TEXT: Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2024

April 28, 2024 Father De Celles Homily

Fifth Sunday of Easter

April 28, 2024

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

The last few years have been a very strange time to be a Christian in America.

For over 200 years, Christian values

were the driving force in making America a great nation

because they provided our nation with its fundamental moral compass.

It was Christianity that taught us that we have God-given rights

                  and taught us what those rights were;

and it was Christianity that taught us good from evil,

and the compatibility and necessity of both mercy and justice.

Although our nation has sometimes allowed many unjust practices,

         it was Christian morality that led us to correct them

—even in radical and costly ways.

For example, it was Christian ministers that began both

the abolitionist movement and the civil rights movement.

But now, Christianity is being marginalized more and more every day,

and even persecuted.

For me, a bright red line was crossed a few years ago

when the president required Christian institutions, including

Catholic colleges and charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor,

to provide employees insurance for contraception

and abortion inducing drugs.

Since then it’s mushroomed to the point that Christian businesses

are being forced to cooperate with same-sex marriage,

and our schools, sports, recreation workplaces, and government agencies

are being overrun by nonsensical transgender ideology.


The thing is, not only are we being marginalized and persecuted,

but they are taking our own Christian values, distorting their meaning,

and using them as weapons against us.

Think about this.

They remind us that Christianity is based on freedom,

the exercise of free will to choose to love.

And they remind us that the greatest commandment is to love

—to love God and our neighbor.

So, they say, “How can it be loving

to oppose your neighbor’s freedom to ‘love’ anyone they choose,

or even to marry them, even if they are the same sex?”

They say that’s not loving, but rather hating.

It’s very clever.

Diabolically clever.

Because no one wants to be called a “hater.”

And when a good Christian is told he’s not loving his neighbor,

his conscience immediately perks up.

So, all of this harsh criticism leads many faithful Christians to wonder,

“Am I being hateful if I don’t go along with all these changes?”

“Is the Christianity I’ve been taught really hypocritical

in saying we must love, but then teaching us to hate, as some say?”

These are very real questions burdening many Catholic souls today.

I hear it from our teenagers

who constantly fear becoming outcasts for their Catholic views.

I hear it from their parents and grandparents

who struggle to explain all this to their kids and grandkids.

And I hear it from people who go to work and endure constant coercion

to accept these new values or risk losing their jobs.

So, what is the truth?

When we oppose all these changes, are we actually hypocritical Christians,

or are we merely faithful Christians?


In many ways this problem is as old as the Church itself.

In fact, we find something like this in today’s second reading, from St. John,

who writes,

“If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God

and receive from Him whatever we ask.”

Now, some interpret this passage to mean

that if we feel in our hearts that something is okay,

then whatever we’re doing must be okay.

So, if two men feel in their hearts that it’s okay to get married,

then that must be God telling them it’s okay.

Or, if a teenage girl feels in her heart that she must be a boy, then she IS a boy.

“If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God

and receive from Him whatever we ask…”

But that’s actually the opposite of what John is saying

because this sentence concludes,

“We…receive from Him whatever we ask

becausewe keep His commandments and do what pleases Him.”

And right before this St. John tells us,

“This is how we shall know that we belong to the truth

and reassure our hearts before Him

in whatever our hearts condemn,

for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.”

What St. John is saying is that you really can’t always trust your heart, or feelings.

Sometimes they tell you something is good, when it’s really bad.

And vice versa: Sometimes parents might feel bad for punishing their little child,

but objectively they know they did a good thing for their child.

Now, when St. John talks about the “heart,”

you can interpret this as referring to our feelings

or what we call our conscience.

In either case, we know both our feelings and our consciences

often mislead us

—sometimes we do bad because it feels good,

and we feel bad even when we do something that is good.

St. John is saying before you do anything,

have confidence not in your heart, but rather

“have confidence in God…

keep His commandments and do what pleases Him.”

So, if we form our hearts, our consciences,

around keeping His commandments and doing His will,

then our hearts will not condemn us

because they’ve been trained by God to know what is right.

It will be as if we put our hearts in Him and He put His heart in us.

John goes on to say,

“Those who keep His commandments remain in Him, and He in them.”

We see this again in today’s Gospel, also written by St. John.

Jesus tells us,

“I am the vine, you are the branches.

Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit.”

The key to Christian life is to not only to follow Jesus,

but like a vine receiving its very life from a branch,

a Christian must let everything we do and think and say—our whole life—

be filled with what flows from Jesus.


Again, some will remind us that Jesus Himself gave us the commandment,

“Love your neighbor as yourself,”

and then they accuse us of breaking this commandment

if we say what they’re doing is morally wrong.

This happens all the time.

Some of you have a close friend, or a son or daughter, or brother or sister,

who’s announced they’re gay.

You love them—but you think what they’re doing is terribly sinful.

What do you do?

First of all, remember not to be guided by your feelings,

but to “have confidence in God,” and listen to what He says.

And what does Jesus say about loving our neighbor?

First, He reminds us that loving our neighbor

means keeping the Ten Commandments:

If you love your neighbor, you won’t kill, lie to, or steal from him.

This is why today’s second reading says,

“Those who keep His commandments remain in Him, and He in them.”

And one of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shall not commit adultery.”

The Scripture is very clear that one of the worst forms of adultery

is homosexual activity.

So, we love our neighbor by keeping the commandments,

         including the one that rejects homosexual relations.

But we also love our neighbor by reminding him to keep the commandments,

and so remain in Christ

because Jesus tells us,

“Without Me you can do nothing.

Anyone who does not remain in Me

will be thrown out like a branch and wither;

people will…throw them into a fire and they will be burned.”

If you really love someone, you have to try to help them to remain in Christ

by helping them to keep His commandments

because, if they don’t, they’ll never be truly happy in this world,

         they’ll be cut off from Jesus and His love and grace,

and they may very well burn in the world to come.

Is it really loving to remain silent, pretending that all is well?

Or is it loving to tell them, “I love you, but you’re terribly wrong. This is hurting you!”

and so, try to save them from withering in sadness in this world

and perhaps burning in the fires of hell in the next?


In doing this, we still have to do it with charity:

Act like you love them, not like you hate them—because you do love them.

Jesus told us, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

So, don’t be afraid of telling the truth—sometimes it can hurt,

but it’s the only way to freedom.

Of course, always tell the truth in a way that’s most loving, but still effective.

This is what Jesus did.

Remember when He told the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more”?

He was gentle, but He told her the truth: She had to stop sinning.

And remember what He told the Samaritan woman at the well:

“The man you are living with now is not your husband”?

If you go back to that text, you’ll see that He was kind of tough and blunt with her,

but only because that’s what she needed.

But sometimes, gentleness and even bluntness don’t work.

Jesus loved everyone, including the Pharisees.

Remember how He told us that they knew God’s Law so well?

But they were so hard hearted,

He had no choice but to use very harsh words to get their attention.

He must have loved them very much because He was constantly after them.

How many times did he publicly chastise them,

calling them “hypocrites,” “white-washed tombs,” and a “brood of vipers,” and specifically warning them about going to hell?


Today’s second reading begins with St. John admonishing his people,

“Let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth.”

Today we come together and pray all these prayers expressing our love for God.

We say, “I confess…that I have greatly sinned”;

and “I believe in one God…in Jesus Christ”;

and we tell “Our Father…in heaven…Thy will be done.”

But all these are empty words and meaningless speech

if they don’t reflect the truth about what we do when we leave here.

So, let us love not in word and speech, but in deed and truth.

And as we move deeper into this Holy Mass

and prepare to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament,

let us beg Him to remain in us always,

that our hearts may beat with His,

that our consciences may be formed by His will,

and that we may love as He loves,

keeping His commandments,

and not the commandments of secular society or the government.

And remaining in Him as we leave here,

may His grace give us the courage and confidence

to share His commandments with those we love,

         so they, too, may come to remain in Him and He in them…

in this life and in the life to come.