Homily for Fifth Sunday of Easter: Fr. Scott Bullock: April 28, 2013

Fifth Sunday of Easter:  April 28, 2013

Reading 2 Rev 21:1-5a

Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth.
The former heaven and the former earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more.
I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.
He will dwell with them and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them as their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain,
for the old order has passed away.”
The One who sat on the throne said,
“Behold, I make all things new.”



The vision of St. John is a powerful one:  “a new heaven and a new earth.” How is it to be? The vision continues:  Jesus, on the heavenly throne, declares, “Behold, I make all things new.”  How? Three instances:

Frédéric Ozanam left his home in Lyon, France, in the autumn of 1831, for Paris.  He registered in the School of Law at the Sorbonne, University of Paris. Frédéric collaborated with Mr. Emmanuel Bailly, editor of the Tribune Catholique, in reviving a student organization which had been suspended during the revolutionary activity of July 1830.  They called their new association "The Conference of History."  The group met on Saturdays to discuss various topics, everything but politics. At one of their meetings, a student challenged Frédéric and the practicing Catholics.  He admitted that the Catholic Church had done much good work in the past, but "what do you do now?" Frédéric called for a meeting of five of his friends; they agreed to meet at Mr. Bailly's office.  The date was April 23, 1833, Frédéric's twentieth birthday.  Inspired by their words, Frédéric decided to found the "Conference of Charity" to assist the poor.  Emmanuel Bailly, the married layman, was chosen by the six students as their first President.  In a short time, they changed their name to The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in honor of their patron.

St. Francis Xavier Cabrini:  New York-On Mar. 31, 1889, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini and six missionary Sister companions arrived in Manhattan. The first works entrusted to them included an orphanage for daughters of Italian immigrants and ministry among poor Italians in St. Joachim’s Parish.  Hearts aflame with love, she and her sisters cared for the poor orphans and began religious instruction for children and adults in the parish.  They also visited poor families in their homes, the sick in hospitals and the incarcerated in city jails.  Elementary education was started in the orphanage and the parish.   Additional sisters were called to help in the works.  An American novitiate was soon opened in West Park, New York.  New York City became the site of the first of Cabrini’s Columbus Hospitals, intended primarily for immigrants but opened to all nationalities.  It was also in New York that she took on the administration of additional parochial schools and industrial schools, where embroidery and other practical arts were taught. After New York, the outreach went to New Orleans, which followed a lynching of eleven Italian men.  They gave courageous service to two yellow fever epidemics, set up an orphanage and schools and visited immigrants in rural Louisiana.   In response to pleas from Italian clergy, parish schools were opened in Newark, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.  Orphanages were set up in Denver, Arlington, New Jersey, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

Caroline Gerhardinger came of age in Bavaria during these turbulent times. The Napoleonic Wars left Bavaria poverty-stricken. Destitute young women found themselves with children but without husbands or means of support. Hunger and illiteracy were commonplace. Christian values and beliefs were abandoned in the modern, enlightened world of the 19th century. Caroline began teaching at age fifteen at the parish school in Stadtamhof. Under Father Michael Wittmann's spiritual guidance, Caroline gradually recognized God's call to found a religious community which would remedy the social situation through education. In their vision, the renewal of society depended on the Christian family, in which the mother, the first educator, had a key role. Thus, they chose the Christian education of girls as the vital service her community would offer. In 1847, only 14 years after the congregation was established, Caroline, now Mother Theresa heard a new call from God. She set out for America to help the German people who had emigrated to a forest settlement in Pennsylvania, where they hoped to build a new and better life for themselves and their children.  At the time of Mother Theresa's death in 1879, more than 2,500 School Sisters of Notre Dame were living religious life according to her spirit. They met the needs of their time by educating girls, principally in elementary schools but also in orphanages, day nurseries, and vocational schools. They trained future teachers and pioneered in the development of kindergartens. For girls who were factory workers, they established homes and provided night schools where these girls could receive basic education. Among the early founders of the American parochial school system, Mother Caroline and the sisters established schools throughout the United States and Canada. In the tradition of meeting the needs of the people in a missionary country, they also began to teach boys. Over the years the School Sisters of Notre Dame established motherhouses in Milwaukee; Baltimore; St. Louis; Mankato, Minnesota; Waterdown, Ontario, Canada; Wilton, Connecticut; Dallas; and Chicago. From these missions sisters traveled and founded new missions all over the world.

God says in today’s scripture from the book of Revelation:  Behold, I make all things new!  Boy, does our world need this.  How will it happen?  Look to these examples: Blessed Frederic Ozanam, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger

Persons, inspired by the mission and call of Jesus Christ, literally changed the world—our world.

Poverty turned to Charity through the vision of Ozanam and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, who looked at destitution and poverty and saw the possibility of a new earth through charity.

Sickness turned to health in the many hospitals that find their roots in visionaries like Frances Xavier Cabrini, who looked at sickness and saw the possibility of a something completely new:  a new earth of healing.

Ignorance and hopeless were turned to education and hopefulness through schools founded by visionaries like Caroline Gerhardinger, who saw ignorance and hopelessness and saw the possibility of something completely new:  a new earth of knowledge and hope.

Despite any claims to the contrary, the gospel of Jesus and his followers in the Church have been enormous causes of good and betterment of this world, all rooted in the vision of St. John that, with Christ’s help, this beautiful world can and must be made even more beautiful. We have inherited an enormous legacy! Hospitals, schools, orphanages, charitable organizations, shelters, food pantries, all inspired by the call of Jesus to care for the least among us and build a new world, to literally make all things new.

What will be your part in making all things new?  If it is to be, we must do it.

The great St. Teresa of Avila says it all:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

How will we bring about a new earth? Jesus tells us: If we will be his disciples.  He continues:  “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  These holy persons show us it is possible.  Let’s go change the world.