I’ve been noticing a lot of hate, a lot of division in our world lately. Maybe it’s me, that in my formation, I’m noticing more of where the love of God lacks (especially on I-376 during the morning drive to work). I believe we’ll be even more challenged as emotions will run high over the coming months in this election year. Our Lord mentions hate in today’s Gospel. Being a disciple of Jesus is not an easy road to follow. The world will not like us, because we speak the truth of Jesus and the love of God. The world will not like us because of its own desire to be free, foolishly thinking that freedom is being free from God instead of realizing that true freedom is found IN GOD.
When, and I say when not if, we are challenged by the world, we need to speak the truth. We need to let the Holy Spirit’s gift of courage act in us and respond, not react, to those challenges. In our communications with the world, we need to dialogue in the productive way, by realizing it is not about winning an argument. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said “Win an argument, lose a soul.” St. Augustine held communication as a sacred act. He saw, and rightly so, that communication was a union much like a marriage. Two people were coming together to share through their words and make each other better. St. Augustine held lying as one of the most serious sins. God gave us speech for the purpose of communicating His truth and to lie was an absolute perversion of that gift. Just imagine what the world would be like if everyone took their words that seriously.
Our culture is now dominated by “social” media, such as Facebook, My Space, and Twitter. I wonder what St. Augustine would say about social media. Is it really communication? There can be good that comes from social media. I know the Deacons of the Diocese use it to keep each other informed and it can be used as a vehicle to promote the faith (the Pope Twitters, I believe). However, it seems that our culture has used it more to promote an “All about me” attitude. It’s nice to know that someone has achieved something great like a promotion or a graduation, but does the world really need to know that you opted for Cornflakes this morning instead of the Pop Tart. It’s the “all about me” attitude that’s permeating our culture, a culture which seems preoccupied with exercising its “rights” rather than promoting the common good.
On the Cross, was Jesus concerned about His “rights”? Jesus could’ve walked away from the passion at any time. He did not. He was concerned with US, with our souls and with our lives. He died to save us so that we could live in completeness, and live eternally in the love of God. It is Our Lord Jesus Christ’s example we need to imitate if we want to experience heaven here on earth. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” If we’re serious about that prayer, we need to look to the Cross and understand that it’s through the Cross and Resurrection that we can make it happen.
To get through the tension of the coming months, no doubt we’ll need God’s help to keep our patient, to patiently discuss (not argue mind you) the truths of Our Faith, and to form our conscience properly, so election day is not such a challenge. You’ve already received (and knowing Fr. Kleppner, will again receive) the USCCB “Guide to Faithful Citizenship”. Please use that guide as it was intended, to help you to remain in the love of God in the public arena.
Remaining in God is what our readings are all about today. In our second reading from 1 John, God through Jesus, proves His love for us through His giving. The expectation is not to keep God to ourselves, but to share and give to one another. That sharing and gift of self is the key that allows us to remain in God’s love and prepares the Kingdom of heaven here on earth and prepares us for our eternal destination.
Our Gospel reading today, St. John is showing us Jesus praying just after the Last Supper and before going out to his arrest. In Pope Benedict’s book “Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week…” Chapter 4, the Pope discusses the entire Chapter of John 17 as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. (I strong suggest reading either or both books of the Pope’s Jesus of Nazareth series…). The Pope explores four themes of this prayer but for time’s sake we’ll only discuss the part that specifically relates to today’s Gospel. The Pope explores why Jesus would pray for consecration as related in the last three verses of our reading. Let us take a moment to realize this situation. This is the last time Jesus is able to speak with His beloved disciples. Imagine yourself in a situation where it was the last time, before you passed into the next life that you would be able to speak with your loved one. What would you say?
Jesus prays. He prays for the disciples which is really a prayer for us. He asks God to consecrate us. What does this mean? Pope Benedict explains that to consecrate is to “raise something into a new sphere that is no longer under human control.” In essence, Jesus is asking God to take us under His control, or better yet under the control of His truth. Why is this important to us? It is the truth in the love of God that we need to live to fulfill the deepest longings of our soul. What is Truth? (Where have we heard that before?) Most fundamentally, truth has to be a shared basis, a criteria that can be agreed upon. If after Mass we went out and played softball, and let’s say I had one version of the rulebook, and someone else had a different version, how would we play the game? How would we agree on safe/out, fair/foul, or even the score? That would be pointless. Our world has a common truth. The world, our cultural, like Pilate, questions truth, but doesn’t want to hear the answer. Again in the words of Pope Benedict “The world is true to the extent that it reflects God…Man becomes true, he becomes himself, when he grows in God’s likeness.” We’re about to meet Truth in the Eucharist. This is why we come to Mass. Our Church, our community, our Sacraments help us to remain in God. To give of ourselves and remain in God was our Lord’s final prayer before the Passion, and is our pathway to eternal life. Remain in God, remain in Truth, remain in Love, and there is nothing, not even an election year, that cannot be overcome.