Saturday in the Seventh Week of Easter

Scripture Readings: Acts 28:16-20, 30-31;  Jn 21:20-26

My two favorite seasons of the liturgical year are Lent and Easter. Today, they come to an end for this year. Simone Weil has said that if you want to know a person intimately, ask them “What have you been through?” They will describe the Paschal Mystery; the Lent and Easter of their life. They will describe their struggles with the three tasks in life: what to believe, how to behave, and what to care about. They will say that their Lent and Easter have been a discovery and a honing of what they care about. Because of the importance of what we care about, we can amend Simone Weil’s question and ask “What have you been through …and for the sake of what?”  For God’s sake let’s answer that question!

Jesus’ last words in John’s gospel are “You follow me.”  We follow Christ exactly to the extent that we experience God the way He experienced God. Jesus experienced Him as ultimate. He experienced the Father so much so that Jesus changed Himself to suit the Father. In short, the intrinsic goodness of the Father did not merely interest, or attract, or tickle Him; it obligated Him. 

We follow Christ in response to a call, a vocation.  Michael Casey, in an excellent article in the new issue of Tjurunga (Vol. 89, 2017, pp 5-24), writes that in the Prologue to our Rule a vocation is a call to sustained action in a way of life that strives to do good and avoid evil. It calls for our listening, fulfilling, obeying, and renouncing among other courses of action. Because of “what we have been through”—inclinations to self-seeking—Benedict prescribes these courses to which we obligate ourselves ‘for the sake of” what we really care about.

What we really care about is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is one of the decisive capacities of our being human that we can know what is good in itself. Thus we can know not what merely attracts our attention, but what deserves it.

The experience of Him that we take from Jesus is love. It is seeking His good and that of those made in His image and likeness and seeking it for their own sake. It calls for total unselfishness. We’re not capable of that. We need liberation from the bondage of self. The bondage of self is enslavement to the merely satisfying, the merely agreeable. In other words, to follow Christ in His experience of the Father we need mercy. Casey defines mercy as “that quality in God by which the effects of human sinfulness are negated.”  So what have we been throughWe’ve been through the Lenten-Easter journey of becoming de-illusioned with the merely agreeable, the things that wear off. For the sake of what? For the sake of what is ultimately important in itself. Thus we follow Jesus’ experience of the Father; we love Him not for a personal benefit, but for His own sake.  Yet we do get a great benefit; we get to give our life to loving what we can never lack when we love it.