Sunday Sermon for May 12, 2013, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C
Readings: Acts 7:55-60; Rev 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-; Jn 17:20-26
In the Gospel reading today we hear our Lord praying in His “High Priestly Prayer” about what is coming soon to Him. This prayer, recall, was prayed at the Last Supper. It is beautiful to read about the glory that our Lord had in the beginning and the glory that would be revealed in Him, but when He prays for us it touches us to the heart. What a beautiful thing to know that the Son of God personally prayed for us while He was still on earth.
In this prayer He says that we are the Father’s gift to Him. If we look at it from one perspective we would have to think that our Lord got something of a raw deal. He comes to earth, He is rejected, He suffers and dies and, as a gift for doing all of that, He gets us. This said, however, we need to look at things from a couple of other perspectives.
If we look first from our own perspective, we need to be exceedingly grateful for the unimaginable charity of our great God. St. Paul reminds us that we were enemies of God when Jesus died for us. While there have certainly been a number of Saints since then, the majority of people still seem to have little problem with offending God. Only One Who created us for Himself and in His own image and likeness could have so much love for people who are so often ungrateful.
However, for those of us who believe in God and in His love for us, we need to not only be grateful, but we need to love Him as He loves us. As mentioned above, if we were enemies with God, we realize that our Lord’s command to love our enemies is doing for others what Jesus did for us. We see a profound example of this in the first reading today when St. Stephen dies praying for the people who are stoning him.
The example of St. Stephen is obviously extreme, but all of us have a multitude of opportunities to practice forgiveness daily. There are people who wrong us, treat us unjustly, or violate us in whatever manner. We can each ask how we respond to such things. Do we get angry? Do we seek vengeance? Do we pray for the people? Do we forgive? This is the example of our Lord and of the Saints. We may suggest that we are not Saints, but we are called to be. The only way we will become what we were made to be is to start living it.
When we consider this gift from our Lord’s perspective all we can see is love. He wants us to be able to have our sins forgiven, He wants us to be fulfilled in our persons, He wants us to be able to go to Heaven. It is amazing to think that He wants us to be with Him for the rest of eternity, but this is precisely why He went to the Cross for us. It is also precisely the reason that He can see us as a gift.
Of all the creatures on earth, we alone have the capacity to love. To love God is the gift we can give to Him. This might seem selfish on His part, but we have to remember that He has to love us before we can love Him. Our choosing to love God is also what will fulfill us; it is what is truly best for us. Of course, we also need to remember that God gets nothing from our love or from anything else we can do for Him. We benefit from it, He does not. So there is nothing selfish about this either way. If we love we are acting selflessly; loving God is best for us, so God is acting selflessly.
This being the case, it is time that we wash our robes as the second reading tells us. Elsewhere in the Book of Revelation we are told that the robes were washed in the Blood of the Lamb. This is to receive the love, salvation and redemption of our Lord. It is also to love Him in return. When we have this disposition, what we will want most is to be with the One we love.
As members of the Bride of the Lamb, that is, the Church, we want to pray for the return of our Lord. Only in His return will our bodies rise from the dead. Only in His return will we be able to love God in Heaven with the fullness of our being. That has to start now: be a real gift for our Lord by accepting God’s love, loving Him in return and showing charity to others.
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.