7th Sunday of Easter, Year A
Psalm 27:1, 4, 7-8 (13)
1 Peter 4:13-16
On Thursday we celebrated Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. This marked an important moment as the disciples saw him ascend on the cloud so that they (and us!) might all know Jesus has returned to his place in Heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.
Now, it is almost time for the Apostles and disciples to take the gospel message to all the world. I say “almost” because Jesus told them to wait for “the promise of the Father.” This is, of course, a reference to the Holy Spirit that they will receive at Pentecost and that we have received in our Baptism and were sealed with at Confirmation.
So the Apostles once again gather in the upper room. Earlier in our Easter season, we heard how the disciples gathered in the room with the doors locked for “fear of the Jews.” At that time they couldn’t understand what had happened. Jesus, the one they thought to be the Messiah was crucified and the tomb was empty.
Since that time Jesus spent forty days with them teaching them about his Crucifixion and Resurrection fulfilled what had been foretold. They rejoiced to have this time with Jesus.
Now Jesus has “left them” but unlike with the Crucifixion and the tomb being found empty, this time they know exactly where Jesus has gone because they saw him ascend.
I wonder how they felt as they once again gathered in the upper room. We are told that they “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.” I wonder what they were saying in their prayers.
Perhaps they prayed that they might experience Jesus’ daily presence among them.
Perhaps they prayed to know what to do next. Remember Jesus is our light. As our light he helps us to see the world as he sees it.
Perhaps they still had some fear, fear of what was to come. Jesus had told them that they would suffer. Did they fear the suffering?
We can all fear suffering. Society teaches us to avoid suffering. Suffering is seen as bad yet we hear Peter write, “Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ.”
Rejoice? The very definition of “suffering” would seem to indicate that suffering is something to avoid. How can we possibly rejoice in suffering?
Peter does not say that all sufferings are good. He speaks of the suffering that comes as the result of murder, theft, or evil as not good. No, the suffering Peter speaks of is when we are “made to suffer as a Christian.”
For instance, one of the reasons we don’t talk about our faith outside church much is because we are afraid of what people might say to us. Will they ridicule us? So what if they do? It is their loss, not ours. So, instead of becoming silent, we should ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of courage so we can proclaim Christ to the world.
Now, I want to shift to our ‘response’ to the sufferings we face in our worldly lives. Our response can say much about our faith.
For instance, say one is facing a terrible illness and gives up on God because God doesn’t give them a miracle that says something about their faith. On the other hand, if, when we are ill, we turn to our faith to ask Jesus to walk with us through the illness then we are glorifying God.
If, in the midst of our sufferings in the land of the living, we look past that to see eternal life, we “hallow” God’s name, trusting he is with us.
When I say, “We look past that to see eternal life,” I don’t simply mean eternal life as we will know it after death. We just heard Jesus’ words he prayed to the Father, “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”
We do know God and we know Jesus. We know Jesus to be the one who embraced suffering in his Passion. He didn’t want to suffer. He prayed in the garden that if it was the Father’s will, this cup of suffering might pass from him, but he knew that it was the Father’s will and that his suffering had a purpose, our salvation.
Does our suffering relate to our salvation? Absolutely. If we run from our faith in our suffering, then we close ourselves off from salvation but if we turn to God in our sufferings, we open ourselves to the glory of salvation.
This isn’t easy. I will admit there are days when I pray all my problems would just go away but then I try to leave it in God’s hands as my light and my salvation.