little while, and now you shall not see me; and again a little while,
and you shall see me, because I go to the Father.”
words from today's Gospel were originally spoken by our Lord at the
Last Supper. One might understand them to refer to the period
of time between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, the period
during which no one would see Him, and then would see Him again.
Even the words “because I go to the Father” might be
interpreted in the light of tradition as meaning that during this
three day period our Lord would go down into the Limbo of the Just,
and bring the righteous dead of the Old Testament to the throne of
His Father in heaven, sometime before His Resurrection.
it is more likely that our Lord is speaking about the time beginning
with His Ascension into heaven and ending with the general judgment
and resurrection of the dead at the end of time. Elsewhere in
Saint John's account of the Last Supper, we read that our Lord
promised to send an “advocate,” “the Paraclete,”
“the Holy Ghost,” “the Spirit of Truth” to be
with the Apostles in His absence.
And we know that, indeed, He did send the Holy Ghost to Confirm the
Apostles and His holy Mother on the feast of Pentecost, which fits
into this time period before the general judgment.
Lord described this period as one of difficulty and persecution:
“They will put you out of the synagogues ... whosoever killeth
you, will think that he doth a service to God.”
But, like the difficulty of a woman in labor, it would be followed
with a time of rejoicing: “you now indeed have sorrow;
but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy
no man shall take from you.”
But, from what we have just seen, this time of permanent rejoicing
will come only after the general judgment and resurrection.
What are we to do in the meantime?
of the answer to that question is found in today's Epistle, in which
Saint Peter, the first Pope tells us:
refrain [our]selves from carnal desires which war against the soul,”
to do good works, so that those seeing us will glorify God, and to
put up with those in authority, especially those “sent
... for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the
good.... For so is the will of God, that by doing well you may
put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” being “free,
[but] not making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of
God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear
God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your
in Saint Matthew's Gospel our Lord tells us what it means to “do
well” and to “do good works.”
Our Lord distinguishes those who have done good for Him, by doing
good for those in need, who will be rewarded in the Kingdom of
Heaven—from those who did not do good for Him, who did not aid
those in need, and who will not share the eternal joy of heaven with
was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave
me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and
you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.
You did not do these things for Me when you did not do them for My
little ones, the least of your brethren.
[the unjust] shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into
in the things God has revealed to us, and the keeping of His
Commandments are the beginning of the Catholic religion.
Likewise the reception of the Sacraments, and the strengthening given
through the grace of the Advocate, the Holy Ghost. But that
Faith must be perfected in good works—as Saint James tells us:
shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath
not works? Shall faith be able to save him? And if a
brother or sister be naked, and want daily food: And one of you
say to them: Go in peace, be warmed and filled; yet give them not
those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit?
So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself. But
some will say: Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith
without works; and I will shew thee, by works, my faith. Thou
believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also
believe and tremble.
devils also believe and yet tremble”! The devil does not
believe in God through grace, nor does he believe in God as an
abstraction that he learned about in his catechism. The devil
knows God with absolute certainty, because he has met Him face to
face. He has no alternative but to believe. But his
“faith” does him no good, for he has revolted against
not only has he revolted against God, but desires that “the
little ones,” the least of our brethren, rise up with him and
lose their souls with him in eternal damnation. Clearly, he
believes, but has every reason to tremble!
who believe in God, have a simple, yet important, choice to make.
We can practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy: To
feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; to clothe
the naked; to harbour the harbourless; to visit the
sick; to ransom the captive; to bury the dead. To
instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to
admonish sinners; to bear wrongs patiently; to forgive
offenses willingly; to comfort the afflicted; to pray for the
living and the dead. Or, we can choose to tremble!
opportunities to do these things will vary from person to person and
from time to time. Sometimes there will be no need;
sometimes we will have no resources. But when there is need and
we have the resources to fill that need, we must be like the just
souls in Saint Matthew's parable: doing for Christ by
doing for the least of our brethren. Otherwise, like the
devils, we can “believe, and yet tremble.”