Fourth Sunday of Easter
(Click here for readings)
Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.”
Peter stood up and raised his voice. So much of what we say and do depends on what we are living. What I have seen and heard with my own eyes and ears is that the darkest moments often create some of our greatest heroes. They may have always had greatness in them, but it was tragedy or defeat that brought greatness out of them. Ulysses S. Grant became a brilliant commander only after he was forced to. Boston only became “Boston Strong” when faced with a terrorist attack. It’s hard to believe but even harder to doubt that barbaric attacks often produce uplifting people and speeches, and release the chains of fear that grip and silence many of us. As I was preparing for today’s homily, a priest of days gone by came to mind.
The moment has arrived. During the late evening of June 25th, 1954, Monsignor Juan Suciu, the Apostolic Administrator to Romania, was called into the headquarters of the Communist Party’s main office in Bucharest. He was given an ultimatum. Either the Church must separate from Rome and the Holy Father, or its very existence would be threatened.
The next morning Monsignor Juan Suciu, speaking on behalf of the Holy Father, asked all the Churches throughout Romania to deliver this message. He personally delivered his homily in Bucharest’s Cathedral. A short time later, he was reported missing. It is believed he was killed by the secret police.
To this day, his body has never been located.
These are the words that cost the life of Monsignor Juan Suciu.
The moment has arrived, the night of Holy Friday has descended on our Romanian Church in communion with Rome. Now dear brothers, we will demonstrate weather or not we belong to Christ or to Judas, the traitor.
At last, Christ has allowed us to participate in his sacrifice for his Church. Blessed are we if persecuted in his name. Blessed are we if beaten for his Church. Praised be God forever.
Never let your enemies fool you by their words, or committees, or bulletins, or any lie. Be strong! Stand firm. Be steady in your faith. Stand firm if they ask you to renounce the faith of our forefathers.
Yes, they will threaten us, beat us and condemn us. Don’t be afraid! God will be with you and he will not let them tempt you beyond your strength. The world is watching us. Our moment has arrived.
Their exists but one Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ and one flock, his Church, built on the Rock of Peter, the fisherman. The force of the current and the suddenness of the storm pounds against the ship of the Church.
Do not abandon ship, because you will succumb to the storm!
In contrary, our ship, the ship of the Church, will never sink.
And if another ship, another Church, asks you to jump to theirs, you should answer: “My ship will never sink because the gates of hell will never prevail. I will not abandon ship because I do not trust you. You are a pirate, lost in sea, who will never reach the port of salvation.”
Dear brothers, we are the witnesses to our faith, children of the Church of Christ in our beloved land and not children of Judas! By our suffering and wounds we will bury our sins and entomb the enemies of our faith. Fight the good fight for the faith, even as they arrest and chain you, just as so many millions of martyrs have suffered before us.
Entering through the Gate. What does this Gospel passage mean? It can only mean one thing: there are no short cuts to heaven. “I never harmed anyone” is a short cut and no longer good enough for paradise. Jesus is the new normal, the narrow Gate. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life of our existence and of our salvation. Only by following Him may I pass through the narrow gate to heaven.
So it is no coincidence that the greatest man in the world spent the greatest amount of time with the lowliest of creatures. It had to be this way, this narrow minded way. “Boston Strong” is only true because of how the city endured hardship and suffering. “Jesus Strong” is only true because of how the Lord endured tremendous suffering for us. As St. Peter states: “When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly…By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (1Pt 2:24-25).
If tragedy opens the gates to bravery, then faith opens the gates to love and forgiveness.
The Lord stood out when he stood up to the Pharisees and Romans, and stood with the frail and broken hearted. His reputation only grew when he ate with sinners. His fame spread life wild fire when he healed the broken hearted. His appeal blew off the gates of hell when he forgave sinners.
There comes a time in our lives when we need to stand up and stand out. Our time has arrived. Holy Friday has descended upon us. Christians all over the world, especially in the United States, face ridicule, rejection and retaliation. Now is the time to be “Christian Strong!” There are no shortcuts. There are no easy ways. Only steadfast fidelity to Jesus points the Way to love and forgiveness.
This is more than a duty. It is more than a career. It is a vocation.
The tragic realities behind “Boston Strong” are no different in substance to the realities contained in “Christian Strong,” which finds its depth and width in “Jesus Strong.”
Be Strong! Be Jesus Strong!
P.S. I would be amiss if I did not mention, in a very special way, the relevance of today’s readings to all our moms this Mother’s Day. Day in and day out they imitate the Lord’s love and fidelity. When insulted, they return no insult; when they suffer, they do not threaten; instead, they continue to give and forgive. Those who persevere till the very end deserve the title “Mothers Strong” which is the same as saying “Mary Strong” which is the same as saying “Jesus Strong.” They are all related. (0)
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