5th Sunday in Easter – May 15, 2022
An older woman, well past child-bearing years went to a walk-in clinic where she was seen by a young, new doctor. After about 3 minutes in the exam room, the doctor told her she was pregnant. She burst out the door, screaming as she ran down the hall.
An older doctor stopped her and asked her what the problem was, and she told him what had happened. After hearing her out, the old doctor sat her down in another exam room and marched back to where the first doctor was, opened the door, and demanded, “What’s the matter with you? That lady is over 60 years old, has four grown children and several grand children! And you told her she was pregnant?”
The young doctor looked up at him and replied, “Yes, I did! But I’ll bet after hearing that news, what she came in for, is all cured!”
“And what was that?” asked the old doctor.
“The hiccups!” quipped the new doctor. (upjoke.com)
Yes, sometimes doctors have to be creative in helping others who come their way, just as we, too, are being invited to be creative, in today’s first reading, to present the good news of Jesus Christ to those to whom the Lord sends us. In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard that, “When they (Paul and Barnabus) arrived, they called the Church together and related all that God had done with them and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.” (Acts 14:27) It would have been a lot safer for Paul and Barnabus to only speak to Jews. It would have been a lot safer to speak only in synagogues and at the temple. It would have been a lot safer to create boundaries of acceptability that would have made some people out and invited other people in. But that’s not what Paul and Barnabus did. They chose to do what was difficult and hard. They chose to go beyond their comfortable surroundings and culture and people and to invite the gentiles to consider the Gospel message in its full splendor. They chose to open the door of faith to any and all who would listen and be receptive to at least some of what they had to say.
This door opening is the flower that the Lord wants us to explore this weekend. For we need to recognize and utilize that open door, in order to praise the crack of faith, the sliver of faith, the slowly growing light of faith that may shine —-even if for just a small moment— in a person’s life and strive to invite that flicker of faith to grow ever more alive, stronger, and visible in the person’s day-to-day living.
It’s a lot easier to judge a person and to close the door of faith that has been opened, just a crack. It’s a lot easier for us convince ourselves that the person must have ulterior motives or doesn’t quite meet the minimum standards that we think all Christians should have. It’s way easier to work only with those whose faith has been proven, whose faith has withstood the test of trial and tribulation, than to seek out those who’ve never relied on faith to get them through the dark times and who’ve never been a particularly big part of church life, even if they’ve been baptized as infants.
To be like Paul and Barnabus, we can’t expect nor demand great faith, unshakeable faith, unquestioning faith in those who are struggling — even to believe in God— much less to embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can’t expect them to come to us first either! We have to be willing to go and meet them wherever they may happen to be and to allow the Holy Spirit take the lead in giving us the right things to say and the right ways to say them when we do meet.
What we ought to expect all the time in this open door ministry is for God’s grace to work through us, and in us and all around us, to let them know how precious and loved they are by God. What we ought to expect all the time is that God will send us to the margins, to the peripheries, to those whom others have already discounted of no importance and to give them the acceptance, the understanding, and the loving-kindness that all human beings deserve, by virtue of being made in the image and likeness of God.
It’s amazing what God can accomplish in us when we use gentleness and kindness rather than judgment, meanness, and harshness, when we encounter a person who may not have done all the right things in life, or who may not have had the positive childhood experiences we may have had, of church. We can all probably name a few instances in our own lives when we were on the receiving end, when someone was kind, merciful or compassionate toward us and how that made us feel, to be ministered to, in that way. Those instances are a foretaste for us of the eternal embrace that we’ll one day experience with our Emmanuel. They’re a brief glimpse of what God’s infinite love looks like. They’re a peek into the mind of God and of his plan for our lives.
Indeed, our second reading today shows us that God has done just what he’s asking us to do! He didn’t stay comfortably floating on a cloud in heaven, surrounded by all the angels and saints. No, in our second reading, we heard, “See, the home of God is among humans. He will dwell with them as their God. They will be his people and God himself will be with them.” (Rev 21:3) Yes, because of the incarnation of Jesus among us, scripture goes on to say that our lives will never be the same! —That the time of tears, dying, crying and pain will be no more. Because of Jesus’ great love and outreach to us, when we’re called to leave this life for the next one, we’ll know what it truly means to belong to God and to see ourselves as brothers and sisters, for all eternity. And that indeed is something we never would have been able to say, had not Jesus seen the crack of faith in our lives and allowed it to open, even more!
Toward this end, our second reading concludes with an awesome work of the one seated on the throne saying, “See I am making all things new!” Our Easter season is an emphatic reminder to us that God is all about new life, new hope, fresh beginnings, open doors, and second chances. Our Easter Season proclaims to all the pessimists and judgers out there that sin has a definite expiration date, that no matter how bad the world may seem to get, no matter how many wars may seem to threaten world peace, that there’ a light at the end of the tunnel that can never be extinguished or covered up. That light is Jesus Christ, risen from the dead who offers all the gift of salvation through faith in him. If we truly want to be persons who celebrate the God of open doors, the God of fresh beginnings, then we must be persons of loving kindness, of generosity and openness. We must be persons who are unafraid of meeting the other and ready to love all persons regardless of their past history or sins. We must be persons who leave the judging to God and who always strive to live the joy of the Gospel in its fullness.
It’s that lived, joyful love of God that’s most attractive to others and which will lead them, ever so surely, to faith in Christ. It’s like a piece of bacon that’s fried up in the morning that wafts around the house, and is like an irresistible call for all in the household to come to the kitchen and eat breakfast together! Our job as Christians is to open the doors of all hearts to Christ by being persons of joyful love, so that all can smell the bacon of the Gospel and be drawn toward it. Such a commitment on our part begins by prayer and our lifting up of the lives of those to whom the Lord asks us to minister. Such a commitment is made clearer and more steadfast by our understanding of the Word of God and our embracing of it in our personal daily walk. It gets further strengthened by the grace of the sacraments poured into our hearts, charging us up with the fire of the Holy Spirit, to speak and act and witness in God’s name, for all that God has done for us and promises to do for us in the future. The primary foundation of our commitment to the open door is our love of God and all people. Indeed, it is such love that is the very heart of evangelization and which compels us to faithfully live out our baptismal consecration and the various callings which find their foundation in our new life in Christ.
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