YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER
HOMILY THEME: “Jesus said, ‘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.’” (John 17:20-21)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: John 17:20-26
“A veterinarian by profession, I was called to examine a ten year-old Irish wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa and their little boy, Shane, were all extremely attached to Belker, and they were looking to me to perform a miracle for their ailing pet. After gathering a thorough history from Ron, Lisa and Shane, I examined Belker and found, sadly, that he was dying of cancer. Gathering the family around the suffering dog, I told them there was really nothing I could do for their poor pet and then suggested that they take him back home, making him as comfortable as possible in surroundings familiar to him. Gently did I then suggest that I come to their home to euthanize Belker. Promising to call me the next day with their decision, they left my veterinary office for home.
“The call came the next morning after Belker spent an agonizingly painful night with his family. As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for four- year-old Shane to be present. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience. Scheduling my visit to their home for the next day, I realized that even after so many years in veterinary practice, these moments were still very difficult for me. Arriving at their house the next morning, I felt that familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. I was especially concerned for young Shane who seemed so calm, petting his old friend for the last time. I wondered if he really understood what was going on. Gently injecting Belker, he slipped away peacefully within moments.
“Amazing to me, the little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ‘I know why.’ Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. In more than forty years of veterinary practice, I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. Shane continued, ‘People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life, like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?’ We adults nodded our heads as the child continued, ‘Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.’” (Original source unknown) What an insightful commentary on humanity from one so young! “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life, like loving everybody all the time and being nice.” And in light of the gospel passage we hear today, Shane’s words seem a child’s commentary on the deepest desire of the heart of Jesus before his death. In prayer to his Heavenly Father, “Jesus said, ‘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.’” (John 17:20-21)
That all may be one: will it ever happen? It was Jesus’ dying wish that there be unity, harmony. Yet our contemporary world seems mired in the desperation of fractured relationships: people broken on the inside, alienated even from themselves; families torn asunder by abuse and divorce; churches of every denomination struggling with internal strife and with each other; nations warring against each other in battles no one can win. And Jesus prays still that we may all be of one mind, one heart, united in a common love of God and one another. “Dogs already know how to do that” said young Shane, “So they don’t have to stay as long.”
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