Belonging to God, Not to the World, Seventh Wednesday of Easter, May 11, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Convent of the Sisters of the Family of Das Werk, New York, NY
Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
3rd Anniversary Memorial Mass for Johannes van Berkum, Father of Sr. Rian van Berkum
May 11, 2016
Acts 20:28-38, Ps 68, Jn 17:11-19

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were considered in today’s homily: 

  • Today we continue to ponder the valedictory words of Jesus in the Upper Room and St. Paul in Melitus. Jesus’ words were to the Father, but he said them aloud so that the apostles could hear them — and through them, we could hear them — and that we might “share [Jesus’] joy completely.” St. Paul’s words were to the presbyters of Ephesus, so that they could continue the work that St. Paul had laborered for “three years, night and day … with tears.” As we’ll see, St. Paul’s words were an echo of what Jesus prayed to the Father.
  • Today Jesus stresses his relationship to the Father and to the world and the relationship he wishes us to have to the Father and the world.
    • He says that he’s one with the Father and he wants us to be as united to each other as the Father and the Son are united.
    • He stresses twice that he doesn’t belong to the world and we shouldn’t belong to the world, emphasizing that we do not belong to the world “any more” than he does. Those are extraordinary words. He says that we’re supposed to have the same relationship to the world that he does and that we shouldn’t belong to the world any more than he.
    • He asks the Father to consecrate us so that we might belong to the Father just like he belongs to the Father. He wants to cut us off from the world to be united to him so that united to him we might come out of love for the world to continue his work, so that the world might be saved.
    • The way we will be consecrated to the Father is “in the truth” of his word. He is the Truth. He is the Word made flesh. To be consecrated means to be cut off from the profane (sacer) to be with (con) him to such a degree that we share his mission. He sends us into the world just as the Father sent him and this can only happen when we’re consecrated as a part of his Mystical Body, when we bring into the world the truth of his word.
    • He asks the Father to protect us, just as Jesus himself sought to protect us in the Father’s name. He says that the world will hate us because, like him, we do not belong to the world, and the darkness of the world will seek to extinguish the light of Christ. For that reason, Jesus prays, not that we be taken out of harm’s way, but that we be protected from the Evil One and what the Evil One ultimately wants to accomplish, which is to make us worldly and through that alienate us forever from God. The response of Jesus to that diabolical strategy is consecration.
  • In all of this there’s a central point, that Jesus wants us in the middle of the world, as salt, light and leaven. There’s a tendency to try to say, “The world is evil. I’m getting out of here.” There are many, upset with the direction of society and culture, who are promoting a so-called “Benedict option,” named after St. Benedict, saying we all need to retreat far from the world behind the high walls of monasteries while the world corrodes around us. That’s not only a misinterpretation of what St. Benedict did but also a failure to grasp what the Gospel requires. St. Benedict and the Benedictines lived in monasteries precisely so that they could be strengthened by God, strengthen each other, and allow others to be strengthened, and be more equipped to cooperate in the world’s salvation as salt, light and leaven. Just like soldiers often retire at night to the safety of the base but leave the base on the morrow in order to continue the campaign, so that’s what the oasis of the monastery provides: not a permanent residence per se, but a base from which to launch more effectively at a time of chaos the new evangelization needed. Jesus prayed that the Father not take his disciples from the world, but consecrate them in the truth so that we could go out into a world that would hate us and make it a place of divine love.
  • St. Paul got this message and lived it. He retired for 14 years to Arabia to pray, and more time in his native Tarsus, and it was from there that he became the greatest missionary in Church history. In his final words to the presbyters of Ephesus meeting him in Melitus, he reiterated the points by which he tried to live and that he believed God was calling them to imitate:
    • Jesus as Jesus prayed that the Father protect the flock of those entrusted to his care, St. Paul instructed the priests to “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the Church of God that he acquired with his own Blood.” He warned them to be vigilant in this way because the Evil One would be at work, trying to attack the Church from within and without, to disrupt the consecration, to destroy the unity, to replace the truth with a lie. He said, “After my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock.” We would see those savage wolves in the Roman emperors and soldiers who for 250 years assailed the Church. But they would not be the only ones. “From your own group,” Paul continued, “men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them.” These would be the heretics who would try to change the Gospel to suit their own desires, rather than change their desires to conform with the Gospel. So St. Paul said, “Be vigilant,” reminding them of his three years of tears admonishing them about the false gospels so that they might live the true one.
    • Jesus as Jesus prayed to the Father that the disciples may be consecrated in the truth, St. Paul likewise entrusted them to God in the truth of God’s word. “I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.” Consecration in the word of God builds us up in communion, it unites us, and it gives us the inheritance of God.
    • This leads us to share Christ’s mission, to be sent out into the world as Christ was sent by the Father, as the apostles and Paul were sent by Christ. “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Paul reminds them, and his mission to the world out of the love God has to save the world is a far greater gift than remaining apart from the world exclusively with God. God loved us so much that he gives us the privilege to give with him as generously as we have received from him.
  • These are truths on which we could preach retreats. But today as we celebrate a Mass for the third anniversary of the death of Sr. Rian’s father Johannes, it gives us a chance to examine the Word from one particular angle. We celebrated last Thursday, Jesus’ ascension, when the Father, in a sense, called Jesus out of the world. We mark today that it was three years ago that Jesus came for Johannes likewise taking him, it seems, out of the world. But in these cases, what we’re really talking about is another way of living out our consecration to be in the world but not of it. As Jesus was ascending, apparently being taken out of the world, he said, “Know that I will be with you always until the end of the world.” When St. Therese was about to die, she said that she would spend her eternity doing good upon earth. There was a new way of living in and for the world without being of it, because now they would even more be of the Lord in consecration. That’s what we also pray for Johannes within the communion of saints within the communion of persons living in total self-giving we call the Blessed Trinity. God doesn’t belong to the world but if very much in it, holding it in existence, and to the extent we live in God the more we are with him in the world seeking to make God’s kingdom come, whether in Christ’s Mystical Body the Church here on earth, or in Purgatory, or in Triumph.
  • And the greatest way we live out all of these truths is here at Mass, where in the midst of the world, we consecrated ourselves anew within Jesus’ consecration in the Mass to the Father. This is where we each morning reiterate before all that we belong to God and not to the world as, within the world, we are strengthen against the wiles of the evil one to complete Jesus’ mission!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ACTS 20:28-38

At Miletus, Paul spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus:
“Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock
of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers,
in which you tend the Church of God
that he acquired with his own Blood.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you,
and they will not spare the flock.
And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth
to draw the disciples away after them.
So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day,
I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears.
And now I commend you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.
I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.
You know well that these very hands
have served my needs and my companions.
In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort
we must help the weak,
and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
When he had finished speaking
he knelt down and prayed with them all.
They were all weeping loudly
as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him,
for they were deeply distressed that he had said
that they would never see his face again.
Then they escorted him to the ship.

Responsorial Psalm PS 68:29-30, 33-35A, 35BC-36AB

R. (33a) Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Show forth, O God, your power,
the power, O God, with which you took our part;
For your temple in Jerusalem
let the kings bring you gifts.
R. Sing to God, O Kingdoms of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
You kingdoms of the earth, sing to God,
chant praise to the Lord
who rides on the heights of the ancient heavens.
Behold, his voice resounds, the voice of power:
“Confess the power of God!”
R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Over Israel is his majesty;
his power is in the skies.
Awesome in his sanctuary is God, the God of Israel;
he gives power and strength to his people.
R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia SEE JN 17:17B, 17A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth;
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 17:11B-19

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name
that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the Evil One.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
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