MAY 18, 2001, HOMILY: John 15: 18- 21

YOU DO NOT BELONG TO THE WORLD FOR I HAVE CHOSEN YOU OUT OF THE WORLD. What does it mean that we belong to the Lord and not to the world? This is a fundamental question in that the way we answer it would seem to have large effects in all we do as human persons. Jesus says elsewhere in this same Gospel of John (14: 3), that he will come again to take us to himself. From this context it is evident that he addresses those who believe in him. Thus it is to those who put their faith in him to whom he promises to prepare a place for them with the Father and, in the end, when he returns, will claim them as his own and take them to himself. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me... I will go and prepare a place for you and again I shall come and take you to myself."

In the same discourse at the last supper, he gives another indication of what it means to belong to him when he solemnly states to his disciples that "If you love me you will keep my command ments" (14: 15) and then he summarizes these commandments, as it were when he goes on to say "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (15: 12)." Thus faith in the person of Jesus and obedience that lead to love of God and of one another are sure indications that we belong to the Lord. If he finds us living in these dispositions of heart and soul he will recognize us as his own, as belonging to him.

The love of which our Lord speaks, as is evident from his own example as well as his teaching, is not only an interior disposition of benevolence; it is also active and practical. Thus it involves not only our heart but also our whole person. We are to employ our body and its energy in the service of God and of neighbor so as to do good to others from love. To belong to the Lord, then, means to dedicate our whole activity to his service in practice. We are to remember that we belong to him as we go about our work, our daily encounters with others, our study and read ing.

If we truly belong to the Lord we do not live for ourselves but for him. Our time, our energy, our talents and skills are to be employed, not in order to fulfill our own will and plans, but to carry out effectively what we know to be pleasing to him, what is useful for the common good, for our neighbor. To maintain this disposition in all things requires a repeated return to the heart so that our native selfishness does not gradually replace our good intention as we carry out our duties and enter into the various encounters that constitute our day. Since our body does not belong to us we are to keep ourselves chaste and temperate and strive to avoid all possessiveness in our use of things, and remain free of anxiety as regards our healthy. In the measure that we live out this program that includes all aspects of our outer and inner life, we truly live as disci ples of the Lord, belonging to him. We can trust that he will care for us and we shall know the freedom of the children of God. For knowing we belong to him in the first place, not to this world, not even to ourselves, frees us to be concerned only for the things that are of God and to have such care for this world as fits it to become the place for learning to know and to serve him. To this way of life all of us are called who are baptized and who are invited to share in the Eu charist in which Jesus gives himself to those who belong to him. May the grace of this call and of this sacrament sustain us as we strive today and always faithfully to live as those belonging to Christ.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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Abbey of the Genesee

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