5th Sunday of Easter
A Homily - C Cycle - 2003-2004
(Mother's Day and May Crowning)
First Reading - Acts 14:21-27
Psalm - 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13
Second Reading - Rev 21:1-5a
Gospel - John 13:31-33a, 34-35
John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
When Judas had left them, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
A careful and thoughtful examination of our holy Catholic religion will reveal that it contains several mysteriously wonderful paradoxes. For example: we have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords born in poverty and born of a virgin, a woman who had never been with a man. We have mostly illiterate apostles, one of whom would betray and another who would deny Christ are yet charged with leadership in the Church. Then, we have in our social doctrine a preferential option or bias for the poor, whom the world disregards as being typically forgettable.
Today's Gospel contains yet another - after Judas has left, then Jesus says that his glorification is now about to happen. Glorification is understood as the Passion, Death the Resurrection. While it's very easy to see how the Resurrection is glorious, it's more difficult to see how the Passion and Death are part of Christ's glory as well. We don't often associate suffering with glory. And yet, suffering and dying for our sins is the greatest work Christ ever accomplished for us. He did more in three hours on the Cross than he accomplished in three years of preaching. It's why we are supposed to have crucifixes and not what I like to call Resurrecifixes in our churches. Resurrection only makes sense of Crucifixion. Some would rather skip the suffering part and go right to Easter - that's not the reality of our lives. The reality of life is that life is hard - it involves lots of suffering and trial and hardship. The even greater reality is that those things are not the final answer - eternal happiness can be our thanks to the Passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. So, we must accept and resign ourselves to the fact that suffering is part of future glory.
Even Scripture tells us time and time again that suffering is a necessary part of life. In the Letter to the Hebrews, we learn that Christ learned obedience through what He suffered. In the Acts of the Apostles in our first reading, Paul and Barnabas assure the early Church that it is necessary that they suffer many hardships before they enter the Kingdom of God.
How often do we run from suffering? How many of us embrace it?" I was traveling this week and I always like to check out the periodicals in the seat pocket in front of me. One of my favorites is SkyMall. We've designed every conceivable gadget or tool to escape any kind of suffering, it seems. I think there are dogs in this country who live better than some humans. If you're owner has money, you could be a pretty lucky dog, excuse the pun.
And yet, to suffer is to be most Christ -like. When I visit the sick and the suffering of this parish, I am amazed at how many of them endure their suffering with such grace and hope. The suffering teach us to depend solely on God. The suffering teach us to focus on the really important things in life - to endure the humiliation of being stripped of everything that they thought made them strong. The suffering compel us to reach out towards them and thus make us better persons. I learn so much from those who suffer, much more than I can ever teach them.
The suffering also teach us the possibility of being joyful in the face of trials. We often think that joy means happiness or giddiness. That is not really half the picture. To experience joy is to desire and/or to delight in the things of God and in God Himself. So, it is quite possible to be joyful - to desire him - all the while suffering tremendous pain. So, even though we're in the Easter season and are celebrating the Resurrection, we never get too far afield from the Cross at Calvary - the very event that gives Easter Sunday its meaning.
Of course, there's more to today's Gospel reading. Christ says to love one another. He says that He gives a new commandment. Is that really true? After all, the Ten Commandments tell us to love one another. Christ calls this the new commandment because we are now called to love others as Christ loves - with divine love. The Jewish law was based on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Christ's new commandment of love means loving one's neighbor; of turning the other cheek. It means to die to self and make oneself a gift to others - to have a selfless love - not a love with conditions or one that is merely convenient.
On this Mother's Day, we honor all of our mothers - living and deceased. Every mother has had to suffer. No matter how good the kids were or how holy your husband was or is, every mom has known suffering, if for no other reason, because of labor pains. Every mother has had to endure anxiety over the children, times of rebellion in the home, the heartache that accompanies every parent's heart.
Even our Lord did not spare his own mother of suffering. Mary did not suffer labor pains during the birth of Jesus because she had no stain of original sin. Rather, her suffering would be delayed until Calvary, when the prophecy of Simeon would come true - that the pain of Christ's suffering would pierce her heart. Mary suffered like no other mother did. This should give us great hope because even Mary, exalted as she is, knew suffering. She knew what every mother has known. Like Mary, may we learn to trust her Son who makes all things new by his Passion, death and Resurrection!
Praised be Jesus Christ. Now and forever!
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