Love is heroic

Tom Bartolomeo
5th Sunday Easter C 2013
Acts 14:21-27; Psalm 145;
Revelation 21:1-5a; John 13:31-33a, 34-35
Reproduced with Permission

Judas leaves Jesus and the other Apostles at their last supper together, and Christ says, "Now is the Son of Man glorified"? So this is the price of Christ's new commandment, "As I have loved you so you should love one another,"Judas' betrayal? We may want to believe that love should always be reciprocal. Not so. Christ knew. Do we hold back love for fear of not being loved?

That did not deter Christ nor his disciples in The Acts of the Apostles. All those conversions came with a price, often with persecution and bloodshed. "You are deceived," we are told by St. Jerome, "if you think that Christians can live without persecutions." Or let me put it another way quoting a famous 20th century convert, C. S. Lewis, "If you want a religion that is really comfortable, I don't recommend Christianity."

"Now is the Son of Man Glorified." What did Jesus see lying before him in his final hours, a cross or a will to endure for the sake of heaven? We would not know this had Jesus not gloriously risen from the dead with scars on his body, on his hands, feet and side, reminders of his glory and badges of honor. What Jesus did foresee he later told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world", a world we have a glimpse of in the Book of Revelation,

I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . . . I saw the holy city . . . coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ". . . God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more for the first things have passed away". (Revelation 21, 1-5).

Perhaps that explains 'the actions' of the Apostles who not only endured sufferings and persecutions but relished them.

When they [the Jewish high council] "had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus]. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ." (Acts 5, 40-42).

"Now is the Son of Man Glorified", clearly what Jesus saw, was the end of the beginning of creation and a beginning of a new creation. He would reclaim fallen humanity. The shackles of death would be broken. The precious image of each one of us in Christ would once more be reunited with the Father. I assume that you all know that the Beatitudes of the New Testament perfect the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament which may simply keep us on the narrow path but do not guarantee heaven. Remember the rich young man who said that he kept all the commandments and how Jesus he lacked "one thing", a detachment from this world, and he left Jesus saddened. (cf. Mark 10, 17 ff). The Beatitudes complete the Commandments. Blessed are the poor, sorrowful, meek, righteous, merciful, pure of heart and "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven." (Matthew 5 ff). You should know that in the original Greek 'blessed' means 'happy'. Heaven is only a place for wounded heroes, happy wounded heroes. It is a matter of 'fitting in', and it was the "wounds" of Christ, Saint Peter told us, which "healed" us.

We are called to be martyrs of Jesus Christ, witnesses, the real meaning of the word. The Beatitudes, especially persecution for the faith, lead to the glory of heaven. Don't let the enemies of your faith silence you, and I am not speaking about politics but those who disparage your Catholicism. It still remains a matter of loving your enemies but not their immoral behavior or false assertions. Know the difference especially those who would dismiss your faith with, "that's your opinion." Say, I will endure happily those who oppose my Church (and show it). Say, This is my life, not a matter of opinion and remember, "Happy are those who endure persecution for righteous' sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."