Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Easter - April 24, 2016

First Reading Commentary
The purpose of this missionary journey by Paul and Barnabas was to oversee the organization of new churches and to add to the numbers of those adhering to the Christian faith. 
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”  Origen, one of the early Church writers, shares these words: “God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings.  There is a certain usefulness to temptation.  No one but God knows what our soul has received from Him, not even we ourselves.  But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church adds: “The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man.  We must discern between being tempted, and consenting to temptation.  Discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a delight to the eyes and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death” (CCC 2847). 
Truthfully, most of us would rather get through this life without any temptations or hardships.  This kind of philosophy, however, cannot be embraced without first considering this warning from Denys the Carthusian: “Woe to you, lovers of this world, who wish to pass your lives without tribulation.  Enemies of the Cross!  Is the disciple above his Master?  Did it not become Christ first to suffer, and thus to enter into His glory?  Shall we pretend to enter by any other means?” 
Evangelization is a hot topic in today's Church.  Evangelization can be done by preaching and teaching but perhaps the most powerful way to evangelize is to live one’s life in accordance with the teachings of the Church.  Living our faith by example will often lead others to ask questions about our faith which opens the door for us to share our faith.  As this Reading emphasizes “what God had done,” our opportunities to evangelize are available to us not by our own doing but by our willingness to allow God to work through us.
Second Reading Commentary
A new heaven and a new earth is the definitive realization of God's plan to bring under a single Head, all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth (cf. CCC 1043). 
The holy city or new Jerusalem is understood as the citizens of heaven: the angels and saints.  This is the Church triumphant. 
“Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race.”  The Latin Vulgate is translated as: “Behold, the tabernacle of God with men.”  It expresses that we, the chosen sons and daughters of God, will dwell in His tabernacle forever and ever; and in this perfect existence sorrow will no longer be a part of our makeup.  The Catechism refers to this moment as God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause His Bride to come down from heaven (cf. CCC 677).  At this moment all is accomplished and all is made new.  Until we have arrived at that place, however, where “there shall be no more death and mourning, wailing or pain” consideration should be given to the human tabernacle – the indwelling of Christ.  As we expect to walk into our churches and see a Tabernacle that is beautiful, those same expectations should be true of the human tabernacle.  Christ deserves to dwell in a heart and soul that attempts to remain as spotless as possible, turning to our spotless Blessed Mother as our model and intercessor.
Gospel Commentary
All this glorifying sounds confusing!  It is much easier to grasp if you keep in mind that the Father is God and the Son is God, therefore the Father and the Son are One.  Not even that is completely understood especially when you add the Holy Spirit to the mix.  Jesus said: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”  Christ is referring to the miracle of His death and Resurrection.  Jesus is glorified as Man because He was able to rise from death which also glorifies God because rising from the dead is impossible without God.  Christ promises resurrection for us but this requires two beings: It requires us, that is, the human person who is to be resurrected and it requires God, Who does the resurrecting.  With Christ’s Resurrection, only One Being was required as He is both God and Man. 
Since we’re in the Easter Season, it’s best to forget that this Gospel story occurs before Christ’s death.  It’s more beneficial to focus on the glorification of Christ as God and Man because of these events. 
Jesus commands us to love one another.  As human beings, when we think about strong bonds of love we tend to consider the love a husband has for his wife and a wife for her husband, and the love that parents have for their children.  It’s difficult for us to apply that kind of intense love to acquaintances and perfect strangers; and without God, indeed it is downright impossible.  Let us keep in mind, though, that if Christ commands it, it is very possible or else He would never have commanded it. 
Faith assures us that our Lord supplies the graces needed to do that which human logic doesn’t consider possible.  Our part in this is to be conformed to the will of God.  Saint Augustine offers an excellent way of expressing this divine love for one another with these words: “As Christ the Savior loved us, so charity should be a thirst for the spiritual salvation of our neighbors, all of whom God wills to be saved.”  Just this past week Pope Francis tweeted these words: “Love is the only light which can constantly illuminate a world grown dim.”  Thus the Holy Father presents to us the reality…and the solution.