Sunday Sermon for May 8, 2022, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C
Readings: Acts 13:14, 43-52; Rev 7:9, 14b-17; Jn 10:27-30
In the second reading, St. John sees a multitude gathered from every area of the world. He is told these are the people who have survived the time of great distress. When we look at the readings today we can see that this distress can take a variety of forms. In the first reading we hear about the persecution of Saints Paul and Barnabas. I am sure their traveling, lodging, and food was not the best either, probably something most people in our day would not even be willing to endure because it would appear to be beneath our human dignity. In the second reading we hear about hunger, thirst, and the sun beating down on people.
In the midst of all this, we hear about Jesus being our Shepherd Who leads us to life-giving waters. In the Gospel our Lord tells us His sheep follow Him and He gives them eternal life. This sounds really wonderful, and it is, but we must also remind ourselves of what this means. If we are going to follow Jesus, it means following Him up Calvary to the Cross. Eternal life was won for us through the Cross and resurrection of our Lord, so if He will give us eternal life, He will give us the means to achieve it: the Cross.
When we look at the people who survived the time of distress, in the broadest terms we can say this life is a time of distress. This is certainly true in the sense that all of us have a measure of suffering and struggle we must endure in this life. However, to say these people survived this life is not sufficient, otherwise we would need to accept the heresy of universal salvation, that is, everyone goes to Heaven. This is why St. John is told that the innumerable crowd he is seeing has washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.
Obviously, this is not meant in a literal sense since blood cannot cause fabric to turn white. It is spiritual and implies these people have been purified and, thereby, made worthy of eternal life. This purification in the Blood of the Lamb implies accepting our share of the suffering required by the Gospel. It implies dying with Christ so as to live with Christ. It implies conformity to Christ through a kind of crucifixion that occurs through our striving to grow in holiness.
What is necessary is to suffer with Christ and for Him. We all have suffering in our lives, but our suffering will do little or no good for us if we do not at least try to cooperate. I know that most of us go kicking and screaming at first, but if we are trying to pray and unite ourselves with the Lord, with time we will begin to see the great good God brings out of our suffering. Only then can we accept it peacefully and even rejoice in the sufferings that come our way.
All this is necessary to understand because I believe there is a profound purification coming soon to the Church and to the world. Jesus told His Apostles at the Last Supper that their faith in Him would be shaken. I think that is the direction we are moving presently. We must understand that there is a tremendous amount of corruption that has filtered its way into the Church. This inhibits the ability of the Church to function for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Nothing the Church teaches has changed, but most Catholics think there are many things we no longer believe or that we can pick and choose what we want to believe. Many people have bought into a false Jesus; there are so many portrayed for them. After all, the real Jesus Who spoke the Truth and went to the Cross is not politically correct and the Cross is not pleasant. Therefore, the Jesus Who wants me to be rich, popular, and surrounded by everything I could ever want, sounds much more palatable to many in our day.
It appears that the time of great distress is drawing near for us. The only way through this time of distress is to remain with our Shepherd. By this I do not mean giving Him lip service. We must believe in Jesus, but we must also love Him and serve Him in the midst of hardships. He is our Shepherd, but do we know His voice so we can follow Him? It is a great blessing to be alive in such a time as this, but it is also requires that we will to be Saints. Choose Jesus, remain faithful to Him, love Him, and make your robes white in the Blood of the Lamb!
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.