Sunday Sermon for May 15, 2022, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

Readings: Acts 14:21-27; Rev 21:1-5a; Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35

In the second reading we hear the One Who is seated on the Heavenly Throne say: “Behold, I make all things new.”  The context of this statement regards eternal life in Heaven, but our Lord’s words can also be applied to our present life.  Indeed, in every period in history these words are apropos, and in each person’s life God is working to bring about a true renewal.  

In the Book of Revelation, it is revealed that part of this newness includes no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.  The old order, it says, has passed away.  In this new order there will be no tears, no suffering, and no death.  In the present order, which is the “old order” mentioned in this passage, the tears, suffering, pain, and difficulties are frequently the very means of renewal for us.  For now, death is the means of achieving the ultimate renewal of which our Lord speaks. 

If we cannot enter into the life of the new order without passing through death, then it makes sense to assume that the constant inner renewal that is required for growth in holiness will be brought about through those things that will result in a greater dying to self, that is, the things that can be described as suffering, pain, trials, and tears.  Most of us try to avoid these things as much as we can, but if we can see the good God brings from them, perhaps we would be more eager to embrace them.

In the first reading, we are told that Paul and Barnabas, after completing their first missionary journey, retraced their steps by stopping in the cities where they originally preached the Gospel.  We are told that they strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith.  The only line we are given from everything they said to those early converts is: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”  Notice that this is not an option; it is a necessity.

But why must we undergo many hardships?  In order to understand the answer to this question, we must see it from a spiritual perspective.  But, even on the natural level, hardships can help us to grow stronger, be more compassionate, and develop wisdom.  In the order of virtue, hardships can help us to learn perseverance, patience, meekness, and a host of other virtues.  However, on the purely spiritual plane, our Lord reveals to us the great value of the suffering we must endure. 

In the Gospel reading, which describes the events that took place at the Last Supper, more specifically, just after Judas left to betray our Lord, Jesus tells His Apostles that He is going to be glorified and God will be glorified in Him.  This is why God not only allows the trials, hardships, and suffering that are part of our human life, and especially part of our Catholic life, but it is why He requires them.  He wants to glorify us by these means and, in turn, He wants us to glorify Him by these means.

When we listen to our own complaints when things do not go our way, it does not seem that we do a very good job of glorifying God.  Of course, it might not appear that we are being glorified either.  But in what does this glorification consist?  It is not by accident that Jesus, immediately after telling His Apostles about being glorified through His Passion, commands them to love one another as He loves us.  In fact, He goes on to say this is how people will know we are His disciples: by our love for one another.

Love, as we know, seeks the good of the other.  If we are going to glorify God through our suffering, then it implies that we need to love God through our suffering.  If we are trying to unite our suffering with the sufferings of our Lord and, if we are offering them for the good of others, the conversion of sinners, or the salvation of souls, then it is easy to see how God is glorified in these acts.  When a martyr accepts death because of Jesus, this glorifies God. 

We may not be called to martyrdom per se, but we can apply the logic: if being a martyr glorifies God, then suffering for God or dying to self for the good of others, will also glorify God.  At the same time, God is glorifying us by giving us the opportunity to practice charity as well as grow in holiness.  This insight into the spiritual good brought about by suffering and death helps us to understand that, from a spiritual perspective, Jesus makes all things new. 

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.

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