Sunday Sermon for May 1, 2016, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, year C
Readings: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Rev 21:10-14; 22-23; Jn 14:23-29
In the Gospel reading today our Lord gives His peace to His Apostles and tells them not to be troubled or afraid. This took place at the Last Supper. One would naturally think that if our Lord Himself gave His peace to someone, that person would be so completely at peace that nothing would ever disturb him. However, we know that within hours of receiving this gift from our Lord the Apostles were filled with fear and confusion to the point that they ultimately abandoned our Lord.
This serves as a great consolation to many of us who still struggle with fear and anxiety even though the same gift of our Lord has been given to us. When we wonder why we are not at peace the answer is quite simple: it is because our focus is not on the Lord and we do not trust Him completely. This was the same problem the Apostles had in the times surrounding the crucifixion.
In our failure to keep our focus on Him, we tend to put it either on ourselves or on the events taking place around us. Remember what happened to Peter when he was walking on the water: he took his focus off the Lord and got caught up, instead, in the wind and the waves and began to sink. We can also learn from the whole group of Apostles when they turned their attention onto themselves and began arguing about which of them was the greatest. Not only was Jesus right there with them, but He had just spoken to them of His death and resurrection.
Keeping in mind that St. John is the one who wrote these words which our Lord spoke, he must have felt cut to the quick when he later realized how trivial everything was that they were so upset about. St. John would have been part of the Council of Jerusalem of which we hear in the first reading. We know that there was quite a lively debate that took place in that forum, and that in the letter St. James spoke of the peace of the people being upset.
In our own lives and in the life of the Church there are many things that upset our peace. The Lord gave us a peace that the world cannot give. However, when we really consider our own circumstances, there is no peace, even surface level peace, which our world can give to us. The only thing that the chaos in which we live is able to do is rob us of our peace. We must realize that the enemy of our souls has hatched this little plot intentionally.
So, how do we defeat the vile creature and find peace? We know that the victory belongs to Jesus and Mary, not to us. We have a participation in it, but by ourselves we cannot be victorious. For this reason, the only possible way that we can have peace is to put our focus where it belongs: on the things of Heaven, not the things of earth; on the Lord, not on the self.
One easy way to begin this process is to look at the second reading where St. John speaks of his vision of Heaven. While on this earth we have to address the problems that arise, but when we put those into the context of eternity, all of our problems suddenly seems pretty small. Again, think of the other readings we have today. St. John was part of all the events spoken of in all three readings. He was probably caught up in the emotion and chaos of the Council. We know that he was part of what happened at the Last Supper and in the Garden. Looking back, after seeing this vision of the New Jerusalem, he must have found those other things to be as nothing.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote some of the most clear and profound theological teachings that we possess. But in the midst of his greatest work he had a heavenly vision. As a result he not only stopped writing, but he threw the pages of the Summa Theologica into the fire. Thankfully, his secretary went in after it and rescued it so that it would be preserved. St. Thomas stated that compared to what he had seen, what he had written was straw.
When we find ourselves getting all worked up about something, it is good not only to take it all to prayer, but to put it into the context of eternity. If we were to die today, how important would this issue be? Compared to Heaven, how important is this? Is it really worth the fear and anxiety? God is in control; keep the focus on Him and find the peace the world cannot give.
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.