Fifth Sunday of Easter: Mary and Molly and the experience of Christ

During Easter time we celebrate the gift of the Lord’s life that we received at Baptism. We need to be determined to strengthen this life within us.

May 01, 2021

5th Sunday of Easter Readings:
Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24;
Gospel: John 15:1-8

Mary tried too hard, but she didn’t try hard  enough. Let me explain. Mary grew  up in a Catholic family that took their faith  very seriously. Only sickness kept them from  Mass. They said bedtime prayers together  most nights, calling them family night prayers  when the kids got older. Mary was quite active in the youth group when she was in high  school. She joined the campus ministry programme in college. But during her sophomore  year she found herself too busy to be a regular  attendee at Mass. By her senior year, the only  time she went to Mass, or prayed at all, was  when she was home. 

Six months out of college, Mary finally got  a job in her field. She always wanted to help  others, to make a difference in people’s life, so  she had studied to be a social worker. After a  number of unsuccessful interviews, an agency  in a big city up north hired her to work the  phones and occasionally visit some of the elderly poor confined to apartments in the city.  It wasn’t exactly what Mary had trained for.  Four days every week she sat in an office calling clients, making sure they had food and  heat, encouraging them to take their medicine, arranging transportation to the doctor,  etc. One day a week, though, she was able to  leave the office and visit the people. With fifty  clients, she could only see each client once a  month, but it was something. It was also a day  she enjoyed.

Except when she had to visit Molly  McPherson. Molly was not nice. In fact, she  was downright nasty, and sometimes even  rude. The first time Mary visited, Molly complained, “They send me a kid with a pretty  smile and an empty head and think that I  should be pleased. And then you say you can’t  stay too long because you have others to see.  Well, don’t bother with me. I didn’t ask you to  come.” That was how the relationship started.  It got worse. It became an absolute struggle  for Mary to knock on Molly’s door. 

Mary went home for Thanksgiving and  was able to get an appointment to speak with  her pastor. She told him about her problems  with Molly. She went on and on. Finally, she  stopped and waited for his response. “So,  Mary, how active are you in the faith when  you are not home?” he asked. “Do you pray  every day? Do you go to Mass every week?” 

“Typical priest,” Mary thought. “He’s missing the whole point why I’m here.” So she  answered, “I don’t know what that has to do  with this, but I’m still looking for a church.”

“It has everything to do with this, Mary,”  the priest responded, “How do you expect to  bring the love of Christ to others if you are not  overflowing with it yourself? You see, Mary,  you are trying hard, but you are not trying  hard enough. In some ways you are doing too  much, thinking that you can do it all yourself.  You need to be thoroughly united to Christ  and then let Him to do the work.”

Mary didn’t expect to get that sort of a talking to, but she did take the priest seriously. She  started praying every day, and found a parish  near her apartment. Actually, it was just down  the block, but she had never bothered to notice  it. She went back to her younger days, and became active there, lectoring at Sunday Mass. 

One day at the end of January, the temperature had risen to 45 degrees. They call this the  January thaw. Mary visited Molly and decided  to use the warmer weather to try to get off on  a pleasant foot. “It sure is nice outside, Molly.  Why don’t you take a stroll before winter  kicks in again? I’ll walk with you.” That just  started Molly up again. “You think that just  because you have a coat and scarf and gloves,  that everyone can go outside. I haven’t been  out since September. And here’s why.” Then  Molly took out a coat that was so threadbare  it couldn’t even serve much use as a blanket.  Molly then hissed, “Why don’t you just go  back to your fantasy land. I’ve had enough of  you for today.” As I said, Molly was not nice.  Mary ran to the church in tears and asked God  to help her not be bitter to the elderly lady.

The next day was Mary’s pay day, a whole  $800. She could barely pay her rent and food  out of that. Mary cashed her check and then  she had a wonderful thought. She still had a  little graduation money in the bank for emergencies. She could use some of that to get by. 

Mary thought about Molly. She put $200 in an  envelope, and sent it anonymously to the bitter old lady with a note, “Please buy yourself  a winter coat.” A few days later, the agency received a letter addressed to young Mary. The  letter contained $50 and read, “I know that  you must have sent me the money, because no  one else knew about my coat. I’m sorry for  being so mean. I was able to find a coat for  $150. Please give the other $50 to someone  else who has needs. Looking forward to your  next visit, Love, Molly.” Mary thought that Molly could have used  that extra $50 herself. She also thought  that Molly could have continued her mean  streak, but instead she wanted to be generous to someone. Mary realised that Christ  had indeed worked on Molly. Molly had been  touched by the love of Christ. Molly now felt  the love of Christ in her own life. Now this  love was flowing through her and needed to  touch someone else. Molly wanted someone  else to have that $50.

We hear the message of the vine and the  branches every year at Easter time. It seems  so obvious to us that we need to be united to  Christ to bring him to others, but then we get  so busy in doing things for our family, our  spouses, or others, that we forget where the  real Power of Love comes from. Like Mary,  we try too hard, but we don’t try hard enough.  Instead of strengthening our union with Christ  and letting Him work though us, we go about  a myriad of tasks without spending time on  the work that really matters, growing in the  love of Christ. We have God’s life, God’s love  within us. When we are united to this love,  even the mean old Mollys of the world, or the  mean old Mollys of our families, will come in  contact with the Love of Christ. And once the  Love of Christ flows into them, it will flow  through them to others.

What is it that really matters in our lives?  Is it the way others treat us? Often that motivates us to return negative for negative. But  what others say and do is really secondary to  what really matters in life. What matters is the  Love of Christ that we have been empowered  to make real in the world. When that love becomes our focus, then we really don’t care  about ourselves. We just want others to experience this love.

During Easter time we celebrate the gift of  the Lord’s life that we received at Baptism.  We need to be determined to strengthen this  life within us. We need to be more faithful,  more prayerful. We need to try harder in our  prayer life. That is how we are called to bring  God’s love to others. 

He is the vine, we are the branches. — By  Msgr Joseph A Pellegrino

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