Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Suffering, Salutation, Service

Father John J. Lombardi

 What do "jumping Apostles," angelic intercession and sacred suffering have to do with each other? This Sunday's Easter readings teach us many lessons, so read on Reading I-Acts 5:27-32,40-41

Kergyma: This Greek word refers to the essence of ourFaith--that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. This was St. Peter's preaching (Acts 5:30-31) and the constant message of the Catholic Church thru two centuries. Jesus suffered for St Peter, and so he and the Apostles would, in turn, suffer for their Lord. Will you? Intensify this essence of Faith within you-don't lose it!...Tom Monaghan was an orphan, and later in life founded Dominoes Pizza, became the owner of the Detroit Tigers and earned hundreds of millions of dollars. He recently began giving it up. Why? Because his main job now, as he says, is to help people get to Heaven and know the Catholic Faith. He realized the kerygma of Faith-that Jesus suffered for our sins and wants to bring people to Heaven. Do you have the zeal of a St Peter or a Tom Monahan to realize the essence?

Humiliations: Acts 5:41- "So they left…rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name". This verse confronts our desire for wealth, pride and personal gain. St Augustine was asked, three times, what the most important virtue is, and he said, three times: "Humility." This means we must be willing to become "small," humbled for Jesus. A wise pastor told this chaplain once: "Sometimes the only way we gain humility is from humiliations." Who wants that?! They will be provided-whether thru gossip or rumors about us; tough trials at work, family problems, we have opportunities to suffer for sanctification. For instance: a young person was once struggling to tell her sibling it would possibly be sinful to cohabit with a fiancé. Further difficulty: the rest of the family was condoning cohabitation (not uncommon today). But this loving and valiant sibling still felt the need-and Christ-centered incentive--to let the other sibling know it was dangerous. Are you likewise willing to suffer for Jesus even amidst ridicule?

"Divine-Human Absorbitant": The Suffering Servant Sequence of the prophet Isaiah depicts a Jesus-type savior as a "Cosmic Victim Soul"-a divine magnetizer of suffering and evil, an attractor of negative, dark and bad phenomenon in order to transform them. He willingly does what other people won't or can't do. "It was our infirmities he endured…pierced for our offenses…Upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole" (55:4,5). St Bernadette followed Jesus and is known as a "victim soul." She suffered tuberculosis and gradually couldn't breathe. But she offered up these sufferings for poor sinners, so they could go to Heaven. Rather than erase her sufferings she embraced and used them for the salvation of souls (cf. Col 1:21). How can you suffer for His Name and thereby participate in the redemption of the world?

How to Suffer: When you have sufferings, trials or difficulties: 1) Unite them to Jesus' Passion--think of Him on the Cross, and then go on it with Him; receive His strength from this intimacy. 2) Learn from them -ask: Just what is God teaching me thru this trial? 3)Witness: After you stop flinching, complaining, and rejecting trials, you may embrace your sufferings and thereby point to Jesus - and witness to others by your great love. St Paul of the Cross counsels: "Take the holy crucifix in your hands, kiss its wounds with great love, and ask Him to preach you a sermon. Listen to what the thorns, the nails, and that Divine Blood say to you. Oh! What a sermon."

Reading II-Revelation 5:11-14-Salutations to God

Our main job on earth is to praise and worship God. This is the First Act of Religion. This is what the angels do in Heaven. So, likewise, the spring cherry trees worship and praise God by blooming forth into delightful flowers of enchantment. The grass of the earth is greening, the air is enwarming and birds now sing (don't miss this as it ephemerally passes)-so, how will you praise God like them, naturally, supernaturally? We creatures should unceasingly worship and praise our Creator. The angels are reminders of unblemished love, ecstatic adoration

Messengers: In this Second Reading we get a glimpse of Heavenly Worship--angels-myriads of them, saluting God (this is a good text to share with Protestants and other Catholic doubters who discount angelic intercessors). So: do you worship God in all your thoughts, words, deeds, as consistently as angels do? Angel means "messenger". Their message for us is to honor God; be pure; give messages of love, hope and conversion to others.

Perhaps you recall that there are nine choirs of angels. God works thru them, as a medium to redeem the world. There was an angel of death in the Passover; an angel before Moses and the Israelites thru the Red Sea; an angel led St. Peter out of prison, and angels ministered to Jesus in the Desert. God can work miracles directly, and often does; but He also chooses other intermediaries -so as to involve a totalizing perfection of the universe.

True Devotion: Angels are popular today, especially amongst "pop culture spiritualists," yet they are unfortunately neglected or even rejected amidst Catholic church officials, architecture and belief. As the Bible indicates-devotion to angels leads to worship of God. So: Spread their message - salute God, convert and follow His paths!

And, remember Guardian Angels?-Jesus says of our intercessors-"Their angels in Heaven always look on the Face of my Heavenly Father" (Mt. 18:10). We have spiritual friends to guide us, so, learn the prayer: "Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom God's love, permits me here. Ever this day, be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule and guide: Amen."

Like an angel, St Therese was praying for an unbelieving murderer. She wanted the hardened criminal to acknowledge God before being executed, and possibly go to Hell in a state of hatred and closedness to the Divine. A crucifix was sent to him in prison, and just before his execution he kissed it. St Therese's prayers helped this man to worship God. What will you do to help others?

Reading III: St John 21:1-19 Service

Extraordinary Simplicity: Okay, we're supposed to be celebrating the glory and miraculous phenomenon of the Resurrection, and we read about a fishing expedition, a campfire and breakfast! This is what we get?! Well, remember: There's two kinds of divine revelations-the fire and lightening kind ( the Red Sea parting), and: "Consider the birds of the air…the flowers of the field…" (Mt. 6:28,30). God meets us where we are, in what we are doing, often "under our spiritual noses." Yet sometimes we cannot be open and free to His "gentle epiphanies". We can and should encounter Him in Church, but we should also embrace Him as He manifests Himself thru "mystical menialness". Do you smell and enjoy God's secreting revelation and perfume in the spring lilacs?

Joy Jumps: St Peter jumps in after recognizing that it is Jesus Christ appearing: do you have that same eagerness at the sight, the presence, of Jesus-thru prayer, spiritual reading, your family?

Divine feeding: Jesus' actions of blessing and sharing fish and food point to the Eucharist. You can see how consistent Jesus is even after His death in referring to the necessity of receiving Him frequently in the Eucharist-are you?

Rhythmic Repetition: As St Peter denied Jesus three times before His death, so now, he affirms his fidelity to the Lord three times.. Latinist teachers teach- Repitito est mater studiorum-repetition is the mother of learning. In repeating your love to the Lord every day, every breath-make it a prayer, a holy habit! Like St Peer overcome your sins, confess and configure to Jesus. Serve Jesus by selflessly serving others. A pilgrim recently inspired this chaplain, to ask: If a given person's name was Jesus, would I still treat him/her the same way? Serve anew.

True Love: Jesus now asks St Peter three times, Do you love me". The Greek words for love, found in this three-fold text, are: phileo-which means brotherly love, and agapeo-meaning sacrificial love of God and neighbor. This is the highest form of love. Most of our love is self-interested-"What is in it for me?" Jesus shows us the way of true love by sacrificing His very life for us-even though we were, are sinners (Rm 3:23). How can you sacrifice more-give up self, selfishness, self -interest, by your spiritual disciplines of Eucharist, Bible meditation and imitating the saints? How can you sacrifice and serve in your marriage, your church? In your school or community?

Petrine Ministry: Vatican Council I (1869-70) defined the verses "Feed/tend My sheep" as Christ giving governance to St. Peter over the other Apostles (his name heads the list of apostles and is mentioned twice as many as the other apostles combined). St Peter's legacy, and Jesus' Church, remains to this day, thru Pope John Paul II-and us! Jesus prophesied that St Peter would die a martyr's death. Martyr means "to witness." Will you?

Jesus says: "Follow Me". It's that simple. How will you suffer for Him, worship and serve Him? Suffering stretches the soul. Saluting God sanctifies the soul. Serving selflessly liberates the soul. Remember, Easter is not only a past event, it is a present Reality-whenever you call His presence.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi