The Synthesis of the Gospel and Our Response, 2nd Wednesday of Easter, April 26, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter
April 26, 2017
Acts 5:17-26, Ps 34, Jn 3:16-21

 

To listen to today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in today’s 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 we witness how some people prefer to continue to live as spiritual cadavers rather than experience the risen life Jesus has come to give us. This is the essential drama of human life.
  • 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.” We see so much here. Everything begins with faith but faith must become operative, it must be faith working through love (Gal 5:6). The work of the evil one is often the reverse: he starts with getting us to do deeds contrary to our faith and then to have the shame over such Christian misbehavior start to lead our whole life into darkness. We do one deed of darkness and prefer to keep it hidden. That leads us more and more into a life of darkness such that we begin to hate the light.
  • Last week in Massachusetts, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in prison where he was serving a life sentence for murdering a friend. As he hung himself in his prison, he wrote the words “Jn 3:16” on his forehead and in his Bible had three letters next to Jn 3:16, one for his fiancée, one for their daughter, and a third for an inmate their in prison whom many say was his gay partner. On the one hand, he died showing some sense of hope in God’s loving will to save; on the other, he died not wanting to live in the light but to escape into darkness, perhaps to keep what from dealing with what he had been trying to keep secret that seemed inevitable to come to the light. It was a tragedy, a tragedy much like Judas, when Jesus came not only so that we might not perish, not only so that we might have life, but so that we might leave the darkness and come to th eight.
  • Later Jesus would add, in an excised passage, “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 sadly 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.” The aim of the Christian life, the aim of faith, is to live in communion with Christ who is the truth, to believe in him is to believe in what he says and try with all our might to put what he says into practice. And when we live the truth, we want to live in the light not so that we can show off — Jesus warns us against that every Ash Wednesday when he tells us to pray, fast and give alms in secret — but so that the Father may be glorified, so that our deeds may be seen as done in God, so that God may get the credit, so that our life may give him witness and glory. God so loved us as to make that possible.
  • We see this paradox between darkness and light, the lie and the truth, condemnation and salvation illustrated in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The Sanhedrin, the chief priests, Sadducees, many of the Scribes and Pharisees and Sanhedrin in large part 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, preaching 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 condemning themselves for not believing in him. They who pronounced verdicts supposedly on behalf of God were in fact pronouncing a verdict against 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.
  • As we come forward to encounter Jesus the Light of the World so that he might be able to make us children of the Light, we rejoice that God the Father 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 were: 

Reading 1 Acts 5:17-26

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.

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.

Alleluia Jn 3:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 3:16-21

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.