Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: We must follow the law of fraternal charity if we are to eliminate conflict in the Church and world.

Thursday of the 4th Week of Easter 2015

Joy of the Gospel

One of the insights that modern scholarship has given us about the life of Jesus is a deeper understanding of His relationship with the betrayer, Judas. The Gospels record that Judas was their treasurer, and that he was a thief. But let’s not forget that every sinner, in planning and committing sin, thinks he is doing good–at least for himself. The worst catastrophes come when we ignore the clear path of righteousness because we think we have an easier way to get a good result, not just for ourselves, but for others. I think Judas lifted up his heel against Jesus for the money, but also because he never bought into Jesus’s mission to change the hearts of human beings into true images of the compassionate Father. He still was laboring under the delusion that the Messiah would be a great, charismatic, wonder-working leader who would kill Romans and restore the political kingdom of Israel. So he figured that the betrayal of Jesus would be the cause of Jesus throwing off all His pretense, calling down legions of battling angels and stirring up worldwide revolution. When Jesus went meekly to His death, Judas finally woke up, realized he had committed the greatest sin, and then, instead of repenting like Peter, he went off and hanged himself.

The Holy Father, having ended his warning against “doing holy things without becoming holy”–that is, without struggling to let the Holy Spirit change us into God’s image, moves on to the issue of human conflict: ‘How many wars take place within the people of God and in our different communities! In our neighborhoods and in the workplace, how many wars are caused by envy and jealousy, even among Christians! Spiritual worldliness leads some Christians to war with other Christians who stand in the way of their quest for power, prestige, pleasure and economic security. Some are even no longer content to live as part of the greater Church community but stoke a spirit of exclusivity, creating an “inner circle”. Instead of belonging to the whole Church in all its rich variety, they belong to this or that group which thinks itself different or special.

‘Our world is being torn apart by wars and violence, and wounded by a widespread individualism which divides human beings, setting them against one another as they pursue their own well-being. In various countries, conflicts and old divisions from the past are re-emerging. I especially ask Christians in communities throughout the world to offer a radiant and attractive witness of fraternal communion. Let everyone admire how you care for one another, and how you encourage and accompany one another: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). This was Jesus’ heartfelt prayer to the Father: “That they may all be one... in us... so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). Beware of the temptation of jealousy! We are all in the same boat and headed to the same port! Let us ask for the grace to rejoice in the gifts of each, which belong to all.

‘Those wounded by historical divisions find it difficult to accept our invitation to forgiveness and reconciliation, since they think that we are ignoring their pain or are asking them to give up their memory and ideals. But if they see the witness of authentically fraternal and reconciled communities, they will find that witness luminous and attractive. It always pains me greatly to discover how some Christian communities, and even consecrated persons, can tolerate different forms of enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealousy and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs, even to persecutions which appear as veritable witch hunts. Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?

‘Let us ask the Lord to help us understand the law of love. How good it is to have this law! How much good it does us to love one another, in spite of everything. Yes, in spite of everything! Saint Paul’s exhortation is directed to each of us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). And again: “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right” (Gal 6:9). We all have our likes and dislikes, and perhaps at this very moment we are angry with someone. At least let us say to the Lord: “Lord, I am angry with this person, with that person. I pray to you for him and for her”. To pray for a person with whom I am irritated is a beautiful step forward in love, and an act of evangelization. Let us do it today! Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the ideal of fraternal love!’

That’s a very practical suggestion that will help bring about the revolution of tenderness that I think is the deepest desire of God for us today.

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