Sunday Sermon for May 16, 2021, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B
Readings: Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26; 1 Jn 4:11-16; Jn 17:11b-19
In the first reading today, St. Peter speaks of two necessities regarding Judas. The first, he says, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which David spoke concerning the one who would hand over the Messiah. Second, St. Peter says it is necessary, based again on what David wrote, that someone else would fill the office Judas vacated through his atrocity.
St. Peter reminds everyone that Judas was counted among the number of the Apostles and given a share in the apostolic ministry. When St. Peter speaks of another filling the office of Judas, it literally says, “may another take his episcopate.” Today we look at the Bishops as the successors of the Apostles; they are given a share in the apostolic ministry. This is certainly a great privilege, but it comes with a tremendous responsibility and, so to speak, a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads: one who had a share in that ministry betrayed our Lord.
We know that when more is entrusted to someone, our Lord expects more from them. This is most fitting when applied to the Bishops, especially when we hear the words our Lord speaks in the Gospel today in His High Priestly Prayer when He says that He gave His Father’s word to His Apostles for which the world hates them and that they do not belong to the world any more than Jesus belongs to the world. How many Bishops are hated by the world because they speak our Lord’s word? How many live in such a way that they “do not belong to the world?”
It is easy to point at the bishops because they are very public, but what about the rest of us? The words of our Lord have been given to us as well. Each of us has been consecrated to the Lord. Do people dislike us because we live according to our Lord’s words? Do people reject us because we are not worldly? If we are rejected because we are arrogant or uncharitable, we cannot be counted among those of whom our Lord is speaking. If we are arrogant or uncharitable, it is clear to everyone that we are not living according to our Lord’s words and, even more, the one who is the most arrogant and uncharitable is the prince of this world. So, if we are falling into the vile creature’s trap, we only demonstrate that we are giving in to the basest of the worldly dispositions.
In the second reading St. John reminds us of the love of God and that we are commanded to love one another. When we consider our Lord or our Lady, they were certainly not worldly, arrogant, or uncharitable. They were, however, hated and despised. They were not rejected because they treated people badly; they were rejected because they spoke and lived the truth. What is most astounding about this is that they were members of the Chosen People of God and lived among them.
If pagans who rejected them, that would be more understandable. But the Jewish people were given the truth, they were given the Word of God, they were given the promises, they were consecrated to God to live in a way that was different than how every other culture in the world lived. They were to live their lives for God. Everything was given to prepare them to receive our Lord. But when the Truth came to them, they rejected Him. When the Word of God came to them, they did not want to hear Him. When Love came to them, they crucified Him.
Once again, we cannot point our finger at the Jewish people because we have done the same. We have been given the fullness of truth and, as St. John says, we testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Even more, once again with St. John, we have come to know and believe in the love God has for us and that God is love. These are points we willingly profess. But still, how many times have we rejected God’s word because it is inconvenient? How many times have we denied our Lord because we wanted to fit in with someone on the worldly level? How many times have we ignored Jesus because we have ignored the least of His brothers? How often have we crucified Him because we choose sin over His love?
St. John tells us that the Father has sent the Son, but He also states that He has given us His Spirit. If we are in the state of grace, God dwells in us; He remains in us. We are called to remain in Him through love. We must strive, like Jesus and Mary, to live the truth in love and humility.
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.