|Are We Letting Our Lord's Words "Pass Us By"?
The Sixth Sunday of Easter.*
Lessons from the tertiary dominica, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29.
• Psalm 67: 2-3, 5-6, 8.
• Revelation 21: 10-14, 22-23.
• John 14: 23-29.
The First Class Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Confessor; and, the Commemoration of the Fifth Sunday after Easter.**
Lessons from the proper, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Colossians 3: 14-15, 17, 23-24.
• [The Gradual is omitted.]
• Matthew 13: 54-58.
The Sunday of the Man Born Blind; the Feast of the Holy Prophet Jeremiah; and, the Remembrance of the Passing of Blessed Clement Sheptyckyj.***
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Acts 16: 16-34.
• John 9: 1-38.
8:32 AM 5/1/2016 — Someone told me recently that my homilies are too short. I'm not the one to say whether that's true, since I'm not the one sitting and listening to them. I just know that every time I'm in a situation where I must listen to another priest preach, I get bored and restless very easily; so, I like to take a point, make it once, then I'm done. I mention it only because today's homily is very short indeed, not because I'm concerned for your attention, but as the natural consequence of composing a homily while trying, at the same time, to watch the Orioles play the White Sox. Or is that too much information that you don't need? I was properly punished by our Lord anyway, as the Orioles had it tied going into the ninth inning, but lost.
If you were with us last Sunday, you'll recall we had reviewed the saga being played out in these weeks of the Easter Season in the first lessons from Saint Luke's Acts of the Apostles: Paul, following his conversion to the Faith, laboring among the Gentiles, joined by Barnabas, making converts throughout the sophisticated cities of the Greek world, then having to return to them later because Jewish Christians from Jerusalem—some convinced that one had to first be a Jew to be a Christian, some simply jealous because Paul's own sophisticated education made him an effective Apostle to the Greeks—were following them into these cities to try and undo what Paul and Barnabas had accomplished. As we read of these events, we may find ourselves amazed at how Christians, even ones who had known our Blessed Lord personally, could be so infected with jealousy to actually try and stop the spread the Gospel because it was not they, themselves, who were doing it.
Paul, Barnabas and a few of the converts they had baptized into the Church, travel to Jerusalem to present their case to Peter, the first Pope, for what they hoped would be a final decision on their activities, and they win their case; but, as we know, that didn't stop the problem, which is part of the reason for the many letters that Paul would write to these cities, preserved for us in the New Testament, as time and time again he had to battle against his own coreligionists who, for one reason or another, actually tried to stop the spread of the Gospel in the name—so they believed—of our Blessed Lord.
How often has this saga been reproduced, in microcosm, in our own sight, when friends or relatives who have known each other for years end up stabbing each other in the back for what, in retrospect, turn out to be the most trivial of reasons? We've all seen it, and it's a fare bet that most of us have actually participated in it at some point in our lives. We know it's wrong, and so often we mention it in confession, but that doesn't stop us from falling back into these uncharitable ways time and time again.
It gives a rather cabalistic intensity to the words of our Lord in today's Gospel lesson from Saint John's Last Supper discourse, which is so much more expressive in Msgr. Knox's elegant translation of the passage:
If a man has any love for me, he will be true to my word; and then he will win my Father’s love, and we will both come to him, and make our continual abode with him; whereas the man who has no love for me, lets my sayings pass him by (John 14: 23-24 Knox).
The translation in the Missal, “Whoever does not love me does not keep my word…,” as accurate as it is, misses something.† It's not so much that we fail to accept our Lord's commands regarding charity or anything else: we hear them, we embrace them, we recognize their truth, but we fail to apply them to ourselves; we let them pass us by. How often have I made you chuckle with my line about how often we hear something said by our Blessed Lord in the day's Gospel lesson, or by the priest in his homily, and the first thing that pops into our minds is, “Gee, I hope So-and-so heard that.”
It's probably not a good idea to telegraph what I'm going to do—especially since I haven't actually done it—but for now my intention, when we finally pass out of the Easter Season and into ordinary time, is to focus our attention on the Epistles of Saint Paul, and go into some detail about how that Blessed Apostle met the terrific challenges he faced as he took the Gospel into places that some of our Lord's other apostles had never even heard of. Before then, of course, we have two more weeks of Easter to celebrate, with the Ascension of our Lord right in the middle of them.
So, as the season of Easter continues, and we hear read to us lesson after lesson of our Lord speaking of His Father's love for Him, which is the archetype of His love for us, which is the example of what our love should be for one another, it would be enough for us to embrace the sentiment expressed in the Collect of today's Mass:
Grant, almighty God, that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy, which we keep in honor of the risen Lord, and that what we relive in remembrance we may always hold to in what we do (RM3).
* In the ordinary form, the Solemnity of St. Joseph the Worker is suppressed in favor of the Sunday.
** In the extraordinary from, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker is observed, with the Fifth Sunday after the Octave observed as a commemoration by means of an additional Collect, Secret and Post Communion Prayer.
*** The Typicon of the Byzantine-Ruthenian Metropolitan Church sui iuris of the USA contains observances of individuals particular to the Ruthenian recension whose causes have been introduced, but who have not been beatified or canonized, and which do not appear in the typicons of other Churches using the Byzantine Rite. No title, such as "feast" or "commemoration" is ever used for these observances, so I have invented one: "remembrance."
† …ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν με τοὺς λόγους μου οὐ τηρεῖ….