Weekly Homily

“Jesus said, ‘No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day.’” (John 6:44)

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

August 9, 2015
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 6:41-51
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

Often do I encounter exhausted medical staff during 6 AM rounds at the hospital, doctors, nurses and associates who may have been on duty since 7 PM the previous evening. My appearance signaling the near end of a 12-hour shift, their greetings are warm and effusive.

One particular morning a few years back, I found Kyle, a glassy-eyed 1st year resident physician, struggling to remain alert after a wearying night of doctoring in the medical intensive care unit. Knowing him well enough from previous encounters, I suggested a spiritual resuscitation treatment. Readily accepting the offer of revival, I asked Kyle to close his eyes and bow his head. Complying with the request, he assumed a prayerful posture, even folding his hands devoutly.

The WHACK nearly threw him from his chair as my hands delivered resuscitating blows to either side of his face. Immediately wide-eyed in surprised disbelief, Kyle could only think to thank me for the alertness he now experienced. My method a bit extreme, yet the desired effect was achieved quickly and completely. In fact, so alert was Kyle that he composed a biblical-style note and posted it on facebook:

“And Father Bob looked and beheld a Kyle. And he spake unto the Kyle, asking 'How art thou?' And the Kyle replied, 'Tired.' And so said Father Bob, 'Thou shalt not be thus'. And Father Bob reached out his righteous and leftious hands and struck the Kyle upon his face that he be not tired. And the Kyle was not tired, and he didst good works that day in the Intensive Care Unit.” Concluding the posting, he wrote, “Thanks be to Fr. Bob for waking me up without coffee!”

While the gospel passage we hear today promises resurrection at the end of our earthly lives, most of us need resurrection—spiritual resuscitation—in the immediate. St. John writes, “Jesus said, ‘No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day.’” (John 6:44)

Yes, I will be raised up on the last day! But what about today? And tomorrow? Who will raise me up from my stumbling, tumbling ways as I fumble along towards my last earthly day? Will Jesus do that?

The answer is that Jesus wants to do that, but he leaves the empowerment to us. We believe that Jesus lives on in the human heart, and it is ours to give our helping hands and caring hearts to his good use. But we can’t be coerced. The decision to be as Jesus to one another is always our free choice.

South Bend, Indiana is home to three Catholic institutions of higher education founded by my religious community, the Congregation of Holy Cross: Notre Dame University (1842), St. Mary’s College (1844) and Holy Cross College (1966). True to the dynamic mission to which every Christian is called, the far-reaching arms of these institutions seek to be the very arms of Jesus reaching out to embrace. Let a June 1, 2015 posting on the Holy Cross College website tell the story. Entitled “Westville Correctional Facility with Holy Cross College celebrates a momentous milestone,” I share excerpts:

“When Carl Gary and Jon Hicks were each convicted and sentenced to the Indiana Correctional System, they knew the experience would be life changing. However, at the time, Gary and Hicks had no idea of just how transforming, educational, and valuable their incarcerations would be. On Thursday, May 21, 2015, Carl L. Gary and Jon E. Hicks, two inmates at Westville Correctional Facility, graduated with an associate’s degree in liberal studies from Holy Cross College. For the past five semesters, Gary and Hicks have participated in the Westville Education Initiative (WEI), a program that offers inmates the opportunity to enroll in college level courses to work towards earning their associate’s degree.

“WEI allows inmates who have both a demonstrated aptitude and a desire to pursue a higher educational degree to enroll in courses taught by professors from Holy Cross College and the University of Notre Dame. The professors expect WEI students to perform at the same level of academic rigor as students at their respective institutions. This high level of academic intensity provides students with the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, violence, and crime which can lead to incarceration.

“WEI began when representatives from the Bard Prison Initiative, in [upstate] New York, contacted Notre Dame to inquire about the potential interest of expanding into Indiana. Notre Dame and Holy Cross were immediately supportive of the Westville endeavor and, with support from [Bard], were able to move forward and create the infrastructure required for a sustainable initiative. The Indiana Department of Corrections has also been an essential partner of the program, though since budget cuts in 2011, has been unable to financially support publically funded college degree-granting programs.

“The benefits of this program for both those earning their degree and for society at large were best demonstrated at the commencement ceremony and the reception afterwards. The students and their families are grateful for this transformative experience. WEI allows Holy Cross College and the University of Notre Dame to fulfill their mission to educate the hearts and minds of those incarcerated at Westville so that they can realize their fullest potential.” (www.hcc-nd.edu)

“Jesus said, ‘No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day.’” (John 6:44) Raising one another up today and tomorrow—it’s how Jesus lives vibrantly in our lives, in our world.



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