5th Week of Easter (S)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatoula
As persons wholly owned by God through our baptism in Christ, we are in the world but not of it. We live here, endure here, but we do not thrive here. Our full flourishing as creatures of a loving God comes when we see Him face-to-face. Until then, our principal joy is to share the Good News of His mercy to sinners. And as good as this news is, it is not always welcomed news. Jesus says to his disciples, “. . .you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, [therefore] the world hates you.” Why did the world hate our Lord and why does it hate us? To bring the Good News of God's mercy to sinners first requires that we identify the sinners, starting with ourselves. Pointing out sin and naming it as such is a tricky business to say the least. We risk being self-righteous, harshly judgmental, and becoming the enemies of human freedom. Announcing to a self-satisfied world that its virtues and vices are deficient in the eyes of God invites ridicule and persecution. And, frankly, there have been times when we have deserved all the ridicule and persecution we have received. When we have allowed our own gross failures to diminish the luster of our Lord's teachings, we have not only invited the jeers of the world, we have welcomed them. Thus Jesus' warning stands today, “No slave is greater than his master.” If we keep his word, the world will hate us as it hated him. If we abandon his word, the world will join us in our self-destruction. Either way, in this world, we lose.
But losing in this world is no evil thing. Nor does it have to be a painful fall. As Christ himself says, we may suffer for a little while, but our suffering, if properly endured for the benefit of others, will serve all the more to give witness to his sacrifice for us. Is this comforting? Maybe, a little. It doesn't matter. We were never promised comfort. We were given a commission and the authority to carry it out. We either accept this commission and its attendant authority, or we do not. If we do, then we can expect little more than opposition from the world and the threat of constant defeat while we are here. Thankfully, it is no evil thing to be defeated by that which we cannot endure, cannot, in the end, claim victory. Victory over death was won on the cross. Our task is to proclaim that victory come what may, come what will. If we keep his word, we abide in his victory and all the hate, persecution, and ridicule thrown our way will pass with the world into defeat.
Jesus tells his disciples that he chose them out of the world to be his own. This isn't the sort of choosing that the childish long for, the sort of choosing that marks us out as special, above the herd. To think we are somehow better b/c we are chosen is the Devil's temptation; his attempt to entice us to set ourselves aside as particularly holy or pure. None of us is chosen for our special purity, or our extraordinary righteousness. Christ calls to all those hearts and minds open to his Word, and we answer. Not so that we might be “better than” but so that we might be perfected out of our sin. The moment we believe our baptism confers on us an immunity to sin, we rejoin the world's passing and we welcome defeat. How do we call sinners to repentance and welcome them to God's mercy? By first bringing ourselves to repentance and welcoming Him into our lives as God and Father. If can't or won't keep his word, then we have no authority to witness to a world that hates us. No slave is greater than his master. Christ learned obedience through suffering. Are we listening to his word and suffering for the salvation of the world?
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