Heroic Faith

4.11.18  Wed.  2nd wk of Easter  (II)

Acts of Apostles  5:  17 – 26

Gospel  of  John  3:  16 – 21

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.  And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.  But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.              The Gospel of the Lord.


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                                    Heroic Faith

†Jesus said in the Gospel: “Whoever believes in Him (the only begotten Son of God) will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe – has already been condemned”. (Jn.3:18)  I was recently reading an article that stated that more young people today claim to be atheists or agnostic than at any time in our history, and the number is growing.  Part of the reason – I think is – it is very fashionable for them.  Youth, with their tender self-images want to fit in and be accepted, and they believe this is a way to be accepted – to be edgy – to be rebellious.

But so many of our Christian ancestors chose death rather than forsake the teachings of †Jesus.  We won’t find that a lot today in our culture, at least in the American culture.   We know that in some parts of the world people are giving their lives for their faith.

Today’s saint – Stanislaus – was one of those heroic people of the past; he was an outspoken Bishop who lived in the 11th century in Poland.  He was a popular spiritual director, a powerful preacher, and he was not afraid to speak truth to power.  He had a conflict with the King of Poland.  The King kidnapped the wife of another man.  Bishop Stanislaus publicly came out against this, but the king did not change, so Stanislaus excommunicated the king.  The king didn’t like that at all; and he sent his troops to find Stanislaus.  They found him in a small chapel celebrating mass and the king ordered his troops to kill Stanislaus, but they wouldn’t do it because they recognized that the Bishop was a holy man.  So the king himself took out his own sword and killed Stanislaus. This was a very holy Bishop who defied the power of the culture in order to proclaim the truth.  He was an example of what it means to truly love †Jesus and to be selfless in his faith.

The apostles in our First Reading were put into prison for proclaiming their faith and most of them would later be martyred.  From the beginning of Christianity, many people were willing to sacrifice themselves out love for the truth.  †Jesus has asked us to do the same, out of love for one another – just as He did.

Pope Francis, on Monday, published his new ‘Apostolic Exhortation on Holiness’.  It begins with these words: “‘Rejoice and be glad’!  †Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for His sake” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 1) “Rejoice and be glad”!  This is the attitude that we should have when we face an increasingly secular world and persecutions for our faith – those who ridicule, criticize or laugh at us because of our faith.  We should rejoice and be glad!  The Holy Father continues: “(†Jesus) wants us to be saints and not settle for a bland and mediocre existence”. (ibid)

As in today’s reading – the call to holiness is found throughout the Scriptures.  In choosing to live by faith and the Word of God – we will face persecution, we will face ridicule, and some of us will face death – and we should rejoice and be glad.

“Rejoice and Be Glad”! (Matt, 5:12) These words of †Jesus come at the very end of the Beatitudes in chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel from the Sermon on the Mount.   The Beatitudes describe the attitude of saints.  Here’s what †Jesus said: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you, and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven”. (Matt.5:11-12)  Hopefully, in the future, we can provide a better example for our young people, and example of selfless holiness.

On this past Sunday we celebrated the ‘Divine Mercy of †Jesus’, who not only taught but lived by this truth: “There is no greater love than this – than to lay down your life for another”. (Jn. 15:13)  The greatest love is manifested by what it costs the giver – the degree of the sacrifice.  †Jesus gave all He had – and He gave His life as a model for us to follow.  True lovers never hold back anything – they give the best they can offer.

In today’s Gospel passage – it begins with what God offers: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but might have eternal life”. (John 3:16)  The Father gave the best He had – He gave His only Son.  Why did He do this for us?   St. Augustine proposed a reason when he wrote:

“God loves each one of us as if – there were only one of us to love”.

I wonder if our generation (I’m talking to the older folks here) has not given the right example to the younger generations.  Often our tepid faith has not inspired young people – as the faith of the first Christians did, that first generation of Christians – who were willing to die for their faith and many did just that.

In his Exhortation – Pope Francis calls us to look to ‘our call to holiness – again’, and to live it out in our time – “With all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen us to be holy and blameless before Him – in love. (Eph. 1:4)” (Gaudete et Exsultate,2)

     In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.