Sunday Sermon for May 19, 2019, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C
Readings: Acts 14:21-27; Rev 21:1-5a; Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35
In the Gospel reading today our Lord, speaking at the Last Supper, says to His Apostles: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and God will glorify Him at once.” This is one of those passages from St. John’s Gospel that seems to turn in circles. What is Jesus talking about?
At the moment He was talking about His Passion. Judas had just left the supper to perform his dastardly deed of betrayal. Jesus was explaining to the eleven Apostles who remained what was going to happen in the next hours and days. What is important is how our Lord presents His Passion and death: it is a glorification of God and, in return, God will glorify Jesus for His obedience in accepting the Cross.
What our Lord is about to undergo is for the glory of God. It is certainly for our redemption and salvation as well, but the motive, as we hear in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, was obedience to the will of God. Obedience is an act of charity, so the Passion is done out of love for God and love for us. Of course, our Lord was going to be glorified in rising from the dead, but He was glorified first by going to the Cross. Jesus glorified His Father in the Passion; God the Father glorified Jesus in His Passion and in His resurrection (as well as in His Ascension and glorification in Heaven).
This is the context in which Jesus tells His Apostles that they are to love one another as He has loved them. Too many people today, especially among those who profess their faith in Jesus, do not want to love the way Jesus has told us to love. We often hear things like: “God doesn’t want you to suffer,” “Jesus suffered for us, so you don’t have to,” “if you are suffering, you must have done something that offended God.” Jesus makes clear that the love He asks from us is a participation in His Passion.
I frequently point out to people that if Jesus took on all the suffering for us and if He did not want us to suffer, the Apostles would have known this. Instead, every book of the New Testament tells us about trials, suffering, troubles, persecutions, difficulties, etc. Not only do the Apostles talk about these things, but they instruct us to rejoice in them and to find pure joy in them. The Apostles and the early Christians obviously suffered immensely; there is no evidence they thought it was because God was angry at them. Instead, they considered it a privilege to share in the sufferings of Christ because, as members of Christ, they were also sharing in the work of redemption and salvation.
In the first reading today we are told about the travels of Saints Paul and Barnabas; we are specifically told about four different cities where they went to strengthen the spirits of the disciples. How did they strengthen these recent converts? The Apostles told them: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” What kind of pep talk is this? It was certainly not the pious pablum of “Jesus loves you, so you do not have to suffer.” No, it was the truth. Because Jesus loves us, He suffered for us; if we love Jesus, we will suffer for Him and with Him. If we suffer with Him, we will be glorified with Him.
This is precisely the point the Saints make when they tell us we need to endure suffering before we can enter the Kingdom of God. In the second reading we are shown the vision of the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God and the Bride of Christ. In the glory of Heaven, we are told, there will be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain. Suffering is part of the old order; Heaven is going to be new. In the old order, the one in which we are presently living, our glory is sharing in the glory of Jesus: in His suffering and death. In the new order of Heaven, our glory will be sharing in the glory of Jesus in His resurrection, ascension, and glorification; there will be no more suffering or pain.
The Cross draws us to itself because Jesus is on the Cross and we desire to be with Him. Heaven also attracts many people, but there is only one way to get to Heaven: the Cross. So, we need to learn a lesson from the early Christians: consider it a privilege and pure joy to suffer with Jesus now, and be glorified with Him for eternity!
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.