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PreachApril 28, 2024
Photo courtesy of iStock.

This week on “Preach,” the Rev. Peter Wojcik, the pastor of Saint Clement Parish in Chicago, Ill.,  preaches for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B. In his homily, Peter reflects on the depth of Jesus’ committed love for us and our Christian duty—and challenge—to share that transformative love with others.

In the conversation after the homily, Peter and host Ricardo da Silva, S.J., talk about strategies for preaching to a parish of mostly young adults and connecting with the community’s struggle with mental well-being. They also discuss strategies of welcoming newcomers to the parish, including on social media. Peter shares about how when he preps his homily, he focuses on how congregants will feel. He uses his homilies to bring them to a “place of freedom” where they can recognize God’s love and explore their faith. 

Readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B

Reading I: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
Reading II: 1 Jn 4:7-10
Gospel: Jn 15:9-17

The full text of the Scripture readings can be found here.

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B, by Peter Wojcik

A committed love is not easily shaken by circumstances. It is committed. Every week here at St. Clement, I stand outside of our parish school greeting families picking up kids after school. And I always think about that, you know, those parents have really good or really bad days, and so do the kids—I can attest to it. Some had the best day, they behaved really well. And some, boy, sometimes they struggled, and yet, it doesn’t matter. The parents still show up. They pick them up and then take them to probably a million different sports and activities throughout the rest of the day. They are committed to them. It’s a committed love. It’s not altered easily by circumstances; even when the kids misbehave, the parents still show up at 3 p.m. They pick them up, they take them home.

Jesus is reminding us that the love that he has for us is not influenced by circumstances. He loves us. He loves us wholeheartedly with all his heart. He loves us constantly. There’s no limits to his love, and his love is both freeing and encouraging us. Those are the three points that I like to make today as we listen to that Gospel. First is that Jesus loves you. And sometimes it’s hard to believe, especially in the days when we feel under the weather, when perhaps you are looking for a new job or just exited a difficult relationship. But even on the most wonderful days of your life and the days when you really feel like you’re not lovable, Jesus loves you.

How do we know that? Well, that’s what the Gospel says: “As the Father has loved me, so I loved you.” Jesus never doubted the love of the Father, and God loves Jesus so much that if you dig in into the Scripture, you see that there are over 300 prophecies written—hundreds, hundreds upon years before Jesus’ birth—about the Father’s expectation of his Son being born as human to redeem us. The Father so loved the Son that he prepared generations even before his birth to joyfully anticipate his birth, his life and then his resurrection. That’s how much Jesus is loved by the Father.
And Jesus says, “Listen, the Father who loves me so much now loves you with the same amount of love.” So first, think, I hope today you know that you’re loved. And if you don’t feel loved, I just would encourage you throughout this week to go back to the Scripture and revisit it over and over and over again, and let it just kind of simmer in your heart. Allow yourself to be loved by God throughout this week.

Secondly, Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit. He gives us his Holy Spirit so we, then, can love one another. Jesus doesn’t just stop in the Scripture saying, “Oh, I love you, and therefore do whatever you wish.” No, no. Jesus says, “I love you. And once you’re convinced by my love, use that love, use that spirit of love in making a difference in the lives of others.” As Christians, we have no choice but to bring the Good News of Jesus. If it’s not Good News, it cannot be Jesus. So I think that’s the second invitation I have for you: to remember that you are a bearer of Good News. Before you speak to others, before you do something, ask yourself, is it loving? Is it a Good News? Am I being a bearer of Good News? Am I bringing more love, or am I sucking love out of the room? Right?

And thirdly, as his love leads us to freedom, peace, and joy. Jesus says that if we accept his love and we follow his commandments, his joy will be in us and will be completed. My life verse comes from John 10:10 when Jesus says, “I came so you might have life. You might have it to the fullness.” I think we believe it or we don’t. I know sometimes I struggle, but even in the struggle, I experience a great freedom in knowing that no matter what, I’m just loved by God. And Jesus doesn’t promise us happiness because we cannot be happy at all times. We all encounter difficult moments in life when happiness is far away. But he promises joy, because joy is so much deeper than happiness, right? Even in those moments of real difficulty and hardship that we all experience every single week, we are invited to come and delight in the heart of the Son who tells us that he loves us. And once we accept his love, that love frees us from fear and therefore creates a sense of joy that the world cannot give.

So I find the Word of God this week filling me with hope, reminding me that I’m loved and then empowering me to be an agent of joy and of peace. And so, that’s my invitation to you throughout this week. Remember that you’re loved. Remember that Jesus sends you on the mission to bring that love to others—who will you bring that love throughout this week? And thirdly, remember that your joy will be completed if you come to Christ more deeply, if you trust him and if you take a risk of loving him just a little bit more throughout this week. That’s it.

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