Sunday Sermon for May 8, 2016, 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 a portion of the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in which He prays not only for His Apostles, but also for those who will believe because of their word. What a wonderful thing to know that we are included in the prayer of our Lord. And what was it for which He prayed? That we would be one in Him, that He would dwell in us, that we would be brought to perfection, that we would be loved by the Father, and that we would be with Jesus forever. Wow! This is the prayer of the Son of God for us.
When we consider all of these points for which our Lord prays, we realize that they can only be achieved in us through love. Having already stated that He was praying for those who believe, our Lord then addresses what needs to follow from this belief. Obviously, faith is the necessary foundation without which none of the other things our Lord prays for would be possible. However, it is all too common today to find that many people have not gone much deeper than that initial step of faith.
When we hear our Lord stating in the second reading that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the root and offspring of David and the Bright Morning Star, we can give credence to them all without hesitation. However, when He says “Let the one who thirsts come forward and the one who wants it receive the gift of life giving water” we begin to backpedal. All of a sudden this requires more than intellectual acquiescence to the truth; instead, it requires an act of the will to move forward in love.
When St. Stephen saw our Lord at the right hand of the Father, as we hear in the first reading, this was far more than just an act of faith that Jesus is in Heaven. This vision was a gift from God, but it was also the fruit of the love of St. Stephen for our Lord. One can hear the joy of St. Stephen as he speaks about what he sees, even though it comes to us in writing and with 2000 years in between. This was not merely a statement that he could see the Lord; it was a joyful acclamation that he was seeing the One he loved.
When we look at our own selves it would be easy to convince ourselves of our love for our Lord. It should go without saying that you would not even be reading these words if there was not a love for Jesus. Beyond that, we go to Mass, we receive the Sacraments, we pray, etc. So, it is certainly true that we do, indeed, love our Lord. But do we love Him so much that we want to see Him? Do we love Him so much that we would rejoice to see Him?
Think about this for a moment. Our Lord tells us in the second reading that He will bring the recompense for each person according to our deeds. In other words, we are all going to see Him as our Judge. Are you looking forward to seeing Him? Are you filled with joy at this thought? If our responses to these questions is negative or brings with them a sense of fear and foreboding, then we realize that we have faith in Jesus, but we are lacking in our love for Him.
St. Augustine challenged the people 1600 years ago about this exact point. Why would we be afraid to see someone we love? We considered this question just recently, but it needs to be asked again. It is quite amazing to think that as human persons we can be in the State of Grace, the Trinity can dwell within us, we can received Jesus in the Eucharist, and we can be almost totally unaware of the love that is being offered to us. Being unaware, we do not open our hearts to receive the love, and we walk away unmoved and unchanged.
Our Lord has prayed for us and He continues to intercede for us. This is great news for all of us, but none of the things Jesus prayed for in our regard will happen unless we are first willing to open our hearts to receive His love and to love Him in return. Only charity can make us one, only charity can bring us to perfection, only charity can take away any fear of Jesus as our Judge and replace that fear with joy and eager anticipation of union with the Beloved. So, faith is the necessary foundation, but charity must be the expression of that faith.
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.