A Gospel Reflection
by Deacon Mike Manno
Reflection on the Mass readings for:
Tuesday, May 12
, 5th week in Easter
From Deacon Mike:
Today in our first reading (
) we find St. Paul being stoned by Jews from Antioch and Iconium, drug out of the city and left for dead. He was saved by his disciples and later returns to the cities to evangelize their inhabitants and to “strengthen the spirits” of the Christians already there. “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God,” the reading tells us.
In the Gospel (
) Jesus gives the famous command, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid,” and speaks of Satan as the “ruler of the world” who is coming, but has no power over him; contrasting what he gives to us against that which the world gives.
Let’s listen to the thrusts of the two stories: Hardships for the kingdom; Do not be afraid; He has no power over me. Lay those thoughts over what we see in our world today and it should provide the spark to dispel some of the darkness we see in today’s world.
Without these messages it would be very easy to look with despair at today’s news with the coronavirus still not under control, disputes over what to do that is rubbing our national soul raw, accompanied by what seems to be a near universal rejection of Jesus, the Church, and Christian morals by today’s society. Indeed, the warned of “ruler of the world,” through sin, is making his presence known.
But it is Jesus who gave us the answer: Be not be afraid, the evil ruler has been conquered. Of course the hardship part may not be quite as easy to accept. We have, in our consumer culture, become conditioned to having it all, or at least that was the expectation. Facing hardship to maintain our faith or overcoming a virus might not sit well in a land with plenty of material goods. We want an easy way to do it all, and we’re willing to even accept it in an atmosphere of laissez-faire Christianity.
Our answer, sometimes, is to want to conquer these evils by ourselves, by the power of man, not God. That is, after all, the Spirit of America: can-do, cut your own path, create your own destiny. Well, there’s merit to that to a point, but all human endeavor is, in the final analysis, subject to the will, or at least the allowance of God. What Jesus is saying in the Gospel is that when faced with difficulty, we don’t need to go it alone; we have a partner in him. But we must surrender ourselves to him who does not always follow the ways of the world, as we might like, but the ways of his Father. And, we must be willing to bear the necessary hardships.
That means we must rely on Him who sent Jesus. And what is that God says? He tells us plainly in 2 Chronicles 7:12-14:
“If I close heaven so that there is no rain, if I command the locust to devour the land, if I send pestilence among my people, and if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land.”
See, it’s been there all along. We just need to take it seriously.
There is a prayer in my breviary that I think sums this up. It says in part:
“You have humbled yourself, Christ my God, so that you might carry me, your stray sheep, on your shoulders. Lord, lighten the heavy burden of the sins through which I have seriously transgressed. Purify my mind and heart. Like a shining lamp, lead me along the straight path. Lead me to pastures, Lord, and graze there with me. Do not let my heart lean either to the right or to the left, but let your good Spirit guide me along the straight path. Whatever I do, let it be in accordance with your will, now until the end.”
Turn your heart over to Jesus, then be not afraid.