The 6th Sunday of Easter
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8, 14-17
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20
Second Reading: 1st Letter of St. Peter 3:15-18
Gospel: According to St. John 14:15-21
I remember being told in a theology class in college that God did not become man, so that man would become a theologian. Part of the goodness of the Good News is the fact that it is a relatively simple program to achieve happiness – both here and eternally. If, as He proclaimed, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then all we need to do is to adhere to that Way, that Truth, and that Life, and all will be well.
So when the Way, the Truth, and the Life tells His disciples the formula for showing their love for Him, Jesus gives them nothing complicated, esoteric, or earth-shattering – He gives them just one rule: keep My commandments. These commandments can be summarized in two simple phrases: Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself. Just as the history of philosophy is merely a footnote to Socrates, so is all of moral theology a footnote to the Greatest Commandment.
To love God above all things is simply to align oneself with the Logos, the order of reality. One of the great things about having an alphabet with letters in a specific order is that when we open a dictionary, we can easily find the definition we seek. A dictionary fits the logos or order of the alphabet. The order of the universe tells us that the Orderer of the universe is above all else – the Creator is greater than the creation. Whenever we put anything above God – wealth, pleasure, power, and honor being the four general types – we serve that thing as if it were God.
So how do we put God above all things? First and foremost, by loving Him. How do we love Him? By following His commandments, by putting what He tells us is best for us above what we think is best for us. Also, by trusting even when what He tells us is best for us seems so out of touch with what we think is best for us.
To look at the heart of Jesus’ message – the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes – and to believe that following those statements will bring us happiness (literally, “beatitude”) takes an incredible amount of trust. To turn the other cheek, to love our enemy, to pray for our persecutor – these are the hardest things in the world to do, not only because they go against the grain of how we are taught to act but because they seem to allow the bad guys to win, and not only to win but to flourish.
Fortunately, we have an unavoidable reminder, yet constantly ignored: the Lord’s Prayer. After years of anecdotal research, I have come to the conclusion that pretty much everyone at Mass, even those who would never sing and who stay mute during the Gloria, the Creed, and all of the other common prayers of the Liturgy, will recite the Our Father.
This prayer, taught to us by the Way, the Truth, and the Life, includes words that challenge us to trust that which we naturally seem to balk at. Also problematic is that the words often come out of our mouths without ever making their way to our heads or hearts.
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Twelve simple words that are the heart and soul of the Way, the Truth and the Life, of the Good News, of the Logos, of Jesus the Messiah and Savior of the Universe.
The most common prayer in Christendom, the prayer that we all know and that we all repeat maybe on a daily basis, is meant to help us to always remember that if we forgive those who trespass against us, then we are following the commandment of Christ. And when we follow the commandment of Christ, we show our love for Him. It is only in this love that we can ever find true beatitude – and that is the reward for the good guys.