4th Sunday after Easter
In today’s Gospel, Our blessed Lord declares to the apostles who are sad of His imminent departure that it is expedient for Him to go so that the Holy Spirit may come. When He comes, He adds, He will convict the world of sin, of justice and of judgment. This triple conviction by the Holy Spirit englobes the entirety of humanity and its history. Indeed, the conviction of sin for refusal of belief tells us that if our salvation comes through faith in the one Saviour, refusal to believe in Him is indeed a grievous sin. This is particularly relevant for our day in which many make up their own rules, their own laws, their own religion and declare themselves to be sincere. The Holy Spirit convicts such people in their heart that there is no salvation in any other but in Jesus Christ and in humble submission to His sweet yoke, and that one cannot be sincere if one refuses to listen to the One God has sent into the world. As St John tells us at the end of the third chapter of his Gospel: He that believeth in the Son hath life everlasting: but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him (Jn 3:36).
The conviction of justice means that Christ Our Lord has wrought our salvation and is now at the right hand of the Father, and hence, anyone who turns to Him with humble, loving faith, prepared to do all that is commanded, receives the very justification of God, is made holy, and will one day, if he is faithful, be admitted to a share in the eternal kingdom.
The conviction of judgment is that which has fallen on Satan and on all his consorts, all the evil spirits who shared his revolt, but also all human beings who definitively reject God’s offer of salvation in Jesus, and hence are cast into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
To summarise, with St Paul we can say that God included all under sin because of Adam’s sin, but He includes all under justice, offering to them the redemption wrought by His Son. The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise, by the faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to them that believe (Gal 3:22). As for those who do not turn to Jesus and believe in Him they will receive the same punishment as the apostate angels.
For those who do accept the message of salvation and are enlightened by Christ, it’s not over and done. There is work to do, and that work is to focus on reaching the heavenly goal. Today’s oration summarises this in such an admirable way, with yet another example of how the Roman liturgy forms our minds and hearts with few words of amazing concision: O God, who makest the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant to Thy people to love that which Thou commandest and desire that which Thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found.
This oration teaches us so many lessons, most importantly that true joys are not to be found here below but in eternity. Paschaltide is precisely that time of the year when it behooves us to turn our eyes towards the eternal kingdom, where Our Lord has gone to prepare a place for us. For each one of us, He is right now preparing a place, a place in which true and everlasting joy shall be ours. It is said that there is a special place in purgatory for those who, though dying in God’s grace, did not have a great enough desire for Heaven. It is indeed a sad thing to meet a person who, in spite of their many years and the approach of eternity, gives it no thought, seeking to delay it as much as possible, as if this life were all there were. Do we not see how such an attitude is grievous to the heart of God? He created us for Himself, He prepares a special place for us in His eternal kingdom, and here we are dallying among the shadows, the dullness, the transitoriness of the exile. The King is beckoning us to come home and we would prefer the exile! In the ten days that separate us now from the feast of Our Lord’s Ascension, let us strive to give joy to God by desiring Heaven more and more, and so that this might be the case, let our hearts be truly fixed where true joys are to be found.
How do we go about doing that? One of the most vital means is to love what God has commanded. It is actually the entire message of Psalm 118, the longest of the psalms, in which we repeat over and over again how much we long to know, to meditate and to live according to God’s commandments, for they are truly what give us life. As we progress in keeping and loving those commandments, we find ourselves desiring more and more the promises that God has attached to their practice.
It is precisely that that St Benedict seeks to portray at the end of chapter 7 of the Holy Rule, when he tells us that having climbed all the degrees of humility, “the monk will presently come to that perfect love of God which casts out all fear: whereby he will begin to observe without labour, as though naturally and by habit, all those precepts which formerly he did not observe without fear; no longer for fear of hell, but for love of Christ and through good habit and delight in virtue”.
To take delight in virtue, that is another way of saying that our hearts are fixed where true joys are to be found. May Mary Immaculate, Cause of our Joy, obtain for us that our hearts may be “enlarged and that we may run with unspeakable sweetness of love in the way of God’s commandments” (Rule, prologue).