Monday June 9, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 1:1-7) Gospel (St. Mark 5:1-12)
Saint Paul, as he begins his Second Letter to the Corinthians which we heard this morning, begins in his usual way by greeting the people then immediately turns to the suffering of Christ and begins to talk about the encouragement which comes from God, but the encouragement which allows one to be able to suffer with Christ. He tells us that as the suffering of Christ overflows into us, so the encouragement in Christ overflows into us.
The importance of this for us is to recognize that if we want to be able to share in the joy and the encouragement, in the mercy of God, we need to be willing to share in the suffering of Christ. This is not an easy thing for us. Most of us like the happy part – we do not like the suffering part. But it is interesting that Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that when we are persecuted and slandered and all these bad things happen to us, to rejoice. If you read every one of the saints, if you read every one of the letters in the New Testament, when they talk about suffering, they say, “Rejoice!”
Now most of us rejoice in the consolations that come in prayer, and the last thing we want to do is rejoice in the suffering that comes our way. But Jesus Himself tells us to rejoice. All the apostles tell us to rejoice. And so you can see the apostles understood that the encouragement that comes in Christ comes only when they share in the suffering of Christ. It is then that they recognized they were really united with Christ. For instance, as Saint Ignatius was on his way to martyrdom, he said, “Now I can finally begin to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ,” only because he was going to be martyred for Christ. That was the way he understood it.
We think we can be disciples of Christ by living an easy life, by loading up on all kinds of worldly pleasures, by running away from the Cross and having this “saccharine Jesus” that does not exist, but in our imagination to be able to talk about all the consolations and all the ease, the “Gospel of Health and Wealth” as they call it: Everything should be easy and fun because that is the way Jesus is. That is not the way Jesus is, and it is not what He tells us will be. Again, all we have to do is read the Gospels once and it would be very evident that is not the case. Our Lord tells us that in the world we will have trouble. He tells us we will be hated. He tells us we will be rejected and some will even be killed. This is not the Gospel of Health and Wealth. Jesus never preached that, neither did any of the apostles. That is a false notion which has come from non-Catholic sources. Sadly, Catholics have been affected by this.
The Lord told us we are blessed not because we have it easy, not because we are wealthy, not because we have no suffering, but exactly the opposite: Blessed are the sorrowing; blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn. All of the blessings the Lord gives are to the suffering. “And blessed are you when they persecute you and slander you and accuse you falsely because of Me. Rejoice and be glad,” He says. That is the encouragement that comes from Christ. As we are willing to share in the suffering of Christ, so we will share in the encouragement, Saint Paul says. We will not have the encouragement of Christ if we are not willing to share in the Cross; they go hand in hand. We think that we can have the happy part without the struggle, and Jesus tells us there is no true joy without the Cross. That does not fit our American mold. It does not fit a non-Catholic way of thinking – so it is time that we stop being non-Catholic and start thinking with the mind of Jesus Christ, with the mind of His apostles, and with the mind of His Church, and rejoice in the measure in which we share in the suffering of Christ. For as the suffering of Christ overflows to us, so too does the encouragement in Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.