Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Third Sunday after Easter—29 April A.D. 2012

Ordinary of the Mass
Latin Mass Text-3rd Sunday
English Mass Text-3rd Sunday

“Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice:
and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”[1]

    Our Lord spoke these words to His Apostles just a few hours before His passion and death on the Cross.  There are at least three ways to interpret them.

    Most obviously the Apostles would lament the events of the next day or two as Jesus was given over by the chief priests of the Jews to the Gentiles to be cruelly scourged and put to death as a common criminal on the Cross.  Certainly, His enemies among the Sanhedrin rejoiced while His Apostles lamented.  But then, Easter Sunday morning, their sorrow would be turned to joy with the knowledge that Jesus had risen from the dead.  Their joy would continue for over a month as Jesus went about in Jerusalem and around the Sea of Galilee, being seen by hundreds of “the brethren.”[2]

    But then, on Ascension Thursday, our Lord was taken up from them to the heavens.  While this was probably nowhere as traumatic as the crucifixion, it did leave the Apostles again alone, without Jesus, who had always seemed to be in control of every situation they encountered.  The Acts of the Apostles tell us two significant things.  The Apostles returned to the “Upper Room,” the site of the Last Supper, and there they “persever[ed] with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”[3]  The Apostles prayed what today we would call a “novena” in the actual presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We should all learn that prayer to God through His Blessed Mother is the most perfectly effective means of turning lamentation into joy.

    It is also significant that during this novena they selected someone to replace Judas, who had betrayed our Lord and then took his own life.  With the selection of Matthias, the number of the Twelve would once again be complete.  Anyone who has ever attended the Consecration of a Bishop can tell you that seeing the Church thereby strengthened brings a great feeling of confidence in divine providence.  The infant Church must have felt much the same.

    Their lamentation was turned into joy on Pentecost Sunday, sometime before 9:00 AM as they received the Holy Ghost, and were able to speak to the crowds and be understood by each person in his own language, and “They therefore that received his word, were baptized; and there were added in that day about three thousand souls.”[4]

“Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice:
and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

    There is a third way in which these words of our Lord can be understood.  And that is in the daily living of every Christian life.  And this is addressed to each one of us, equally as it was addressed to the Apostles.  Today we heard Saint Peter’s words that the “Gentiles”—those who are not of the Faith—would “speak against you as evil doers....”[5]  We see Saint Peter’s words fulfilled so often in modern society.  Those who are in charge speak of Christianity as though It were responsible for the evils of the modern world.  The Gentiles of today would have us believe that most wars are the fault of Christians;  that the unwanted children of the world exist because of the Church’s “defective” moral teaching;  that women are kept in “subjugation” by the Church and denied the “health care” they need;  that it is the Church that inspires bigotry against those who elect to live an “alternative life-style”; that Christianity is wasteful and destructive of the planet;  they even blame us for the weather.

    Saint Peter does suggest a way to turn this lamentation into joy:  that these Gentiles may, “by the good works which they shall behold in you, glorify God in the day of visitation.”  Apart from prayer, the most powerful means of converting the unbelieving is to show them good example.  Very often, having the truth is not enough to convince—even speaking the truth with great eloquence is often not enough to convince those who have been raised in their errors, and who have lived in their errors, and who have enjoyed the temptations of their evil.  Often the unbelieving can be reached only by seeing what they have always believed to be impossible, the living of a holy life—and particularly the living of a holy life by someone with a smile on his face.

    Some of you have heard me quote Emmanuel Cardinal Suhard in the past.  Cardinal Suhard was the Archbishop of Paris during World War II, and he could include Adolf Hitler and the Nazis among the “Gentiles” who spoke evil of his Church.  He took Saint Peter’s advice and expressed it in a way that I have always found to be positively elegant:

    To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery.  It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist.[6]

    There is a sort of inescapable logic in this.  Our earthly sorrow can be turned into true and permanent joy only in heaven.  So it makes sense that, at every opportunity, we do the will of God in this life.  It makes no sense for us to adopt the ways of the unbelieving, for that can only threaten and detract from our permanent joy.  Only by living this life that “would not make sense if God did not exist” can we be assured of eternal joy—only by living this life that “would not make sense if God did not exist” can we be assured of “glorify[ing] God in the day of visitation.”  It certainly makes sense that the best way to win over the unbelieving is to glorify God by doing His will, presenting them with the irrefutable argument that such a thing is not only possible, but leads to eternal joy, and to a good deal of joy in this life.

    In the liturgical sense, the risen Christ is with us throughout the Easter Season.  In a little over two weeks we will celebrate His Ascension into Heaven, a commemoration of that time before Pentecost when the Apostles waited “in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus.”  Remember that such prayer changes lamentation into joy—particularly for those who are a “living mystery,” those who live the “life that would not make sense if God did not exist.”


[1]   Gospel:  John xvi: 1622

[5]   Epistle:  I Peter ii 11-19

[6]   Emmanuel Cardinal Suhard, Priests Among Men.


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