Summary: How about the business of giving thanks and praise in all circumstances?
Sunday after Ascension 2017
Extraordinary FormFrom the First Epistle of St. Peter:
Beloved: The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers. 8 Above all hold unfailing your charity for one another, since charity covers a multitude of sins. 9 Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. 10 As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
The continuation of the Holy Gospel According to St. John:when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; 27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. 1 “I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them.
In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, Amen:
We are in a privileged novena–the original novena–between the Feast of the Ascension and that of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Scripture teaches us that during this time, the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary, along with others who had followed Jesus and witnessed His post-Resurrection appearances, prayed together. And so the Church gives us two brief New Testament passages to meditate on today, directions for the post-Pentecost disciple.
St. Peter, writing in his first encyclical, tells us like Jesus to be alert and watchful in prayer, because the contest we struggle in could end at any moment. In this time, this contest with evil, our charity towards one another must be unfailing, because charity practiced by Christians can overwhelm the evil that is being done to us by those who actively resist the will of God. Our spiritual gifts are given not for us, but for the upbuilding of the Church. What we do for others is the Holy Spirit working in us for that purpose. If you don’t do it yet, give thought to frequently using the phrase “by the grace of God.” Every good gift ultimately comes through the merits of Our Lord. Ultimately everything we do, everything we say, is for God’s glory. If something we do is not for His glory and honor, it certainly is not worth doing at all.
The Apostle John, writing some years after the Ascension and Pentecost, records the promise of a Paraclete by Jesus. The paraclitos in Roman-Greek society is translated “Counselor” in the translation I am using. It means “helper” or “legal advocate.” It’s a word used for a lawyer. You may have done the same thing with lawyers you know. You call them “Counselor.” Now many people consider lawyers a nuisance. That’s up until the day they need one. Jesus, in His Last Supper discourse, is telling the disciples, and us, that the world will persecute us. He predicts that some will even murder Christians and consider that an act of worship. St. Paul’s pre-Christian career as an officer of the Sanhedrin comes to mind. He was responsible for the apprehension and punishment of Christian believers. Today radical groups like the so-called Islamic State have the same character. But, closer to home, the radical secularists who file suit against cities and school districts for creches and the singing of Silent Night remind us that the words of Jesus are true, and we need a Paraclete, every day. This is what Jesus promises us.
Catholics who are under pressure from non-Christians have always been inspired by the Books of Maccabees. There we read stories of heroic Jews who, pressured by a tyrant king, refused to give up their religious practices, refused to disobey the Mosaic laws. The Book of Daniel has also been used by the Catholic Church from the beginning. In fact, every week the Divine Office has us praying the prayer of the young men in the furnace. You may recall the story. The Hebrews were deported to Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of Solomon’s Temple. Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah and Misael were talented Hebrews who were selected to serve the King. But the King demanded that they practice pagan worship. Daniel went into the lion’s den, and survived. The other three young Israelites were cast into a furnace so hot that those who tended it were burned to death. We know that an angel kept the three safe from the fire, but they did not know that up front. They told the king, in essence, “Know this–our God may or may not save us, but we will not worship that idol.” And if you look at the prayer Azariah offered as he was cast into the furnace, you will see that they fully expected to lose their lives. His prayer offered up their lives in sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of Israel, a sacrifice substituting for the lost Temple worship. And today, any physical or mental or emotional or financial loss we may have suffered, if it is one with Christ’s sacrifice, is our “Amen” to Christ’s priestly prayer.