Sunday Sermon for May 14, 2023, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Pet 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21
In the second reading, St. Peter tells us to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” We need to ask ourselves what this means. The first thing we must recognize is that he is telling us to look at what is going on in our hearts, not in our minds. Anyone with faith knows that Jesus is Lord, but the problem is always one of getting these truths into our hearts.
But St. Peter is not merely asking us to believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord; he is asking us to sanctify Jesus as Lord in our hearts. When we pray in the Our Father “hallowed be Thy Name,” we are not praying that God’s Name be made holy (because it already is), but that His Name will be holy within ourselves. So, if we are to sanctify Jesus as Lord in our hearts, it is not to make Him holy, but that we would recognize and reverence His holiness as people who love Him and believe in Him.
Although this is true, we need to go even deeper. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the Spirit of Truth Whom the world does not know but, He says, we know Him because He remains with us and will be in us. We see this promise being fulfilled in a practical way in the first reading where Peter and John pray for and lay hands on the people of Samaria and they received the Holy Spirit. You received the Holy Spirit on the day you were baptized and you received the fullness of the Spirit when you were confirmed.
This means we have the Holy Spirit to help us get into our hearts. When we get there, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will begin to understand what our Lord told us in the Gospel today. He told us that if we love Him we will be loved by the Father and by Jesus, and Jesus will reveal Himself to us. This revelation takes place within our hearts because, as the context makes clear, it is about love. The more we love Him, the more He will reveal Himself to us because He is love.
As beautiful as this is, it gets even better. Jesus tells us that we will realize that “I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” So, Jesus is in us and we are in Him, but He is also in the Father which means the Father is also in us and we are in the Father. The Spirit of Truth, as we already saw, is in us as well. So, the three Persons of the Trinity dwell in us when we are in the state of sanctifying grace.
The fact that the Trinity dwells in us does not automatically imply that we dwell within the Trinity. This is where sanctifying Christ as Lord in our hearts becomes critical. Jesus dwells in us in love and, as we know, love is a two-way street. In order to dwell in Him, we must love Him. This does not imply having warm and gushy feelings for Him, but serving Him, worshiping Him, and living our lives for Him.
We live in a time where people want to make Jesus into their little buddy, a warm and fuzzy pal. When we do this, we strip Him of His divine dignity and we fail to have true reverence for Him. We must be clear: He is the best friend we will ever have. However, we must never lose sight of the fact that He is God. The fact that He humbles Himself so profoundly to come and dwell with and in us does not mean that we should treat Him in a manner that fails to respect Him as God.
We must love our Lord for Who He is, not for what we might try to make Him. If we sanctify Him in our Hearts, we will maintain the proper reverence and respect for His Person. But St. Peter does not ask us to merely sanctify Jesus in our hearts, but to sanctify Him as Lord in our hearts. We can respect, reverence, and even worship Him objectively, but for Jesus to be Lord in our hearts requires something entirely different.
First, it must be subjective, that is, personal. Second, it must be relational because if Jesus is Lord in our hearts, He is not just Lord objectively (which He is), but He is my Lord subjectively. Third, we must allow Him to be Lord, that is, we must observe His commandments, as He says in the Gospel. St. Peter is not merely asking for an act of faith, but for an act of love: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts!
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.