Sunday, April 29, 2012

Third Sunday after Easter

1 Peter 2:11-19 / John 16:16-22

What counts as happiness? In the light of Jesus Christ risen from the dead, what ought we to expect from Christian living in the world?

We might easily imagine that our hope, our joy in Christ's victory over sin and death would be grounded in a manifest transformation of the conditions in the world. We might well hope that that Messianic vision foretold by the prophets, a world characterized by peace and plenty, in which those who had suffered before are raised up, while those who had lived off of the dignity of other persons, making these others to be alienated from their humanity while perverting their own, will be laid low. However, as much as we might expect such a world to issue forth from the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, such is not the case. We need only look at the news, or in our neighborhoods, or within our household, or even within our own lives, to see that, however defeated it may be, the world remains a powerful force in the lives of all, believer and unbeliever alike.

While for some this might count against confidence in the truth of the Gospel, Jesus anticipated this worry, and he offered his apostles, and through them offered us, another way to understand the life of faith in the world. Suffering, he suggests, while not to be desired of itself, is not incompatible with joy, any more than the pregnant women regrets her giving birth to a child when the time is come, even though willing the child's birth means necessarily willing the pain, and indeed the risk to her life and the life of her child, that every pregnancy, no matter how well monitored, always entails. Even so, for all of the pain, the blood, sweat, tearing, agony, and exhaustion, no mother who sees the world rightly can call this anything but happiness, for joy that a man is born into the world.

This is also why, however much it is right that Christians, especially those who have political voice in their societies, seek to bring the secular order in line with that good which is possible by human natural effort and open to that good which comes from a free embrace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we need not see our limitation, exclusion, or even marginalization in political discourse as a sign of defeat. This political anguish is no more cause to behave poorly in our private and public lives, no more reason to give up our commitment to be leaven in the societies in which we live, than the risk and pain of childbirth is cause for mothers to reject the children in their wombs. It is in our unshakable confidence in the victory of the risen Lord that we can, even in the face of social or political defeat, nonetheless continue to act so blamelessly before the world that we may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men and that, in light of our faithful witness to the joy of the Gospel, they may, by the good works which they behold in us, glorify God in the day of visitation.

We are, brothers and sisters, on the side of victory, and Christ's victory marks every part in our life, even our sufferings and defeats in this vale of tears, with the same unconquerable joy that the apostles found in the risen Lord. So also you now indeed have sorrow: but I will see you again and your heart shall rejoice: and your joy no man shall take from you, says the Lord.

No comments: