Sunday Sermon for June 1, 2014,the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 1:12-14; 1Pt 4:13-16; Jn 17:1-11a
In the Gospel reading today our Lord says to His Father in prayer that Jesus has revealed the Father’s Name to those whom the Father had given Him out of the world. He then acknowledges that these people belonged to the Father and that He had given them to Jesus, and now, these people have kept the Word of God.
I hope everyone reading this right now realizes that you are counted among those about whom our Lord is speaking. In the context one might think these words apply only to the Apostles, but it is clear that the meaning is far broader than that. Just think: you belonged to God the Father and He has entrusted you to Jesus. Just the fact of belonging to the Father is astounding, but even more to know that it is not only the Father’s will, but His own decision to give you to Jesus and to give you faith.
Our Lord specifically states in this prayer that eternal life consists in knowing the Father and Jesus Whom He sent. Once we can make that act of faith in Jesus, the Son of God, then we can understand why knowing Him is eternal life. St. Peter says that there is no other name given to us by which we will be saved. But this is not merely about having a generic belief in His Name or even in His person.
I always like to remind people that the judgment will not consist of a test on our knowledge of the catechism. It is assumed that we should already know the truth as it is presented in its fullness by the Church. So, it is not a matter of knowing about Jesus, but of knowing Him. It is imperative to know Him because we have been given to Him; He has saved us and made us His own. This being the case, why would we want to keep a distance from Him? We need to draw near to Him and know Him.
Jesus says in the prayer that these people the Father has given Him know everything is from the Father because the words the Father gave to Jesus He has given to us. Do we accept His words? This is what separates those who want to know Jesus at a distance from those who truly know Him.
Knowing Him at a distance implies that we believe in Him, sort of, when it is convenient, when I need something. Knowing Him in this interpersonal way implies that we have received His words, we have prayed about them and we accept them completely and without doubt. After all, if we profess Him to be God, why would be doubt the truth of His words?
Long before the Apostles focused solely on prayer and the ministry of the word they had to look inside of themselves and grapple with these same issues that we face regarding the Person of Jesus. They did what was wisest: they gathered around our Lady and they prayed with her. She taught them and formed them; they believed in Jesus and in His words, they preached them, taught them, lived them, and died for them.
Today we have people questioning the Eucharist, human dignity, the truth of marriage, the dignity of human sexuality, and any host of other issues. Do we believe the words of Jesus? He is very clear about these matters. But many of those who claim to believe in Him, even those who call themselves Catholic, reject these teachings of our Lord.
For those who do accept them, this is a time of purification and strengthening of our faith. We already know the ridicule that comes from those who do not want to accept the fullness of our Lord’s words. I think this would definitely qualify for inclusion in St. Peter’s statement that when you suffer insult for the name of Christ, you are blessed. Even more, he says that when this happens the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
This is why St. Peter tells us to rejoice in the measure in which we share Christ’s sufferings. If the Holy Spirit rests upon us when this occurs, then it is a great blessing when we can share in the Lord’s suffering. It is true that we can offer up any suffering, but to be put down for upholding the truth is a privilege.
St. Peter says that anyone who suffers as a Christian should not be ashamed, but he should glorify God because of the Name of Jesus. Our Lord speaks in the Gospel about the glory He is to be given. That glory on earth is seen on the Cross. If we share this earthly glory with Him, then we can share the heavenly glory which is His from all eternity.
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.