What is the Nudge You Need?

Homily for April 15, 2018 (3rd Sunday of Easter)
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48

Obesity is a major public health problem in the United States. Roughly one in three adults in this country is obese. There is a strong link between obesity and other chronic health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.  Obesity often has its roots in childhood.  Here in Illinois, one in four children is obese!

One of the best ways to address and prevent obesity is to teach children to make healthier food choices.  Several years ago, economists at Cornell University had a problem.  They observed that when schools included apples in their lunches to make them healthier, the children didn’t eat them.  Many of the apples were thrown in the garbage!

How could the schools get the students to eat their apples?  The Cornell economists found a simple solution.  They provided three schools with machines that sliced the apples into pieces.  Three other schools kept serving whole apples.  The results were amazing:  when students were given sliced rather than whole apples to eat, the consumption of apples went up over 70%.

Economists call this an example of a “nudge,” or a simple change that encourages people to change their behavior.  The scripture readings for this Third Sunday of Easter present us with the different ways that God tries to nudge us toward holiness.

In Acts 3, we are reminded that God understands that we are weak.  Even as he condemned them for putting Jesus to death, St. Peter consoled them:  “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance.”  He did not excuse what they did but he let them know that he understood their situation.  He then urged them to repentance and conversion.

When we sin, St. John tells us in our second reading, we can remember that God gives us an Advocate, Jesus, who died not only for our sins but for those of the whole world.  That knowledge can give us the courage to confront our sins and to accept some of the difficulties that come when we make the effort to change what we think, how we speak and what we do.

Finally, we recall that Jesus is with us in a way that is just as personal and just as real as when he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection.  Jesus proved to them that he wasn’t a ghost.  He invited them to touch his wounds.  He ate in front of them.  He “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” and he sent them forth as witnesses to what they had seen and heard.

What is the nudge that you need to become a holier person, a better Christian, a more faithful Catholic?  How can we encourage each other?  +