Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year C

28 April 2024

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year C


[Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 22; 1John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8]

I visited a few of our Catholic schools in the city this past week. In one, the principal took me into a classroom for students with special needs. Their project was to hatch chicks in an incubator. One had been hatched the previous night during an Oilers game, so they named the chick “Egg-vander Kane”. It was wonderful to see how, in this way and others, the teachers were making brilliant efforts to give joy and hope to the students. In another facility, the children themselves showed me some social justice projects they had undertaken to care for needy youth in the area. These actions were clearly close to the students’ hearts. And in many of the schools, I witnessed special food programs set up to make sure that children would be able to eat throughout the day. As we know, there is growing poverty in our city and province, and I was edified to see how school personnel are rising to this particular challenge.

These are but a few examples of the great good being done in our schools. This is to say nothing of the many ways we are serving people in need within our Catholic hospitals, post-secondary institutions, Catholic Social Services, parishes, religious communities, and lay associations like the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Much good is being done through our Catholic works. In fact, as it has been said, and often repeated: “Every single day the Catholic Church feeds, houses, and clothes more people, takes care of more sick people, visits more prisoners, and educates more people than any other institution on the face of the earth could ever hope to…”.[1]

I draw this to your attention, because the scripture texts for this mass take us to the reason we do what we do as followers of Jesus Christ. They answer the question: “What is our ‘why’”? The Church is not just another social service agency. The countless good works the Church has always done, and will continue to do, stem from a source. What is that wellspring? What is our “why”?

Listen again to Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in them bears much fruit…”. As a branch draws vitality from the vine, we derive our very life from Jesus Christ. At the moment of our baptism, we are “grafted onto” Jesus, if you will, such that his very life becomes the principle of our own.[2] He, who is God made flesh, he who is divine love incarnate, is our very life. This is the “why” of the good works of the Church. His love, flowing in and through us, impels us to love others;[3] his self-sacrificial gift for our sake is the motive and example for the gift we are to make of ourselves in service to those in need.

This teaching of the Lord reminds us that, while we can – and should – recognize and celebrate the enormous good done in the world today by the Catholic Church, such acknowledgement can never be a cause for boasting or complacency. As Jesus goes on to say, “…apart from me you can do nothing.” All praise and glory belong to Christ alone. He is the inspiration, source, and accomplishment of all good done by his Body, the Church. In this light, the recognition of good works becomes the occasion to ask: “What more must we do? Where is the Lord calling us to new service? Where is the life and hope of the Gospel to be proclaimed?”

The need for our service, springing from the love of Christ, is vast, as we all can readily see. As examples, we need only think of the food insecurity and consequent desperation felt by many families in our city and province; the increasingly lethal drugs ruining the lives of people of every age and socio-economic status; or the division and hatred pouring out from social media on to our streets. We can reflect, too, on the epidemic of loneliness, impacting our seniors in a particular way; the plight of prisoners or the homeless earnestly seeking a new life, yet having no meaningful connections with the community; or the many young adults needing to create a future but having no secure foundation in either the past or present.

Today, then, let us each consider carefully, within our own circumstances, the command we receive from St. John: “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” In prayer, let’s ask the Lord to show us where he is calling us to serve. Who are the needy that the Lord places in my path or brings into the ambit of my awareness: at home or the workplace, in school or the neighbourhood? What are the resources or experiences with which the Lord has blessed me, and how is he inspiring me to use them for the sake of others? As baptized followers of Jesus Christ, people in whom his very life and love flow, it is in our spiritual DNA to serve. How will that be given concrete shape in my life?

In our mass this morning, as in every celebration of the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus, who came among us not to be served but to serve, makes himself truly present in the wondrous gift of his Body and Blood. Communion in this sacrament is union with the love of the Lord, the love that moves us out of ourselves and impels us into a life of service in his name. This is the love that has shaped the Catholic Church and inspired her countless good works throughout history and across the globe. It is the love that prompts us always to be on the lookout for unmet needs and strengthens us with the gifts we need to answer them. May the grace of this sacrament renew us in the love of the Lord and awaken within us new zeal for the selfless service that marks us as followers of Jesus Christ.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Saint Joseph Basilica

April 28th, 2024

[1] Cf. Matthew Kelly, Rediscovering Catholicism.

[2] Cf. Romans 6:3-11

[3] Cf. 2Corinthians 5:14.