5th Sunday of Easter A

“Believe because of the works I do.”

When James W. Loucks, a bachelor and a veteran of the Civil War, died in 1934 at the Soldiers’ Home in Bath, New York, he bequeathed $200 to St. John’s Orphanage in Utica, New York, and $100 to the Sisters of St. Joseph at Little Falls, N.Y. His will also instructed the administrators of his estate, the Herkimer Co. Trust Co., to use the residue “for Masses for the repose of myself and my brother, Daniel.” Since the thrifty veteran had saved $10,000 from his humble employment as a farmer’s helper, road worker, and shoemaker, that meant that some $7,000 was to go for Mass offerings.

Now, the president of the Herkimer Co. Trust Co. was puzzled about this last matter. He decided that the residue should be invested, and only the interest used for Masses. When this decision came to the attention of the bishop of Rochester, in whose diocese Mr. Loucks died, the bishop replied that Church law required that the whole sum should go for Masses. In fact, he felt obliged to take the case to court.

Finally, three years later, the judge surrogate of Steuben County ruled that in this instance Church law took precedence over Civil law. As soon as the total residue was consigned to the bishop, he saw to it that, after this three-year wait, Masses finally began to be offered according to the old artilleryman’s intentions.

Who was James Loucks, whose dying wish was the celebration of several thousands of Masses? His religious history was most interesting, according to newsman James B. Hutchinson.

Born to Protestant parents in 1844 at Manheim, Herkimer County N.Y., Jim enlisted in 1863 in Co. H. of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery. He saw action in the Pennsylvania campaigns of the Civil War from Cold Harbor on. Up to that time, he had had little or no contact with Catholics. But one thing that impressed him deeply as the war continued was the great work the Sisters of Charity were doing with the victims of the battlefield. If they are so caring, he thought, then the Church they represent must be a loving church.

Then came the battle of Gettysburg – vast, bloody, frightening. In the midst of it, Jim vowed “If the Almighty God spares me in this war, I will become a Catholic! ”

God did spare him, and he kept his pledge. When mustered out of service, he went to work on a farm near Little Falls, N.Y., where he approached Father James Ludden of St. Mary’s Church, Little Falls. Eventually received into the Church, he became an active Catholic; deeply religious and much given to reading and study of the faith. Between 1877 and 1885 he served as sexton of St. Mary’s. At the age of 69, he retired to the Soldiers’ Home at Bath.

Our words of praise for the Catholic faith can often win others to join the Church. Even more persuasive than Catholic words, however, are Catholic deeds. It was the good deeds of the Sisters of Charity that moved Jim Loucks to become a Catholic. In today’s gospel, Our Lord makes much the same point: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works I do.”

Does our daily Christian life impress others to think well of our Church?

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q316: Why all the “new titles” for the early Christians in Peter’s epistle (1 Pt 2:4-9), and what do they mean for me today?

The author uses the image of a “living stone” for Jesus Christ, discarded by the very ones he came to teach. Since they, the old covenant “builders,” have discarded the most important “stone” of all, the foundation stone, it now becomes their biggest stumbling block.

On the other hand, for those who do believe in Jesus and his word and works, as well as his identity as the Messiah and only Son of God, this “living stone” has immeasurable value. Because of their faith, believers receive four new “titles” that previously had been reserved for the Jewish people in the Old Covenant.

“A chosen race,” because we have received the seal of the Spirit of God at our baptism. “A royal priesthood,” because we share in the priesthood of Christ himself, offering ourselves as living sacrifices by worshiping and serving God daily to help build his kingdom. “A consecrated nation,” because now Christians are set apart to live the new and everlasting covenant, called to be light and salt for the world. “God’s possession,” because we have been united with Him in baptism, and serve Him alone as our Master, ready to proclaim the Good News of salvation available to all who believe.

Our task today as believers is to Worship, Witness, and Work for Him who brought us from darkness into light.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Jesus is the cornerstone of this building we call Church, the People of God (CCC #756). Each of us participates, according to our own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet and king; we are therefore a holy priesthood (CCC #1546). Obedience is the hallmark of a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (CCC #709); are you being obedient to the successors of the apostles, the bishops?

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Q472: How does one, like Philip or me, “see Jesus” and thereby “see the Father”? How can one do “greater” works that Jesus? (Jn 14:1-12)

These verses mark the beginning of Jesus’ “farewell discourse” in John’s gospel. He is going away, but he will “come back.” It is this time “in-between,” as scholars call it, that Jesus is talking about.

The foundational point is whether or not one believes in Jesus, believes in his “name,” in who he truly is – the divine Son of God. Such a belief opens one’s eyes to see that the Father and the Son are One. Jesus even uses “imperative” verbs to make his point – and an imperative verb means it is a command. “Don’t be troubled”; “believe”; “have faith in me”; etc.

Once that belief becomes a reality in one’s heart, a true relationship is established between the believer and Jesus. Now one can approach Jesus in faith, and not demand a sign. Now all that remains is to carry on the work of Jesus, but in the power of the Holy Spirit, not our own power. Precisely what is it that makes a believer’s works “greater” than those of Jesus? As Fr. Francis Moloney says, the greatness comes from the very fact of his absence! Jesus is still present – in his absence! And as the number of members of the believing Body of Christ increase, the works of Jesus increase proportionately, because now he can spread his word and works of love through millions of believers!

Once again that puts the burden of responsibility on the believer. Are you in fact carrying on the mission of Jesus, by spreading his words and actions of love? Your answer determines whether or not you are in the proper relationship with Jesus. Because our journey is a pilgrim’s progress, we can always make improvements in our relationships, can we not?

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his “beloved Son” – the One to whom we are commanded to “listen” (CCC #151). Jesus is our model of holiness; he is the Way, the Truth and the Life (CCC #459).

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You Are A Royal Priesthood

Today’s Gospel is part of Jesus’ farewell conversation with his disciples. They are confused and distressed at the prospect of his leaving, but Jesus comforts them and us with the promise of the Spirit. While he is leaving us in one way, he remains with us with us in different way, through the Spirit. The gift of the Spirit will build us into the Mystical Body of Chartist — to be one with him and each other, to continue his mission in the world. The selection from Acts gives us a dramatic model of how the Spirit operates. Just as the Spirit enables the infant church to find a way for Greek speaking and Hebrew speaking Christians to live together in fellowship, so today the Spirit enables us to bring good out of unexpected and undesirable situations.

Lord Jesus, you are with us and we are in you through the Holy Spirit. Help us to so transform ourselves that our lives may reveal your presence to others.

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