The Paradox between Love and Rejection, Salvation and Judgment, Light and Darkness, Second Wednesday of Easter, April 30, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter
Commemoration of St. Pius V
April 30, 2014
Acts 5:17-33, Ps 34, Jn 3:16-21.31-36

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the readings we see illustrated for us in words and deeds the great Christian paradoxes between love and rejection, salvation and judgment, light and darkness. We see the full meaning of Jesus’ resurrection but at the same time how some people prefer to continue to live as spiritual cadavers rather than experience the risen life Jesus has come to give us. Let’s enter into what God is teaching us today.
  • St. John begins today by giving us the most beautiful — and probably famous — synthesis of the Gospel. “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” God loves us so much that he himself died so that we would live forever. He didn’t want to lose anyone of us. The incarnation, life, preaching, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus were all one big rescue mission. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,” St. John continues, “but that the world might be saved through him.” But despite Jesus’ not coming into the world to condemn it, there is still a condemnation, there’s still a judgment. It’s the condemnation and judgment that happens when we refuse to accept Jesus’ rescue. St. John describes it in these terms: “Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.” Later he would add, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” Judgment, condemnation and the wrath of God remain on the one who does not respond with faith to Jesus and enter into his light and life not because that’s what God wants — he wants all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth — but because in freedom others have chosen to reject God’s work of salvation. The “wrath” of God basically means a state of alienation from God, but it’s one brought about not by the act of divine punishment but by the selection of people to live and walk in darkness out of a self-love so strong that it turns on God and as a consequence “hates” his light. Those who live in the peace of God, on the other hand, believe in Jesus, believe in what he says, choose to align their life to the truth he reveals and come to see and experience all things in his holy light. St. John says, “Whoever lives the truth comes to the light,so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
  • We see this paradox illustrated in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The Sanhedrin, the chief priests, Sadducees, many of the Scribes and Pharisees preferred the darkness and rejected Christ’s rescue work. They did it before they conspired to have him executed and even after word of his resurrection started to spread and his simple followers started to work incredible miracles in his name as they testified that he was alive, they continued to prefer the darkness. They warned Peter and John not to say anything ever again about Jesus, but they courageously kept speaking out, saying that it is impossible to keep their mouths shut about what they’ve seen and heard and that their primary obedience is to God, who sent them out as his witnesses. At the beginning of today’s reading, they were arrested for a second time for preaching openly, in the light of Solomon’s Portico in the temple, about Jesus and his call to conversion and salvation. After they were imprisoned, however, an angel rescued them, opening the doors of the prison just like he opened Jesus’ sealed tomb, telling them, “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life. They were arrested again but surreptitiously, in darkness we could say, because they feared the people. St. Luke tells us that these leaders were “filled with jealousy.” They resorted once again to threats. “We gave you strict orders did we not, to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.” These were the same people who had clamored in Pontius Pilate’s praetorium, when Pilate washed his hands of the blood of Jesus whom he called an “innocent man,” “his blood be upon us and on our children.” Yet St. Peter wasn’t trying to condemn them for shedding Jesus’ blood but to have them saved by that blood. He was trying to convert them through repentance and forgiveness. He said, “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.” But they didn’t want to repent and have their sins forgiven. They didn’t want to acknowledge that they had sinned at all. And so after Peter had said, “We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him,” St. Luke tells us, “They became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.” It wasn’t enough for one man to die for the people, as Caiaphas had said about Jesus. Now they wanted to kill his disciples, too. They hated the light of Christ’s resurrection radiating through his disciples and they wanted to turn off that light. They who had condemned Jesus to death were themselves condemned for not believing in him. They who pronounced verdicts supposedly on behalf of God were in fact pronouncing a verdict on themselves.
  • This is a dynamic that all of us have to grasp, because many times Christians act like the apostles and live in the light and bring Jesus’ salvation to others, and at other times, we prefer to live by our “own light” which is fact a darkness and behave like members of the Sanhedrin, pronouncing judgment on others and their actions without recognizing that we’re just condemning ourselves to living apart from Jesus and his light partially or fully.
  • The saint the Church celebrates today had to deal with this reality. The future Pope St. Pius V, baptized Antonio Ghisleri, became a Dominican at 14, a year after Martin Luther hammered his 95 theses to the door of Wittenburg Cathedral. It was a time when the Church very much needed reform, of confused doctrine and moral laxity. After teaching for 16 years, he became a prior of successive Dominican priories where his passion to reform his Dominican brothers was met with resentment and resistance. Many of his fellow friars preferred the darkness rather than the light. Eventually the Church asked him to served as Inquisitor in Como and then in several other missions of reform. Pope Paul IV (1555-1559) had a great respect for him, named him bishop, cardinal and supreme inquisitor. But he was succeeded by Pope Pius IV (1559-1565) who was corrupt, trying to use the papal treasury to support family members and seeking to make a 13 year old member of his family a cardinal. Cardinal Ghisleri opposed him to his face and for that he was banished. But after Pius IV died, Cardinal Ghisleri was elected to replace him and he brought his reforming spirit to the whole Church, finishing the Council of Trent, reestablishing discipline and morality, compelling bishops and priests to live among the people they were sent to serve, formed seminaries, reformed the liturgy and so much more, all attempts to get people to live by the truth, to obey God rather than the will of men. With Pius X, he was the only canonized Pope in the last 700 years until this past Sunday’s canonization of Saints John Paul II and John XXIII.
  • As we come to celebrate the Mass St. Pius V so much loved and reformed, we rejoice that God so loved the world — so loves us — that he gives us his own Son here that we might not perish but enter into communion with Jesus’ eternal life. Jesus promised that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood has eternal life and he will raise him on the last day. It’s here that we ask for Jesus’ blood to be on us and on our children, not the blood of his martyrdom but the healing blood of his risen life.

The readings for today’s Mass (which combine the readings for Wednesday and Thursday of the Second Week of Easter, since tomorrow we will use the readings for the Mass of St. Joseph the Worker) are below: 

Reading 1
ACTS 5:17-33

The high priest rose up and all his companions,
that is, the party of the Sadducees,
and, filled with jealousy,
laid hands upon the Apostles and put them in the public jail.
But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison,
led them out, and said,
“Go and take your place in the temple area,
and tell the people everything about this life.”
When they heard this,
they went to the temple early in the morning and taught.
When the high priest and his companions arrived,
they convened the Sanhedrin,
the full senate of the children of Israel,
and sent to the jail to have them brought in.
But the court officers who went did not find them in the prison,
so they came back and reported,
“We found the jail securely locked
and the guards stationed outside the doors,
but when we opened them, we found no one inside.”
When the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard this report,
they were at a loss about them,
as to what this would come to.
Then someone came in and reported to them,
“The men whom you put in prison are in the temple area
and are teaching the people.”
Then the captain and the court officers went and brought them,
but without force,
because they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Gospel
JN 3:16-21, 31-36

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God remains upon him.