YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
HOMILY THEME: “JESUS SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES, ‘IT WAS NOT YOU WHO
CHOSE ME, BUT I WHO CHOSE YOU AND APPOINTED YOU TO GO AND BEAR FRUITS THAT WILL REMAIN.’” (John 15:16)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
During the five years in the mid-1980s when I lived on the Notre Dame campus, occasional walks took me past Cedar Grove Cemetery just outside the main university gate. Weathered tombstones in the cemetery, many barely legible, marked the graves of long deceased Notre Dame students, faculty members and employees. While walking past the familiar site one spring day, a small pink memorial stone in the first row caught my attention. Knowing it to be only recently installed and curious about its identity, I left the sidewalk for a closer inspection.
Reaching the grave, I read of heavy grief struggling to make sense of God’s purpose. Chiseled into the pink stone were her name and a life expanse of mere hours: “Mary Beth Klee, September 1, 1982—September 2, 1982”. And under that, an inscribed testimony to the faith of her parents: “Children are God’s apostles, day by day sent to preach of love and hope and peace. Nor has this babe her mission left undone”. On many of my walks thereafter, I purposely went to Mary Beth’s grave, especially on those days when it seemed that nothing had gone as I’d hoped or expected. There, contemplating dates marking a life so brief and an epitaph testifying to the faith of young parents, I found peace, trusting that God’s hand was at work and his mission being fulfilled even when my day seemed fruitless.
In more recent days, God has accented the lesson I learned at Mary Beth’s grave. God has a mission for each of us, and even though we may be completely unaware of his charge, he continues on, the Divine Purpose day by day inspiring us to goodness that will bear fruit in the kingdom.
How many mornings I arise with great enthusiasm for meeting the challenges of the day, only to find myself crawling into bed that very night feeling that I’d accomplished little. And there are those other mornings when I feel defeated the moment my foot first touches the floor with the morning buzz of the alarm clock. And more often than not, it’s on those days, when I am so keenly aware of my weakness, that God graciously uses me as his instrument of peace and healing. Indeed, God’s work is accomplished by hands and hearts so human, and the results seem most pure when those hands and hearts feel least up to the challenge of the Divine Commission.
In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus addresses his disciples, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” (John 15:16) These words are no less addressed to us, who share the same mission as those first chosen. God has created each of us in the Divine Image and has given each of us unique gifts to enrich the world.
The small pink stone in the first row of Cedar Grove Cemetery continues to challenge me with its insistent call: “Children are God’s apostles, day by day sent to preach of love and hope and peace. Nor has this babe her mission left undone”. If, in just one day on earth, Mary Beth Klee could make such an impact on the world, of what might I be capable in a far longer lifetime? Just so, Jesus insists, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”