Sunday Sermon for May 28, 2017, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 1:12-14; 1 Pt 4:13-16; Jn 17:1-11a
At the end of the second reading today St. Peter says that anyone who is made to suffer for being a Christian should not be ashamed, but should glorify God because of the Name of Christian. Before there is any possibility of suffering for being Christian, we need to be Christian enough that someone would actually want to denigrate us for our faith in the Lord. St. Peter tells us not to be ashamed if we suffer for the Faith, but we have to make sure that we are not ashamed of the Faith or we will never suffer for it.
It would be a very rare occasion that someone will persecute another based simply on what the other believes in their mind. It does happen at times because people will ask questions and, when they learn that someone is Catholic, then they begin to treat that person badly. However, even in these cases, it is most common that the person is asked because the other person saw something in the actions of the Catholic person. In other words, most people who are going to suffer for the Faith will do so because there was enough evidence in their day to day life to demonstrate that they are Catholic.
There is a trite, but biting, bumper sticker type question that comes up in emails every now and again. It simply asks if you were accused of being Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you? If we are not living our lives in a truly Catholic manner, not only will no one be edified and, possibly, converted by our example, but it would suggest that there is something deeper within us that does not want to reveal our true identity.
In the first reading we hear about the Apostles after the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven. No one will argue that these men were not living their faith in Jesus in a very heroic way just a few weeks earlier. Things did improve during the forty days after the Resurrection and now we see a very different group of men. Of course, everything would change radically for them with the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, but even at the beginning of Acts we can already see that they are changing.
What is most important about this change is that they devoted themselves to prayer. I suspect it was just a natural impulse to gather around our Blessed Lady and ask her to teach them. It should be no different for us. We must understand: there is no way we can truly live a Catholic life without prayer. This is not simply because prayer will provide us with the courage to do what we ought; rather, it is because prayer unites us with Jesus and begins conforming us to Him by filling us with love for Him.
When we love someone, we are not ashamed of that person. Even on the natural level, someone may have some serious problems, but love can overcome all of them. In this case, our Lord has no problems, so we do not even have a single natural level reason to be ashamed of Him. But if we are, it is not because we do not have enough faith; it is because we do not have enough love.
In His High Priestly Prayer, the beginning of which we hear in the Gospel reading today, our Lord says that eternal life is to know the one True God and Jesus Christ Whom He sent. Our faith allows us believe what we know about Jesus, but it is only love that allows us to actually know Him. This knowledge, this love, comes only through prayer.
Long before we ever made an act of faith in Jesus and in His Church, we were chosen by God Himself. In the Gospel today Jesus says of His Apostles and of us, that we belonged to the Father and the Father has given us to Jesus. Not only is this astounding in itself, but it means that neither God the Father nor Jesus is ashamed of us. We have to be honest and admit that we have given Him plenty to be ashamed of, but because He loves us so much, He is not ashamed of us at all.
Love has to be reciprocal, so we have to receive His love and love Him in return. This is our dignity and our glory. Love cannot be hidden, so if we love our Lord it will be evident in and through our words and actions. We need to learn from the Apostles and ask our Lady to teach us how to pray and how to love her Son. Pray, know Jesus, love Him, and do not be ashamed!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.