium where, in just a few minutes, Tony was to speak, there were only three cars parked there. “Dad!” exclaimed his son, Bart, who at that point of his life was somewhat impressed with Tony’s role as a public speaker, “Nobody’s come to hear you! And you’re so famous!” “Come on, Bart,” responded his sister Lisa, who, Tony says, has always been the realist in the family, “if Dad is so famous, where are all the people?” “Knock it off, Lisa,” Bart answered back. “It’s pretty tough being famous when nobody knows who you are.” [Tony Campolo, Everything You’ve Heard Is Wrong (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992), pp. 164-165.] That’s where most of us are. “It’s pretty tough being famous when nobody knows who you are.” Jesus didn’t promise that everybody would know our name. He just promised us glory. Evidently, what Jesus called glory was not what the world calls glory. And, maybe that’s just as well. Jib Fowles, a college professor and author, did a study of 100 stars from all fields of Hollywood entertainment, sports stars, musicians. He discovered that celebrities are almost four times more likely to kill themselves than the average American. “It’s . . . enormously stressful . . . ,” Fowles says. “There is unrelenting pressure coupled with diminishing private lives. They have to be on every time they step out their front door.” In fact, he found that the average age of death for celebrities, overall, was 58. The average for non-celebrities is 72 [Mary Loftus, “The Other Side of Fame,” Psychology Today (May/June 1995), p. 74.).] Is the world overlooking you? Maybe you are fortunate! (

9) We need people who can speak the language of the heart. Harold S. Kushner tells of an incident from his youth that made a distinct impression on him. A business associate of his father’s died under particularly tragic circumstances. Kushner accompanied his father to the funeral. The man’s widow and children were surrounded by clergy and psychiatrists trying to ease their grief and make them feel better. They knew all the right words, but nothing helped. They were beyond being comforted. The widow kept saying, “You’re right, I know you’re right, but it doesn’t make any difference.” Then a man walked in, a big burly man in his eighties who was a legend in the toy and game industry. He had escaped from Russia as a youth after having been arrested and tortured by the Czar’s secret police. He had come to this country, illiterate and penniless, and had built up an immensely successful company. He was known as a hard bargainer, a ruthless competitor. Despite his success, he had never learned to read or write. He hired people to read his mail to him. The joke in the industry was that he could write a check for a million dollars, and the hardest part would be signing his name at the bottom. He had been sick recently, and his face and his walking showed it. But he walked over to the widow and started to cry, and she cried with him, and you could feel the atmosphere in the room change. This man who had never read a book in his life spoke the language of the heart and held the key that opened the gates of solace where learned doctors and clergy could not. [Harold S. Kushner, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough (New York: Summit Books, 1986).] We need people who can speak the language of the heart. We need persons within the community of Christ to whom we feel especially close. There will come a time when we will need to reach out to them for comfort. There will be times they will need to reach out to us. Jesus’ first prayer is for our unity with one another.(

10) “Get me to the Mustangs’ playoffs. No matter what.” In Yakima, Washington, some time, back a dying man made a strange request. On his deathbed, Grant Flory said to his family: “Get me to the Mustangs’ playoffs. No matter what.” He was referring to his old high school team, The Prosser Mustangs. So in early December, when the Mustangs played in Seattle’s Kingdome, Flory’s cremated remains were in attendance. His son Dwight approached the stadium gate wearing a camera bag that contained his father’s urn. He was stopped by a guard who asked what was in the bag. “It’s my dad,” he replied. The guard looked puzzled but allowed the ashes inside. Family members said anyone who knew Grant Flory wouldn’t be surprised by his request. He was a real football fan. It is the dream of every pastor to have a congregation filled with people who are that determined to be at the Eucharistic celebration every Sunday to recharge their spiritual batteries, to pray for and realize Jesus’ dream of Church unity as he expressed in today’s Gospel. (