May 25 - 6th Sunday of Easter
1st Reading: Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17
2nd Reading: 1 Pt 3: 15-18
Gospel: Jn 14: 15-21
“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (15).
We must live in communion with our glorious Lord Jesus who has come to dwell in our hearts with the Father and the Spirit (Jn 14: 15-17, 23). We ought to be continually aware of his indwelling presence as glorified Lord so that we can give him constant due reverence. His human nature has been deified. He is God in his glorified flesh. We must bless and praise and thank him. We must adore and worship him. “For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily” (Col 2:9). “For in him were created all things….all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1: 16-17). He suffered and died and rose again in our human nature so we could be forgiven, sanctified and able to live the divine life and life forever in heaven. We owe him total love and adoration. We ought to be able to give a reason for our hope for eternal life to anyone who inquires. “The sacred Scriptures…are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”. It is “useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3: 15, 16). For example, if Christ’s human nature, which he assumed in common with us, could be glorified and overcome death, so can ours. Jesus himself explained, “You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places….I am going to prepare a place for you…I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (Jn 14: 1-3).
“…but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame” (16).
God is love. If we live in communion with him, he will fill our words and sentiments with his divine love to touch the hearts of those to whom we explain our faith that gives us hope for eternal life. That love in our hearts will contact and affect them. They will want what we have. They will experience the peace coming from our hearts that surpasses understanding (Phil 4: 7) and will want to become like us. All of this will come from us because of our intimate union with our indwelling Lord Jesus who affects us by his glorious presence.
This kind of loving, respectful attitude will convince those who have the wrong impression about us that they have been mistaken in their judgment. They will be embarrassed to realize that we have the truth and that they were wrong. Our transformation into loving persons by our prayerful union with Jesus and his Spirit will convince them of their error.
“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil” (17).
If we suffer for doing good we are like Jesus our model. We are in union with God who sanctifies us through our sufferings, just as he did Jesus. Suffering in compliance with the will of God is sanctifying. It purifies us from sin. We patiently endure because of our union with God who sustains us with his love. He empowers our self-possession so that our union with God is strengthened and brought to perfection. As we suffer we cling to God with all our might and so our love for God is strengthened. The converted criminal who was crucified with Jesus was rapidly sanctified by his accepted suffering and was guaranteed paradise by Jesus that very day. The unrepentant criminal rejected his sufferings and his reviling attitude toward Jesus showed him to be confirmed in evil. His sufferings only caused his sinful behavior to increase.
“For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit” (18).
Christ suffered for our sins once because as divine person his sacrifice was of infinite value. He redeemed the whole world of sin by his sacrifice of love. He gave us the example of suffering mistreatment for the very ones who were crucifying him. Not only did he forgive his persecutors, he prayed for their forgiveness because they did not know what they were doing (Lk 23: 34). He, the righteous one, suffered for the sake of the unrighteous. Such was his love to exemplify the kind of love that is in God and how we are called to love evil men. This wholly selfless love, so foreign to us, leads us to God for more of the same kind of love to be like him and become true children of God.
Jesus was put to death in the flesh. He died as a true human being. He shared the same human nature that we have. He died the same way we must die. Yet his human nature was glorified and overcame death. That very nature of ours in Christ was transformed and became immortal and spiritualized, capable of living the eternal life of heaven with God. Baptism joins us to the risen Christ. We receive that same divine life in him that overcame death empowering us to do the same. This is the reason for our hope that we must share with others. Jesus was brought to life in the spirit not only for himself but for all of us who have been joined to him through faith and baptism. He has become “a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15: 45). To participate more fully in this life of the spirit we also, must die to all sinful behavior so we can live for God. That is what our baptismal grace is always urging us to do.