Pastor Column, Third Sunday of Easter: May 5, 2019
Msgr. Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish
Here we are in the midst of our annual celebration of Easter and all joys that accompany the Resurrection, yet the Sacred texts for today’s readings remind us of the suffering that is our lot as believers in Jesus Christ. How bittersweet that realization seems just three weeks into the Easter season. The first reading narrates the experience of Peter and company, forced to appear before the Sanhedrin and warned of the consequences that would come their way if they did not stop teaching in the name of Jesus. This does not deter the apostles, however. Emboldened by God’s Spirit, they unreservedly dared to testify to the Good News even before their interrogators.
The theme of glory, tempered by suffering, also pervades the second reading from Revelation. In the text, a vision offers a glimpse of eternity where there is great rejoicing at the victory Jesus won over sin and death. Yet, at the very center of the celebration is a slain Lamb. The point is that suffering is affirmed as the path one will have to travel to glory. Only after He suffered and died did Jesus, the new Passover lamb, effect His own (and our) Passover from death to life. We should not be surprised, then, that a similar itinerary is proposed for all Christian believers, especially you and me. Even in the gospel, there is a sense of sorrow that seems to me to be unwelcome at Easter time. Despite the emphasis on the willingness and love of Jesus to take Peter back after the apostle’s betrayals, Luke offers a sobering reminder that Peter, along with all who would love and feed Jesus’ sheep, will also know the struggles that are a part of believing. It is disconcerting that accomplishing God’s purposes involves – more often than not – embracing suffering.
That is one of the reasons why the cross looms so largely at every celebration of salvation. In the cross at Calvary where Jesus died, all evil and all pain came together in one place, in one person. In all its contradiction, the Cross can be understood as Jesus’ final great act of love. The climax of all Jesus’ loving words and works of ministry was achieved on the Cross. Life met death, suffering met glory, and struggle met hope. While the entire Church rejoices during the Easter season in Christ’s rising from the dead, we are never far from the realities of suffering in our own world. Thankfully we do not deal with the struggles with just our own strength, but with presence of Jesus with us, whom we believe is our crucified Savior. His suffering on the Cross is the clearest and surest window through which we are able to perceive the heart, the character, and the depth of God’s love!