Homily for Easter 6. Acts 17: 22-31, John 14: 15-21
Right now, I’m sure there’s someone in your life taking exams.
They’re going to need
so much chocolate,
and love and prayers.
The writer Ian Watt was a survivor of a Japanese prisoner of war camp. On one occasion, he was penned up with several other men in a bamboo cage. The prisoners all had dysentery and hardly any water. They could hear fellow prisoners being beaten up. One of the young officers in the cage fell asleep and started screaming in a nightmare: “stop, please God stop, no more!” Watt had to shake him awake. When he came round, the young officer apologised. ‘So sorry, everyone, I was having a nightmare – thought I was back at school….”
Lots of things come along in life which are hard and miserable, but there’s something unique about the experience of schools, exams and of being tested. Maybe it’s because the skin of the soul, at that age, is still so tender that the wound cuts so much deeper. All of that ‘are you good enough? Well then, prove it!’ – while you’re still finding out who you are. It stays with you.
In our young heads, we get the idea that the label an exam board or a school puts on us is the one that really matters. We turn these things into false gods, and allow them to tell us who we are.
In our first reading, S. Paul is looking at the statues to pagan deities in Athens, the Greek capital. All of these pagan gods demanded endless sacrifices to keep them happy, yet they were just idols, things people made with their own hands and then worshipped.
We still do it. We bow down and worship gods called success, popularity and wealth as much as those ancient Greeks did.
The only power they have over us is the power we give them.
But they can never tell us who we are. Only the Living God can do that. As S. Paul says, “in Him we live and move and have our being”.
That’s a great verse to learn and slowly repeat to yourself, especially on rubbish days. “In him, we live and move and have our being”. It’s the most important thing you will ever discover about yourself. Learn that, and you’ll start to live the only gift and command that really matters: to love Christ, and to love all that He loves.
‘In Him, we live and move and have our being’ Acts, 17:28
In Martin Laird’s short story ‘A Tale of Monastic Failure’ a troubled young man tells Fr Alypius his story. When he finishes speaking, Fr Alypius says, “I have just one question for you: who are you”?
“I just told you” the young man replies.
“No, you told me about what you’ve done, the things you’ve studied. Your problem is, you don’t know who you are. Let me tell you who you are. You are a ray of God’s own light.
“what do you mean?
“You say you seek God, but a ray of light doesn’t seek the sun; it’s coming from the sun. You are a branch on the vine of God. A branch doesn’t seek the vine; it’s already part of the vine. A wave doesn’t look for the ocean; it’s already full of ocean. Because you don’t know that who you are is one with God, you believe all these labels about yourself: I’m a sinner. I’m a saint, I’m a wretch, I’m a failure, I’m a monk, I’m a nurse. These are just labels. They serve a purpose, but they are not who you are. To the extent that you believe these labels, you believe a lie, and you add anguish upon anguish”.
Who you are is a ray of God’s Light. Learn who you are to become who you are. Nothing that the world says about you can take it away, for in Christ you live and move and have your being.