Sunday Sermon for June 2, 2019, 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 are given a passage from the “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus, a prayer our Lord prayed at the Last Supper. Among other things, He prays for two things we want to consider today. First, He prays for those who believe, that they would be one as Jesus and the Father are one. Second, He prays that those who believe would be with Him where He is, to see His glory.
To be one as the Trinity is one is not a prayer that we would somehow be substantially united in order to become one as the three Persons of the Trinity are one. Rather, it is a prayer that what was said about the early Christians would be said of us as well: that they were of one heart and soul (Acts 4:32). Jesus is truth; the Holy Spirit is love. To live the truth in love brings us into union with God.
We all know the tragic divisions within Christianity and the great scandal these divisions cause. Most often the reason for these division is pride: no one likes to admit they are wrong. However, it is not so much a case of whether or not I agree with you or you with me, it is a question of agreeing with Jesus. It may be difficult to bend one’s will to another human person, but it should be fairly easy to conform our will to God. Should is the operative word here; we all know it can be a struggle due, once again, to our own pride.
There are, however, two different ways we can approach this struggle so we can be united with Christ and one with the Trinity. We can begin by loving Jesus and, as we come to love Him more, we will more easily conform ourselves more and more to Him Who is Truth. The other option is to begin with the knowledge of the truth and, as we come to know the truth more perfectly, we will love the Person Who is the Truth. Either way, it is knowing and loving Jesus.
While this sounds fairly straight forward, we have to be careful to make sure we are actually conforming ourselves to the Lord and not trying conform our Lord to us. This is a very common error: we decide for ourselves what is right or wrong and then claim that Jesus agrees with us. This does not work in this life and it will be a disaster when we stand before Him for judgment and try to explain to Him that this is my truth and His truth does not matter.
We must also note that love for Jesus is not just about feelings or what happens in prayer; it must be lived in our day-to-day lives. When we read about our Lord it is said of Him that “He loved His own in the world and He loved them to the end.” This is what we see in the first reading today. First of all, St. Stephen sees the Heavens opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Stephen is willing to proclaim this to a crowd that did not want to hear it and he died praying for the people who stoned him for his witness to Jesus.
In the second reading Jesus says: “I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds.” So it is not just about our faith and definitely not about our emotions. Further in the second reading our Lord says those who wash their robes have a right to the Tree of Life and anyone who thirsts and desires the gift of life-giving water will receive it. How much do we really want to be with Jesus? How much do we want eternal life?
Jesus wants us to be with Him where He is, that is, Heaven, of course. He has prayed for us, as we have already seen. So the grace is there for us if we really want it. However, because we have free will, Jesus will not force His grace or His truth on us. We have to choose Him. This means we have to make the effort to know Him, because He is Truth and love Him, because He is love. We then must strive to live the truth in love. In a world that has rejected the truth this is not an easy proposition. We cannot cut corners by choosing my own truth and failing to believe Him and love Him. Our call is to know Jesus, to love Jesus, and to serve Jesus. When we do this with our whole heart, mind, and soul, we will be one with Him and be where He is forever.
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.