7th. Sunday of Eastertide (B)
(Acts of the Apostles 1:15-17, 20-26; 1st. John 4:11-16; John 17:11-19)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I want to help you – as best I can – to appreciate the essential role of the Word of God in our lives and show you why we should not only reverence it but treasure it and come to delight whole-heartedly in it.
In His priestly prayer to the Father, Jesus said, as you have heard:
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
And straightway we have there a hard-saying for many in the Church today who are afraid of those words of Jesus:
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Dear People of God, so many in Mother Church today are ever trying to cosy-up to the world, so to speak, by trying to adapt, to soften, or even to obliterate by publicly forgetting or omitting, what it is feared might cause offence to human sensitivities, that we have come perilously close to losing the dignity and majesty of Jesus in our presentation of the Gospel of salvation, for Jesus Himself always looked for faith and obedience before bestowing His gifts or offering His promises.
The whole aim of Jesus’ life was to “give them Your word” as He Himself said, that word which made His Apostles hated by the world, because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Now, that word is not only in the Holy Scriptures, but it is to be found supremely in Jesus Himself, for He is, Personally, the Word of God made flesh for us, the Word Who, in order to “give them Your word” in the absolute fulness of divine charity also and therefore gave Himself up to death on the Cross for us:
For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
From this we can realise that the Word of God, which we are celebrating now in this the first part of our Mass, is inseparably one with the second part of Mass when we offer Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself to the Father. The Word of God in the Scriptures is one with the Word of God Whose life we share in the Eucharist and through the Sacraments. They cannot be separated, because:
What God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew, 19:6)
In His priestly prayer – that is, in His own most intimately Personal prayer to His heavenly Father for us – Jesus expressed His sentiments and desires in supremely holy words, saying:
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, sanctify them by Your truth; Your word is truth.
Therefore, our shield against the world’s hatred, our protection against its deceptive and destructive sin, is to be found in the Word of God which, in its fullness, is TRUTH. For those who love the truth -- which is Jesus Himself and His Good News about God and the Father’s will for mankind -- Jesus “sanctifies Himself” so that they may be sanctified in and by that truth.
Jesus “sanctified Himself” for us by dying to self on the Cross, before rising -- glorified by the Spirit of holiness -- and ascending to the Father; and that is why He is able to sanctify us who are willing to die to ourselves through faith in Him, by communicating to us a share in His own fullness of the Spirit of Holiness.
All this Jesus says so that -- experiencing the Spirit at work in our lives -- we may know true joy, the joy and peace of Jesus Himself:
Now, Father, I come to You; and these things I speak in the world that they (whom You have given to Me) may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13)
People of God, we should never be embarrassed, and we must certainly never be ashamed, to say that Mother Church, and she alone, is able to appreciate and communicate the fullness of Jesus’ saving truth, experience and bestow the power of His redeeming grace. And it is for our great joy and comfort in this awareness that Jesus assures us that, thanks to the Spirit Who has been given her, Mother Church is constantly, and to the end of time, being sanctified in the truth of God given her and by the grace of the Sacraments bequeathed to her.
Jesus Himself rejoiced that He knew the Father
O righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. (John 17:25-26):
Jesus rejoiced because His knowledge of the Father was the mark, the sign, of the Father’s love
for Him; and He wanted His joy to be in us through our awareness of the fact that our love for God’s saving truth is a sign that the love of the Father is upon us:
I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26)
In fulfilment of that promise of Jesus, Mother Church has been given the deposit of faith and the treasury of grace, and Jesus is still making the Father known to us in Mother Church because she is constantly under the guidance and protection of the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Truth and Love, Who is the only Sanctifier:
I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now; however, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth. (Jn. 16:7-13)
So now, People of God, think about your reverence for God’s Truth; think about the love you have personally for the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures; think now of the appreciation and gratitude you have for the sure help Mother Church offers in our fight against life’s insidious sinfulness and for our personal understanding of the Scriptures, help which she alone can give because she alone is being guided and empowered by the Spirit of Jesus. Think about these things, my dear People of God, because love for the word of truth is a great God-given shield, to protect and save us from the world’s hatred and our own frailty. Only on the basis of love of and obedience to the spoken word of God faithfully handed down to us in its integrity can we approach the Word of God made flesh, Jesus the glorified Lord in the Sacraments, and be sanctified and saved by Him:
For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
We have to keep in our minds these aspects of Mother Church, and of our lives as living stones in her, because human affairs in the Church, as in society and the world, can easily cause us misgiving and sorrow. From the very beginning it was so, Paul, for example found that there were some preaching the Gospel not out of love for Jesus but out of spite against Paul:
Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18)
The Lord Jesus Himself had one such enemy -- one He had chosen and loved, one He had taught and counselled -- one who, however, was free and who freely chose to go his own way as you heard Peter proclaim in the first reading:
“Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry. For it is written in the book of Psalms: 'Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it'; and, 'Let another take his office.' Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us … one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place." And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles
If we are not to become discouraged or depressed by human deceit and treachery, pride and malice, indeed by our own weakness and ignorance, greed and selfishness, we have to keep before our minds the essential beauty of the Gospel of grace given to Mother Church; we have to constantly stir up our faith and confirm our hope that, in the end, truth and beauty will triumph, even in us, and falsehood and sin will be rooted out of our world. And this will be done by the Spirit of Holiness, the Spirit of Truth and Love, Who guides and sustains us in and through all the situations of life, be they happy or harrowing; and Who, if we truly allow Him to rule in us through the love and reverence we have for the word of God which we celebrate this day, will ultimately lead us to our predestined share in the coming Kingdom of God.
Rejoice, People of God, for as faithful Catholics you know where God’s truth and grace meant for you is to be found by you. Above all, however, give grateful thanks for the fact that the love of God’s truth with which you have been endowed is a sign that the Father’s love is upon you, for therein lies all the joy wherewith Jesus wants to fulfil your present life and future destiny.