Sunday Sermon for May 1, 2011, the Second Sunday After Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, Year A
Readings: Acts 2:42-47; 1Pt 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31
In the second reading today St. Peter says, speaking of Jesus, that although we have never seen Him, we love Him; even though we do not see Him now, we believe in Him. To believe in our Lord is a fairly easy proposition for us because we can look at the evidence of what was prophesied in the Old Testament, we can read what is written of Him in the Gospels, we can look at St. Thomas in the today’s Gospel who believed in the Lord’s resurrection only because he could put his fingers in the wounds or at the witness of the Apostles and all of the other Saints throughout the centuries and accumulate a large body of evidence to support our belief. Of course, for us to have true faith in Jesus it has to go beyond just acceptance based on the external evidence.
However, it is the other point made by St. Peter that I want to consider today: although we have never seen Him, we love Him. Is this true? To love our Lord goes far beyond just accepting the evidence that demonstrates that He is who He says He is. It even goes beyond making that act of faith in Jesus that will lead, as St. Peter tells us, to the salvation of our souls. To love our Lord is based on this faith in Him, but it has to go into the depths of our being. We meet a lot of people today, among those who go to Mass, who have faith, but we really do not see much evidence of love for Jesus in them.
Merely going through the motions is not sufficient to qualify for love. If you do not believe that, ask your spouse. Going to Mass, receiving Communion, going to confession and other such practices are excellent and essential; one who loves Jesus does these things, but one who goes through the motions of living out their faith does them as well. As amazing as it may seem, we can even go through the motions of prayer, especially vocal prayers, without much love.
To love Jesus implies, first of all, having a relationship with Him. Obviously, if we have not seen Him, this relationship has to take place in prayer, but it is expressed in our words and actions. To love Jesus means to do things for Him, that is, the reason why we do things is motivated by love. This would require that we keep Him in our minds and carry Him in our hearts and that He becomes the point of reference for everything that we do.
In the first reading we hear about the way of life among the early members of the Church. There are extraordinary things like selling of homes and possessions and sharing everything in common. This is still done in Religious Life, but for most people in the Church it is not the norm. However, what about the ordinary things that can and should be the norm for us? We are told that the early Christians went to prayer (meeting in the Temple) and Mass (Breaking of Bread) and that they took their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God. When is the last time you took a meal in this manner?
I the Gospel, we see the joy of the Apostles when they saw the risen Lord. Do we rejoice to see the Lord in the Eucharist? Do we look forward to being able to see Him when we leave this world, or would we rather stay here? Are we afraid of Him because He is our Judge, or does our love for Him conquer our fear? Do we really want to know and do His will now, or do we want to do what we want to do without being bothered about God’s will? If we love Him, we want to be with Him: in the Eucharist, in prayer, in union of wills, in Heaven for eternity.
Love is, of course, a two way street. Because it is a relationship, it must be reciprocal and benevolent: two who are united in seeking only the good of the other. As we celebrate Divine Mercy today, we are reminded of the love of our Lord for us. Everything He did was done out of love for us. In other words, He has fulfilled and continues to fulfill His half of the relationship; now He waits for us to reciprocate. Love must be a free choice, so He will not force us to love Him. We are among those our Lord, in the Gospel, called blessed because we believe without seeing. Are we among those commended by St. Peter who have not seen Jesus, but love Him?
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.