EASTER VI: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; I Jn 4:7-10; Jn 15: 9-17
In 1941, the German Army began to round up Jewish people in Lithuania. Thousands of Jews were murdered. But one German soldier objected to their murder. He was Sergeant Anton Schmid. Through his assistance, the lives of at least 250 Jews were spared. He managed to hide them, find food, and supply them with forged papers. Schmid himself was arrested in early 1942 for saving these lives. He was tried and executed in 1942. It took Germany almost sixty years to honour the memory of this man, Schmid. Said Germany's Defence Minister in 2000, saluting him, "Too many bowed to the threats and temptations of the dictator Hitler, and too few found the strength to resist. But Sergeant Anton Schmid did resist."
This is the central theme of today's Gospel. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." The hero Schmid went beyond what even Jesus encouraged. He laid down his life for strangers.
We are chosen to be the ambassadors of God's love. But, we live in a world that encourages everything but love. Children are taught to compete with one another. Parents encourage them to defeat their friends by getting at least one mark more, by submitting one project extra, and so on. In our frantic attempt to gain popularity as the first, we ignore the sublime values of love and sacrifice.
Jesus laid down his life and taught: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." This sacrificial love was imitated by many great men, like Schmid, Maximilian Colbe, and the noble martyrs.
Jesus gives the assurance that "Love will always bear fruit." At times it may appear to us that to do good to certain people is waste of time; people are often ungrateful, and on occasions those to whom we have done good turn against us. But, we should not get discouraged; because we do not know when, how and where love will bear fruit. It is the assurance of Jesus that "Love will bear fruit." The love that Jesus bestowed on his disciples bore fruit; they travelled to the ends of the then known world announcing the love of God, and doing good to the people. It bore fruit in the life of Schmid. It bore fruit in the life of Mother Theresa. It bears fruit in our lives.
May God help us in our attempt to show his love to our brothers in small little ways.
Today we have the relic of St. Joseph here. The Church believes the power of intercession of St.Joseph in the lives of a Christian. It is reasonable to think that if Jesus grew up with St. Joseph and he called him father and if Joseph provided Jesus with everything he needed as a boy, then, if St.Joseph asks him for something, surely we can reasonably imagine that Jesus would hear the prayers of St.Joseph than anybody else except Mary.
Several saints like St. Teresa of Ávila to St. Gertrude to St. Faustina were blessed by St.Joseph’s appearances and intercession.
In the 16th century, St. Teresa of Ávila said he appeared to her when she was having trouble establishing a particular convent. She wrote in her autobiography, “Once, when I was in a difficulty and could not think what to do, or how I was going to pay some workmen, Saint Joseph, my true father and lord, appeared to me and gave me to understand that money would not be lacking and I must make all the necessary arrangements.
When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.
Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks.
After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the sisters' prayers.
Engineers still marvel at this carpenters accomplishment. The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. It is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood (Not found anywhere around in the state) and other materials used in the stairway's construction.
Over the years many have flocked to the Loretto Chapel to see the Miraculous Staircase. I myself have been there to see that about 10 years ago. The staircase has been the subject of many articles, TV specials, and movies including "Unsolved Mysteries" and the full-length movie titled the staircase. I watched on youtube.
Just as St.Joseph took care of the Holy Family many years ago, St. Joseph will continue to take care of the temporal and spiritual needs of his children here on earth; he will continue to intercede for us before our Lord.
In 2005 Pope
Benedict XVI said, “To St. Joseph’s intercession I entrust the hopes of the
Church and of the world. May he, together with the Virgin Mary, his spouse,
always guide my way and yours, so that we are able to be joyful instruments of
peace and of salvation.”
At the close of the Mass we will say the litany to St. Joseph.