7th Sunday of Easter – Homily (Fr. Gribowich)

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Morning, everyone! It’s so great to be with you all again here today on such a beautiful Sunday. I think that today is this special day where we can really appreciate the beauty of creation – something I want to touch upon, especially as we reflect upon our readings today.

You know, I’m sure many of us have been able to spend a lot of time in our apartments and our homes catching up on different movies that maybe we wanted to watch, or TV shows. And one movie that I had every intention of watching but I just never got around to was the one called A Hidden Life and it came out last December, I believe in the movie theaters. And I know that some people here at the parish actually have seen it, and they had a very favorable impression of it. But for those you may not know what the movie’s about. It’s a true story of a man named Franz Jägerstätter, who was an Austrian during World War 2 who refused to swear an oath – pledge an oath of loyalty – to Hitler, and because of that, he was essentially persecuted, but then eventually executed.

And the story is a very, very profound story because of the fact of how, looking at in hindsight, we could see that he was on the winning side of history, right? I mean during the time and especially in the place where he was, it was seemed to be a great disgrace to not want to fight for the fatherland. Even priests and bishops were kind of hesitant on getting behind his desire to want to object to this oath of loyalty, both to Hitler. But now we know, looking back on this, that he was on the right side, and because of that Pope Benedict beatified him, and so he’s on the path – road to sainthood.

So first off, it’s a great movie to watch, but one particular moment in it that really stuck with me was when he is sitting with this lawyer, this attorney, who’s trying to figure out a way for him to kind of be able to appease the German authorities and somehow appease himself with the stand that he was taking. He was – they were – going back and forth, and so he says, “okay, well how about if you work as an ordinary in a hospital, we can probably figure out a way to get you to do that, and then you’ll be able to get out prison, because you’re – he was in prison because of the fact that he was not joining the army – and what do you think about that deal?” And he says, “well why stuff to pledge the oath” and he says, well yeah but you know you just say it, but you don’t really mean it. And then he said – and the lawyer said,  “yes, if you just do that then you’ll just get your freedom.” And then Franz said, “but you know, then I wouldn’t be free if I said that. I wouldn’t be free.” And said – the lawyer says, “well then, why am I here?” And Franz said, “I don’t really know.”

And it really showed something very profound about what Franz was experiencing – that he understood a certain type of freedom that was coming from his very person. It had nothing to do with whether he was in jail or not. He was a free man because he was not being constricted by what this oath was all about, that he really believed in the power of words and when you say something you mean something. You publicly are making a pronouncement and because that you’re bound to what you say, so his freedom was found interiorly in what he knew was right.

And our reason I bring up the story is because when we hear the Gospel today, we hear so much about this word of glory – you know, the Father being able to glorify the Son, and we are glorified through the Son. This whole notion of glory is a word that we hear often, especially in the Gospel of John. But for many of us, I think that we may not even grasp as to really what that word means, other than it sounds like a God-type word.

And I was thinking about this and I don’t think I’m the only person who’s ever really questioned – and really what the word “glory” really means. In fact, I think I’m in good company, because C.S. Lewis wrote a little short essay called “The Weight of Glory”. I went back and reread that this week, and one thing about Lewis is that he said, “you know, I don’t I didn’t really like the term ‘glory’ for two reasons: one because it just made me think too much about fame, because you know when you think about glory, you think about someone who’s well known or it thinks about something that’s just like very bright and luminous, ostentatious – something that’s just very, you know bold. And he didn’t really understand how those two types of understanding notions of glory had anything to do with God, because they seem to be so self-centered, or so, so self promoting. But upon later reflection, upon this Lewis came to the awareness that glory ultimately means that when we are glorified in Jesus ,we become a heavenly people. We become people who we understand, and we set our hearts on our eternal destination, which is heaven. And because of that, everything here on earth starts to have a new type of meaning, and I think about that in a very, very profound way.

And during this time – and you are right now, you know we kind of are over the hump, so to speak, about how much we are fearing actually receiving this virus, the coronavirus, and now I think we’re moving into this other area where we’re kind of wondering when we’re going to be reopening: how things are going to look when we reopen, how the economy is going to turn out, and all those things ultimately are connected to each other, meaning that they’re relational.

And that is why I think it’s very appropriate that we hear this gospel on the fifth anniversary of Laudato si’, Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment. It’s so interesting reading that, and that encyclical now in hindsight – you know after we’ve gone through this pandemic ,or in the midst of this pandemic, because the one thing that Pope Francis challenges us to do is that they’re showing that when we’re able to ponder things in creation, we’re able to better understand our role within creation, and ultimately our role in achieving what creation is ultimately going towards – which is heaven. He writes in there – and I found this to be a very important line for me personally – if someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats everything as an object to be used and abused without scruple. If someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats everything as an object to be used and abused without scruple.

I think that one thing that we can do over this these next few days in a very practical but very meaningful way is to enjoy the length of our days, for coming upon Pentecost and the entire liturgical year leads up to this fulfillment of the fullness of God’s revelation given to us through the Holy Spirit. And so our liturgical year mirrors the length of days: during Christmas, our days are the shortest; during Pentecost, they are the longest.

So perhaps what we can do is enjoy the length of our day by setting our alarm clock early in the morning and watching the sunrise. I know many of us may or may not be early risers, but one thing I’ve enjoyed being in this neighborhood is being able to just see the sunrise in the morning, because when you’re able to behold that, you’re beholding glory. That’s God’s glory and it helps us understand how we are glorified in God.  How we are called by God to be his beloved sons and daughters, with a destination towards heaven, and that is what gives us the freedom that Franz Jägerstätter had freedom to know: that nothing of this world can hold us back from achieving what God’s promise is for us.

So as we journey throughout our day – these days – take advantage of how God reveals his glory in creation, because that is what will affirm our own glory – and “the weight of glory” that C.S. Lewis speaks of –  can show us that the glory is not just meant for us personally, but for those around us. And as we are going to be challenged by many different things coming on our way, especially economic challenges, and this being mindful of our brothers and sisters, because by recognizing the glory that we have within ourselves, we can see the glory in them. And that’s what pushes us to serve them.

So today on this fifth anniversary of Laudato si’, let us give thanks for the great glory of God and creation, for that it makes us realize that we are part of creation and part of the heavenly destination which all creation is moving towards.

May God bless you all