Sunday Sermon for May 24, 2020, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 1:12-14; 1 Pet 4:13-16; Jn 17:1-11a
In the Gospel reading today we have the beginning of the “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus. This was prayed at the Last Supper, just before our Lord began His Passion. Many important points are included in this prayer, but these will be highlighted for us because of the situation we are in at present.
First of all, in this prayer Jesus pronounces that the Father has given Him authority over all people so He can give eternal life to the people the Father has given Him. Authority is given to serve, which is what our Lord is making clear that He is doing for us. But the question is not about how our Lord exercises His authority, the question for us is how we respond to His authority. Are we obedient to what He asks? Do we seek His will or just strive to carry out our own will? Do we have the proper respect for Him as our King, our Lord, our Savior, and our God?
This becomes important because in this prayer our Lord says to His Father that those the Father has given Him have accepted His words, understood Jesus came from the Father, and believed the Father sent Jesus. Still, within hours the Apostles had all abandoned Him and, after His death their faith in Him had completely faltered, and even after His resurrection some of them still entertained doubts.
This is not to point fingers at the Apostles or at any of our Lord’s disciples because today it is our turn. We believe Jesus is the Son of God and we accept His words as the Word of God. We profess Him, with Thomas, to be our Lord and God. But is this just in our minds or have these convictions entered into our hearts? As things beome progressively more ugly for the Church and spiritual darkness descends upon our world, we may be tempted to abandon Jesus. When the Church is crucified, we may be the ones entertaining doubts.
Before the time of the Church’s crucifixion, there must be a Passion. This is because the Church is the Mystical Person of Christ and the Bride of Christ, so the life of Christ must be lived in her and through her. Therefore, it may happen that some of us will need to suffer various trials because of our faith in Jesus. Are you willing to do that? Some trials may be fairly easy. St. Peter tells us in the second reading that if we are insulted for the Name of Christ we are blessed and the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us. And that, just for being insulted!
Imagine the glory and grace from the Holy Spirit that will be poured upon those who are arrested, beaten, or even put to death because of their faith in Jesus. This is why St. Peter tells us to rejoice to the extent that we share in the sufferings of Christ. On the surface it does not seem to be a cause for rejoicing, but if we are bearing these sufferings out of love and, especially if we can understand the grace and glory given to us for sharing in the sufferings of our Lord, then we can see there is great cause for rejoicing. After all, in the Gospel Jesus prayed that His Father would give Him glory so He could glorify the Father. This refers, not to the resurrection and ascension, but to our Lord’s Passion and death.
Ask yourself honestly what you think your response would be if you found yourself in a situation of others harrassing you or threatening you because of your faith. We would all like to think we would never deny our Lord, but Peter had that same confidence at the Last Supper and denied our Lord three times in the subsequent hours. This reminds us that we are weak and, if the conditions were right, we could also deny our Lord. It is not that we want to do so, but we can never be confident of our own strength and ability.
Notice that after the Apostles had learned the very important truth of their own weakness and the need to be dependent on God, that they gathered together in prayer. Most importantly, they were there with our Lady who taught them. Our Lady is the only one who remained completely faithful to Jesus and never harbored a doubt. This is because she was convinced of her own nothingness and, therefore, looked to God for everything.
This is the lesson we all need to learn and it is best learned from our holy Mother. This is her time, this is her work! Pray and remain close to Mary; She will keep you faithful to Jesus.
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.