“Suffering has to come because if you look at the cross, He [Jesus] has his head bending down: He wants to kiss you, and He has both hands open wide: He wants to embrace you. He has His heart opened wide to receive you. Then when you feel miserable inside, look at the cross and you will know what is happening. Suffering, pain, sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that He can kiss you.” These words from St. Teresa of Calcutta, popularly known as Mother Teresa, I shared on Facebook four years ago to the day. These words are appropriate for our readings from Mass today.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (14:19-28), Paul, Barnabas, and other disciples of Christ proclaimed to the people of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” This happened after the townspeople stoned Paul and dragged him out of their cities, so Paul knew hardships. Why is it necessary to undergo hardships to enter the Kingdom of God? We should examine what precisely is the Kingdom of God. The word “kingdom” comes from the Greek word “basilea”—notice the connection to the word “basilica”—which is can be translated as “royal nature,” or “royalness.” God wants us to enter into His royal nature, to be like Him. In Christ Crucified, the royal nature of God is revealed: humble, vulnerable, suffering out of love for others. To live this royal nature of God presents hardships: to love others completely leaves us helpless and vulnerable.
This leads us to Jesus' words in the gospel reading (John 14:27-31): “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” The peace of Christ is different from the peace of the world. The peace of the world often implies an avoidance of difficulties and an absence of conflict, usually brought about through might, force, or coercion. The peace of Christ is not that at all, especially as He reminds us in the Beatitudes that peacemakers are blessed. What is the peace of Christ? It is the reconciliation of opponents; it is the union of two parties, and Jesus Christ—true God and true man—reconciled humanity and divinity, heaven and earth. He made possible the union of God and humanity. How did He bring about this peace? Not through force, but through suffering, humility, vulnerability, helplessness, and sacrificial love.
Let us echo and imitate the words of today's responsorial psalm: “Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.”
Fr. Matthew Frisbee
2600 Lexington Ave.
Mansfield, OH 44904
St. Mary of the Snows Parish,
1630 Ashland Rd.
Mansfield, OH 44905