Summary: Although the Christian life brings conflict, we cannot flee from a personal and committed relationship with God which still commits us to serving others.

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Thursday of 2nd Week of Easter 2015

Joy of the Gospel

If you have ever wondered why the Season of Easter is the longest one in the liturgical year, consider this: after the Resurrection of our Lord, we are living in an Easter season that will last until the Lord comes again! All our lives are a celebration of the Resurrection, and our deaths will be a down payment on our physical and spiritual Resurrection at the end of time. In the meantime–whatever that means in heaven–we will be with the Lord.

Our readings from the Word of God today are reminders that the Church was born in conflict. In fact, it seems clear that one of the ways the apostles preached the Gospel was to remind the Jews that Torah pronounced a curse on anyone who was hanged on a tree–crucifixion, for example–but that God, in the case of Jesus, turned the curse into a cure. The Resurrection of Jesus was God’s endorsement on His life and mission and Church. But this kerygma enraged the Jews, who, over and over again, reacted with violence. We see the same thing happening today, for instance in Kenya and Nigeria and Syria: Islamic extremists, who want to impose their brand of law and peace on the whole world, encounter followers of Christ who know that the only true change is change of minds and hearts. When they don’t bow down to external threats, they are murdered. But a new sowing of martyrs will certainly bear fruit in countless conversions. We must pray for the perseverance of these Churches and their members, and never withdraw from the fight for the souls of our brothers and sisters.

The Pope continues in this vein: ‘the solution will never be found in fleeing from a personal and committed relationship with God which at the same time commits us to serving others. This happens frequently nowadays, as believers seek to hide or keep apart from others, or quietly flit from one place to another or from one task to another, without creating deep and stable bonds. [We can’t imagine that changing our location will change our situation.] dThis is a false remedy which cripples the heart and at times the body as well. We need to help others to realize that the only way is to learn how to encounter others with the right attitude, which is to accept and esteem them as companions along the way, without interior resistance. Better yet, it means learning to find Jesus in the faces of others, in their voices, in their pleas. And learning to suffer in the embrace of the crucified Jesus whenever we are unjustly attacked or meet with ingratitude, never tiring of our decision to live in fraternity.

‘There indeed we find true healing, since the way to relate to others which truly heals instead of debilitating us, is a mystical fraternity, a contemplative fraternity. It is a fraternal love capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbor, of finding God in every human being, of tolerating the nuisances of life in common by clinging to the love of God, of opening the heart to divine love and seeking the happiness of others just as their heavenly Father does. Here and now, especially where we are a “little flock” (Lk 12:32), the Lord’s disciples are called to live as a community which is the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt 5:13-16). We are called to bear witness to a constantly new way of living together in fidelity to the Gospel. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of community!’

He goes on to warn against what he calls “spiritual worldliness”: ‘Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being. It is what the Lord reprimanded the Pharisees for: “How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (Jn 5:44). It is a subtle way of seeking one’s “own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Phil 2:21). It takes on many forms, depending on the kinds of persons and groups into which it seeps. Since it is based on carefully cultivated appearances, it is not always linked to outward sin; from without, everything appears as it should be. But if it were to seep into the Church, “it would be infinitely more disastrous than any other worldliness which is simply moral”’

There is, during and at the end of life, only one fundamental question: do we love God above all, and our neighbor as ourselves? As we take communion, we must pray that God change our minds and hearts so that this is our daily concern, our hourly mission: to love.

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