It always amazes me how the Gospel lessons that are assigned as they are for this particular Sunday every year, even though they are there the Sunday after Easter every year, they fit in so well with what we’ve been talking about all day. It’s almost as though we had designed these three lessons for this evening, but they are the teachings for the whole church this weekend. They are very important and they do fit in with what we are talking about today: how to stop violence and build peace.
I referred to the bishops’ pastoral letter throughout the day: the challenge of peace, God’s promise and our response. In the very last part of this letter, a part that I think many of us may be unfamiliar with, but it’s a very important part of the letter — the pastoral challenge and our response. It’s just the first part of it I find so in tune with what our readings are today. In this fourth part of the pastoral, we start off — the bishops who wrote this — recalling the first encyclical letter that John Paul II wrote after he became the bishop of Rome.
In that letter, he says, “Membership in that body” — talking about the body of the church — “has for its source a particular call, united with the saving action of grace. Therefore, if we wish to keep this in mind, this community of the people of God, which is so vast, so extremely differentiated, we must seek first and foremost Jesus saying in a way to each member of the community, the community of the whole church, ‘Follow Me.’ “….