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4/24/16 Fifth Sunday of Easter - Fr. Reggie

The Church, like a good mother, is very wise. She gives us a full seven weeks of Easter Season. We need this extended time to reflect on those lessons Christ taught us in his passion and resurrection. Plants have to spend time outside to gradually absorb the sunlight and transform it into nutrients. Just so, our souls have to spend time basking in the light of Christ's revelation, so that we can absorb the grace God wants to give us.

Today especially, we are reminded of the fundamental pattern of Christian life: Cross and Resurrection.

We have seen this theme frequently in recent weeks, but God wants us to look at itagain.

St Luke, the author of the First Reading from the Book of Acts, summarizes the preaching of Paul and Barnabas in one sentence.  'They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.'" In other words, only through the Cross can we reach the Resurrection; only through self-sacrificing love can we experience true Christian joy.

St John in the Second Reading gives us the same message from the other direction.  He paints a picture of heaven, where the saints live in perfect communion with God. The main characteristic of that life is that God "will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away." The old order - that's our order. That's our life here and now in the pilgrim Church on earth. It will pass away; it won't always be like this. But for the time being, it's full of wailing and weeping, mourning and pain.

Why is this the case? 

Why did Christ have to suffer before he could be resurrected? 

Why is it that it is necessary to undergo hardships in order to enter into Christ's Kingdom?

There are many reasons. 

I would like to mention two, because the better we understand the "why", the more courageously and lovingly we will be able to endure the "what".

One reason has to do with the nature of the battle we are fighting. We are in the middle of spiritual warfare, as Jesus' many references to the devil make clear. The devil tempted Jesus and caused him suffering. The devil tempted Judas and engineered the pain of the Passion. St Paul describes how one of Satan's demons constantly buffeted him, no matter how hard he prayed for deliverance. In our modern society, so confident in science and devoted to technological self-sufficiency, we can too easily forget this dimension of our spiritual lives. When we strive to live as Christ wants us to livethe devil doesn't like it, and he tries to interfere. He prefers us to be lazy, self-centered, and focused on mere worldly success.

Another reason that we only get to the Light through the Cross is that we have been seriously injured by original sin. Baptism was like reconstructive surgery on our souls. Our earthly lives are like spiritual rehabilitation, which is getting us back in good enough shape for heaven. Rehabilitation is always painful and time-consuming. The same goes for our spiritual lives. Learning to live the way we were created to live - focused on loving God and neighbor, not self - is hard work. We have to strain ourselves and persevere.


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