Sunday, April 24, 2016

Pardon Our Appearance

Most of us live in homes that are older and could use a bit of repairs and updating. When we do have the opportunity to spruce up our home by painting the exterior, putting up new cabinets in the kitchen or refinishing the hardwood floors, we feel a good deal of satisfaction. It can feel as though we are living in a new house. The desire to keep our homes clean and up-to-date has made companies like Home Depot and Lowes flourish and programs like "This Old House" and "Generation Renovation" among the most popular on cable television.

The word "renovate" means "to make new". When we renovate our homes or apartments we are trying to make them like new. However, unless we totally tear down and rebuild them, we cannot make our houses brand new. No matter how much work we do, we will, in most cases, still have the same foundation, the same joists and the same studs. And whatever work we do to our homes is never permanent. In a few years, we will have to repaint again, replace the heating system again or fix the appliances.

It is not only our homes that need to be renovated. Every aspect of our lives and of our world needs to be renewed. In our personal lives, our minds and spirits need education and prayer so that we can grow in knowledge and love. Our society is in constant need of reform and change so that it will be more just and peaceful. And our Church is faced with the need of ongoing conversion so that it will be a more effective instrument of Christ's presence and power. The task of being made new never ends in any facet of our lives.

Who is the one who has the power to change us? Who can shake the dust off our old habits? Who can clear out the cobwebs of bitterness and replace the rotted out places in our hearts?

No one but Jesus.

During the Easter season, we continue to read from the book of Revelation. Saint John has a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. The sea, which is the symbol of chaos and violence, is no more. The new earth is a place where people are living in peace and the landscape has been healed of the scars left by pollution. The centerpiece, however, is the new Jerusalem which descends from heaven. This new Jerusalem is the Church purified from all sin and glowing with holiness. Every tear is wiped away. All people lives as sisters and brothers. It is a brand new start for all of God's creation. It is a total renovation from the foundation to the rooftop. And it all stems from the power of God made manifest in Jesus, our Risen Lord. Therefore, he can proclaim from his throne in heaven, "See, I make all things new."

How does Jesus make all things new? Our reading from the gospel of John tells us. It is taken from Jesus' discourse with his disciples during the Last Supper. He is bidding farewell to those he has gathered to continue his work on earth. He tells them that all he has taught them can be summed up in one commandment, "Love one another." The love that Jesus is talking about is no warm feeling of affection that expresses itself in hugs and kisses. Rather he commands them to love one another as he has loved them. How did Jesus show his love? By dying on the cross. Jesus is the only hope of renewal for us individually, for the Church and for the world. And he accomplishes that transformation through a love willing to sacrifice even to the point of death. 

All of us stand here today with some area of our lives that needs healing and renewal. We will encounter continual failure and frustration in facing those problems if we do not bring Jesus and his love into the situation. If our marriages are suffering, the only way to turn them around is by husbands and wives making sacrifices for each other and putting the other's interest before their own. If our parish is to grow and overcome its struggles, it will be by each of us loving and forgiving one another. We must strive to be a community marked by love so that others will know that we are disciples of Jesus and be drawn to worship here. If our world is to enjoy peace and an end to violence, the only way is Jesus' way of love and forgiveness. Until we learn to put aside our pride and forget our grievances we can make no progress toward a world free of poverty and despair. No treaty or government program can replace the change of heart that only Jesus can make happen. Whenever we invite Jesus into a situation and are willing to follow his commandment of self-sacrificing love, then problems begin to turn around, hearts begin to open and real lasting peace can take hold of our lives. 

The home renovations business is a multi-billion dollar industry in today's world. Imagine if we could have the same interest in renewing our families as we have in renovating our homes. Imagine if we could work as hard at repairing broken relationships as we do at repairing our leaky roofs. Imagine if we were as concerned about replacing hate with love and bitterness with forgiveness as we are with replacing our Formica counter tops with granite ones. Then our world would undergo a real and lasting renewal marked by the love of Christ. 

Today is the day to start. It is here that we meet Jesus, the One who makes all things new. He wants to change us. We need only accept his commandment of love and welcome him into our lives. He will waste no time getting to work, and we can begin to see the transformation take place.

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