Sunday Sermon for May 22, 2011, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 6:1-7; 1Pt 2:4-9; Jn 14:1-12
In the first reading today we hear about the growth of the early Church and some of the growing pains that came with it. We hear about the Greek widows who are being neglected while the Hebrew widows are being favored. But what is most important is what the Apostles did about the situation. They realized that they were called to prayer and preaching and that they were beginning to neglect the duties of their state in life in order to take care of the practical needs of the members of the community.
What they were doing was very good, and even necessary, but it was soon realized that it was something that could be done by someone else. This is something that must be learned by most of us, regardless of our vocation or state in life. Anyway, the Apostles did not ignore the problem because it did not seem like that big of a deal. Instead, they recognized that an injustice was taking place and they addressed the problem.
The way the problem was addressed is as important as the timeliness with which they addressed it. They told the people to choose seven men who were filled with faith and the Holy Spirit who the Apostles, in turn, would appoint to the task. How often do we look at faith and the Holy Spirit as the criteria for choosing someone for a task? Even in the Church this is almost never heard of. Perhaps we all need to learn a lesson from the Apostles and realize that perhaps the reason we have so many problems in our world is because of the lack of faith and the failure to follow the Holy Spirit.
It is interesting that at the end of the first reading we are told that even priests were becoming obedient to the faith. This point of obedience to the Lord and to His Church is critical for all of us. When we look at the second reading St. Peter says that for those with faith, Jesus is the cornerstone, chosen and precious in the sight of God. However, when he speaks of those without faith, for whom Jesus is a stumbling stone, St. Peter tells us they stumble by disobeying the Word, as is their destiny. The Word is Jesus and it is also the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel our Lord tells us that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one comes to the Father but through Him. This means that Jesus is the only way, not just a way. It means that He is Truth itself; everything about Him is true. Every word He spoke is truth; every word the Holy Spirit inspired is truth. It also means that the only way to life is to walk in the way of Truth, being obedient to the faith.
I suspect that everyone reading this article believes in God. However, in the practical order, being obedient to the Word of God and listening to and following the Holy Spirit are points that are often neglected. It may be that we do not see the faith being lived out in very many people today. In some circumstances people would be elated today if they could say that even priests were becoming obedient to the Faith. However, none of us can use these as a pretext for disobedience. Just because “everyone else is doing it” does not give us the permission to do the same.
We have been given a gift of the fullness of truth. For some people there are aspects of this truth that are difficult to accept or embrace. Being obedient when it is difficult adds to the merit of the obedience. If we can accept on the authority of God Who speaks, in the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Church, then in time our obedience will lead to the recognition that the point we were struggling with is the truth and that the it will not only become easy to live it out, but even a source of joy and fulfillment.
We need to be very careful because we can try to rationalize our way around just about anything. The obedience of faith, guided by the Holy Spirit, embraces all of the truths of the faith. We need to recall that Satan did not reject everything; he only rejected a couple of points of the Faith. He still believes in God; He knows the rest of the Faith is all true, but the rejection of just a few points cost him eternal life. Obedience implies everything, not just most everything. Pray to be filled with faith and the Holy Spirit so that you can be obedient to everything God reveals or asks of you.
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.