Sunday Sermon for May 13, 2018, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B
Readings: Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26; 1Jn 4:11-16; Jn 17:11b-19
Twice in the readings today we hear the statement that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. In the first reading, St. Peter tells us that what the Holy Spirit had spoken through the mouth of David concerning Judas had to be fulfilled. Similarly in the Gospel, our Lord says that none of the Apostles was lost “except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” The fact that both refer to the betrayal of Judas is secondary. What is important is the statement that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled.
Each one of us has to ask if we believe that statement. This becomes important for us because we live in a time when two extremes are being presented. One is a literalist view which upholds the inspiration of Scripture but interprets it in a very narrow way. The other extreme is held by those who think the Scriptures have some importance, but because they were written so long ago in a different cultural context, and we think we live in such an advanced society, that they really are not applicable to us.
The Scriptures are divinely inspired; they are the Word of God. This means every word, in the original languages, is what God wanted the human authors to write for our instruction. While the two references mentioned above are both prophecies regarding the Messiah, we also know that not everything in Scripture is prophecy. The moral laws, for instance, are all still completely intact. The Kosher laws and the ritual laws of the Old Testament have been abolished by our Lord, but even these are part of God’s Word and are important for us to understand more fully what our Lord revealed in the New Testament.
You might wonder why I am carrying on about this. The reason can be found in the second reading where St. John says we have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. The context of this has to do with God loving us so much that He remains in us. Immediately following the statement about our knowing and believing in God’s love, St. John tells us God is love and if we remain in love, we remain in God and God remains in us.
We have all heard thousands of times that God is love, so most of us do not have a problem believing this. However, to believe in God’s love for me personally is something many people have trouble with. Sometimes we get stuck in the idea that our sins have made us unlovable or we might think we have to earn love or be perfect enough to be loved. Sometimes when people have suffered a great deal it seems to them as if God hates them.
St. John’s statement is an absolute statement: God is love. This means there is nothing in God that is not love. In fact, all the other divine attributes we can speak of, such as God’s mercy, His justice, His knowledge, His wisdom, and so on, are simply aspects of God’s love. In God, everything is one; everything is absolutely perfect. If it is absolutely perfect, it is identical. This identity is love.
This means God cannot do anything except love. Perhaps we have a skewed idea of love. People have ideas of love as being romantic, a feeling, allowing me to do whatever I want, nice, etc. Love is a virtue. Love is doing always what is best for the other. God always does what is best, even when we do not agree that it is the best.
In the Gospel our Lord said we are consecrated in truth and that God’s Word is truth. This also means God’s love is truth and His love for each of us is truth. Jesus is the Word made flesh and He is Truth. His love for us is demonstrated most clearly on the Cross.
We need to look at our ideas about love and make sure they agree with the Word of God. If we have been consecrated in truth, and in God truth and love are the same, then we are also consecrated in love. This begins with the acceptance, not only that God is love, but most importantly, that He loves me. God’s love is not objective, that is, He loves me because He loves everyone. No, God loves each one of us individually and personally. The Scriptures tell us this and the Scriptures must be fulfilled in us. They are fulfilled in us only when we know and believe in the love God has for us and we remain in love. God is love, so if we remain in love, we remain in God and God remains in us.
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.