Friday May 21, 2004 Sixth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 18:9-18) Gospel (St. John 16:20-23)
We see in the readings today the manner in which people who follow the Lord are going to have to deal with things. We see, for instance, Saint Paul, whom God has told that he will not be harmed in that particular city; and yet, at the same time, we hear immediately thereafter that he is dragged into court and they are accusing him of a variety of different things. We also see Our Lord telling us that there will be grief. The grief will be turned into joy, but, in the meantime, there will be grieving. So, in both of these instances, we see that the way we are going to have to live our lives is with some difficulty.
Now anybody who has tried to live their life in a good, Christian manner knows fully well that is exactly what happens, that people do not understand, that there is grief. The devil, of course, is fighting against you and he gets his minions to fight against you. The worst part is that the devil even manages to stir up people who you expect to be your friends, and they are the ones who turn against you. That is the most painful of all. The people who are in opposition to your faith and to everything you are trying to do, you expect that you are going to get some grief from them. But the people from within are the ones that you do not expect, and they are the ones who hurt the most – people who you thought were your friends, people who you thought might be on the same page, or at least people who were in the same boat with you, others who were claiming to be Christian.
We can look right in Scripture and we see that there were disagreements between Saint Peter and Saint Paul. We see that there were disagreements between Mark and Paul. We see that there were disagreements between Barnabas and Paul. There were all kinds of problems even among the early Christians. So even though we are told in Scripture that they were of one heart and one mind, they were still human and they still had all the human problems.
These are the things that all of us have to deal with. There are going to be times when we are going to feel rejected. There are going to be times when we are feeling crushed. There are going to be times when we are just simply not accepted or understood or whatever the case might be. Part of it is that we simply have to learn to accept and to be at peace. Those become part of the means by which God makes us saints. It is the way that He purifies us. It is the way that He is going to test our fidelity to Him. Are we going to continue on even when on the natural level it looks like we should give up? When do we get to the point where we say, “I’ve had enough; I just want to be like everyone else”?
When we simply look around at people that we know who have tried to live their faith in the way that they should, they do that for a little while and then they come to that exact point of saying, “You know what? I just want to be like everyone else.” Well, how often has that happened in the lives of people we know? It is not that they become bad people; they do not. They continue to go to Mass on Sunday. They continue to live a moral life; they are not in the state of mortal sin. They have just decided that being more worldly is the easier way to go. And there are hundreds of thousands, if not many more than that even, who want to call themselves Catholic who are doing exactly that.
The Lord is asking for us to unite ourselves with Him – to not be like the worldly ones – and to pay the price if that is what it is going to require. That is not an easy thing for us to do. But as we do that, we will find that we will be alone with Jesus. And when we are alone with the Lord, we are going to have a joy that no one can take from us. The grief that we feel from being rejected and ridiculed will indeed turn into joy – a deep and profound joy – when we find that the fidelity we have to Our Lord and to living the life that He has called us to live will find a great reward, a reward even in this life of union with Christ; and, of course, the greatest reward is in the next. But even now in this life, as we proceed through all the sufferings and trials, even that grief turns to joy in this world because as we share in the Lord’s passion so we share in His glory. And when we are united with Christ, that is the joy Our Lord speaks of, the joy that will be ours, the joy of which no one will ever be able to rob us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.