A little over a week ago marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. Because of the viral pandemic, that milestone didn’t receive the attention that it normally would have. There wasn’t the normal gatherings at historic sites or cemeteries, nor the usual retrospective documentaries that would’ve ordinarily been a part of such a notable historic date. I hadn’t realized this anniversary was coming up when I re-watched the mini-series Band of Brothers a few weeks ago. More than a mini-series, it’s almost like 10 very graphic short films which are considered to be some of the most accurate portrayals of World War II ever filmed. The authenticity is heightened with interviews from the actual veterans being dramatically portrayed interspersed throughout each episode.
Hi everyone here’s my homily for SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – MAY 17, 2020. During this time of public Masses being suspended, I invite you to pray with us as we pray for you on our FACEBOOK PAGE cick here Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and even more for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again – HAPPY EASTER! I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim
It’s hard to characterize one chapter as having the most impact over the others- each is so powerful in their own ways. But episode 9, entitled “Why we fight” was truly unforgettable. By this point, the war was winding down. The men of Easy Company have more time to reflect on all that has happened, all that they experienced, all that they witnessed, all that they sacrificed, all that they had lost and understandably are asking themselves “what was the point? Why?” They arrive at a concentration camp and see first hand the horrors for themselves, the diabolical conditions the prisoners have been subjected to. One of Paratroopers is able to translate for the others an account from one prisoner who tells them that they are all Jews who had been labeled “undesirable” by the Germans. You see prisoners near death next to corpses – people sickeningly malnourished and starving… The men in their shock and horror race to get food and supplies only to be stopped by one of the medics who tells them they can’t just do that… they can’t just give them food and water and free them. That they need to be careful and cautious and slowly work to help these poor souls if there’s any chance for them to physically recover – so, at that moment, they have to keep the prisoners inside the barbed wire fence until they can make sure they get them the care they need. It’s heart-wrenching on every level. Because the men finally have their answer, why they fight – but it was hell getting to this moment, and in that moment, it still was.
Stephen Ambrose, the author of the book which was the basis for the series, Band of Brothers, wrote of the incredible contradictions that these men experienced: “They found combat to be ugliness, destruction, and death, and hated it. Anything was better than the blood and carnage, the grime and filth, the impossible demands made on the body—anything, that is, except letting down their buddies. They also found in combat the closest brotherhood they ever knew. They found selflessness. They found they could love the other guy in their foxhole more than themselves. They found that in war, men who loved life would give their lives for them.”
We can’t fully appreciate or understand what it was they experienced… but we get a sense of that tension, that contradiction that these men experienced. We’ve heard but can’t begin to imagine the cost to them individually, which 75 years later leaves us in awe of those sacrifices in which a hideous evil that terrorized the world was defeated.
This Gospel [read here] also speaks of a similar contradiction and tension. It comes from Jesus’ Last Supper Discourse in the Gospel of John. Hearing this as we are nearing the end of the Easter Season, this period of 50 days celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and preparing to celebrate the Holy Spirit descending upon the Church at Pentecost – it’s easy to get lost in the beauty of these poetic verses. Yet, intentionally this passage brings us back to Holy Thursday. In that upper room, Jesus knows the victory that is coming, but that it comes at an incredible cost: Jesus’ brutal, ugly death on the Cross to save humanity. This passage has Jesus speaking of how he will send the “Spirit of Truth” upon those who follow Him. We recognize that in the Passion of Christ, this is the very truth that Pilate rejected. It is that same truth that the world continues to fight against and rejects.
It is the Spirit of Truth which calls humanity to all that is just, all that is right and we know that it is always going to be in tension with the “spirit of the world” which is seen in rationalization, denial, self-interest and confusion. We see the contradiction of living in this world but not of this world.
Jesus Christ, risen from the dead promising this advocate for us is a challenging gift. It’s going to result in our engaging in spiritual warfare – the most important battle of eternal consequences. The Spirit of Truth He will pour out on us calls us to confront things that we may not want to – whether it’s on a very personal level where I need to repent of my sins, change my life, re-evaluate my priorities – or on a more public level – where I am put in the vulnerable spot of being a prophetic voice in the world in addressing grievances, wrongs that need to be addressed. Maybe even within Jesus’ very church in calling out where we seem to resemble more the things of this world, where abuses have undermined the good news that the Gospel is meant to convey.
May we be inspired by the countless examples of men and women who’ve gone before us, whether they be those who are celebrated and honored, or who’s names and faces are known to God alone… People who listened to that Spirit of Truth, the advocate and allowed that to direct their lives and reshape the world. That Spirit continues to call out to us to move away from the skepticism, self-centeredness of this world into making real the new vision of restoration, reconciliation and fulfillment that the Risen Christ envisions for all creation.