In our gospel we heard, “Thus it is written that Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” There are many accounts of Jesus telling the apostles that he must return to the Father, and then he plainly tells them how the chief priests and rulers of the Jews would deliver him up to death and that he would rise from the grave. Yet we see the apostles become afraid and lose their composure when he was put to death, and they were surprised when he rose on the third day. They failed to believe Jesus because they heard his words but did not comprehend the meaning. They still thought he was to be the Jewish Messiah, the one to make Israel great. Listen to the question the apostles asked Jesus in our first reading, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?”
We need to listen to Christ’s words lest we make the mistake of hearing his teaching with the mind while in our hearts we fail to comprehend the meaning. Jesus had one mission while on earth, to reveal the mercy and love his Father has for us His children on earth. It is a fact that God loves us, his sons and daughters.
Listen to this story about a first grader. A first grader arrived for class an hour late. The teacher asked him why he was so late. “Well teacher,” he said, “I had to say goodbye to my pets.” The teacher frowned. “That shouldn’t have taken you an hour.” “Well,” the young boy explained, “I have a very large ant farm.”
You can see how the first grader answered the teacher’s question with such simplicity and humility. We also can see that he had a deep care for his pets, he treasured them. As he grows to maturity, and deepens that desire for the good of others, he also grows in his understanding of love. Jesus calls us to develop that same kind of spiritual simplicity of an easy believing and fully trusting little one.
Why do we lose that spiritual simplicity as we grow? Our culture teaches us not to be trusting of each other, because there are individuals who would take advantage of us. Yet the Lord said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another”, he added immediately: “Just as I have loved you.” Dear friends, we must consider this very carefully, Paraphrasing Pope Gregory the Great. Our neighbor may be plotting to take away the very things we love. Our earthly reputation, our earthly possessions, he wants to destroy our lives. When this happens, we are set on fire with hatred, we want to prevent, stop, or correct it. Inwardly we are gravely hurt. Everyone who takes away our possessions is an enemy. But if we begin to hate our enemy, we lose an internal peace, so when we suffer something external from a neighbor, we must guard against a hidden revenge within. The best way to handle it is to love the one who ravages us from the outside. The highest proof of love is this, to love the person who is against us. This is why Jesus, Truth exemplified, bore the suffering on the cross and yet bestowed his love on his persecutors, saying: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
How can we do that? Pope Benedict said, “We must develop a longing for God.” Blasé Pascal a French philosopher said, “Human beings must be known to be loved; but divine beings must be loved to be known.” I interpret it to mean Love God and get to know your neighbor.
In Luke Chapter 10 we read; “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” he said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” Followers of Christ are required to manifest their love of God through mercy and compassion toward all people even enemies. That means “You shall worship the Lord your God and only him shall you serve.”
Lord Jesus, fill us with the spirit of Truth so as to live a life of praise and thanksgiving for your glory. May we witness to those around us the joy of the Gospel and the reality of your great message to love God and our brothers and sisters here on earth. We pray.