Learning our Focus from Jesus’ and St. Paul’s, 7th Tuesday of Easter, May 30, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Memorial of St. Joan of Arc
May 30, 2017
Acts 20:17-38*, Ps 68, Jn 17:1-19*

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • One of the most important things in life is to have a clear sense of our goal, our direction, our purpose. As the old aphorism goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.” Many people are lost, even in the midst of hurried journeying, because they don’t really have a clear sense of the ultimate direction of their life. St. Ignatius of Loyola called us to make decisions as if we were doing them before the Lord our Judge looking back over our whole life, because thinking in light of eternity can help us to discern what is truly important. The Imitation of Christ likewise urges us to live each day as if it is our last, because, once again, if we knew that our time was limited, we’d prioritize the important and let the unimportant pass. In today’s readings and today’s feast, we see three great examples of living with a clear purpose that comes from God.
  • In the Gospel, taken from Jesus’ priestly prayer on Holy Thursday*, we see why Jesus was living. He was living to glorify the Father. He was living to accomplish his work of salvation. He was living to reveal the Father’s name, and as Pope Francis has reminded us, the name of God is mercy. He was living to give us the Father’s words. He was living to consecrate us in the truth of the Father’s word. As we’ll see on Thursday in the continuation of this passage, he was living to help us to enter into the communion of Trinitarian life and to express it to others. This focus of Jesus explains everything he ever did. And he turns to us and says, “Follow me!” He wants us to live with the same focus on God’s glory and our glorification in him, on receiving and extending the work of salvation, on bringing honor to the Father’s name by living and proclaiming his words, on living according to our baptismal consecration, on really seeking and allowing God to bring his desire to make us one as the Persons of the Trinity are one.
  • One of those who allowed Jesus’ work to be accomplished in him was St. Paul. Today we have his valedictory address to the Church in Ephesus, meeting with them at the port of Miletus. He describes his sufferings, tears and trials, the imprisonments and hardships that he endured and those that still awaited him, but through all of it, he says, he “did not shrink from telling you what was for your benefit,” “from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God,” from “bear[ing] witness to the Gospel of God’s grace, doing so in the square and in private, “in public or in your homes.” As he said to the Romans elsewhere, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel,” because he thought the whole Gospel was “good news” with power to save, and he wanted everyone else to know the truth that would set them free. So he was able to say humbly, “I consider life of no importance to me if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus.” Everything was with that goal in mind, to proclaim the Gospel of God’s grace by his words and witness. What a beautiful thing it would be if at the end of our life we were able like Paul to look back with no regrets for our cowardice in shrinking for the Gospel, for the ways we were ashamed of it because we worried more about human respect than others’ salvation. St. Paul says at the end of the remarks that savage beasts will come among the flocks to attack it from inside and outside. There will be plenty of excuses to shirk from the Gospel. But the Holy Spirit for whose outpouring we’re praying during this Decenarium, the Holy Spirit who gave St. Paul courage will give us courage, too. He will help us to live with the purpose God has given us, considering life of no importance in this world provided that we can live in a way to enter into eternity and bring many others with us.
  • The saint whom we celebrate today is a beautiful teacher about this same lesson on purpose. St. Joan of Arc had a vision from Saints Michael, Catharine and Margaret, when she was 13 indicating to her that she was to lead armies into battle. Three years later she approached the French armies and they thought she was crazy, but she persevered, eventually she was brought to the leaders, she predicted accurately the results of battles of which they had not yet received news, led others into battle with amazing success and quickly began to fulfill her Mission. But eventually, as we know, other elements intervened, including a corrupt bishop with a quick, show inquisitorial trial, and she was burned to death at the stake at the age of 19. But she was unafraid. During her trial, they tried to capture her in a heresy most theologians even today would have failed. She was asked whether she knew she was in God’s grace, because none of us can know that for absolute certainty. Her response was, “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.” She was giving witness to the absolute gratuity of God’s saving work. At her martyrdom, where she glorified God, she asked for a crucifix to be shown her as she was being burned to death, seeing the image of Christ’s glory and seeking to remain true to it with purpose to the end.
  • The place we renew our focus each day is the Mass. The reason why the Second Vatican Council called the Mass the “source and the summit of the Christian life” is because it is in the Mass that each day we renew our purpose and direct ourselves toward eternity. We come to glorify God, to hear Jesus announce to us his words, to accomplish his work of salvation, to consecrate us within his own consecration to the Father on the altar, to make us one body, one Spirit in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s by directing our whole life to what we do here, and receive from here our marching orders and direction each day, that we will come to celebrate forever the reality to which this Mass points, the eternal glory of God forever in heaven, where St. Paul, St. Joan of Arc, the Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints await us.

*Because of tomorrow’s celebration of the Feast of the Visitation, the readings from Tuesday and Wednesday of the Seventh Week were pondered today.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ACTS 20:17-27

From Miletus Paul had the presbyters
of the Church at Ephesus summoned.
When they came to him, he addressed them,
“You know how I lived among you
the whole time from the day I first came to the province of Asia.
I served the Lord with all humility
and with the tears and trials that came to me
because of the plots of the Jews,
and I did not at all shrink from telling you
what was for your benefit,
or from teaching you in public or in your homes.
I earnestly bore witness for both Jews and Greeks
to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus.
But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem.
What will happen to me there I do not know,
except that in one city after another
the Holy Spirit has been warning me
that imprisonment and hardships await me.
Yet I consider life of no importance to me,
if only I may finish my course
and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus,
to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.
“But now I know that none of you
to whom I preached the kingdom during my travels
will ever see my face again.
And so I solemnly declare to you this day
that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you,
for I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God.
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 68:10-11, 20-21

R. (33a) Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance;
you restored the land when it languished;
Your flock settled in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided it for the needy.
R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed day by day be the Lord,
who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation.
God is a saving God for us;
the LORD, my Lord, controls the passageways of death.
R. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia JN 14:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I will ask the Father
and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you always.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 17:1-11A

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said,
“Father, the hour has come.
Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you,
just as you gave him authority over all people,
so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.
Now this is eternal life,
that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
I glorified you on earth
by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.
Now glorify me, Father, with you,
with the glory that I had with you before the world began.

“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.
They belonged to you, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
because the words you gave to me I have given to them,
and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you,
and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me,
because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours
and everything of yours is mine,
and I have been glorified in them.
And now I will no longer be in the world,
but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”
“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.”