Sunday, May 28, 2017

"I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD."


Homily for May 29th, 2017: John 16:29-33.

          “Take courage,” Jesus says. “I have overcome the world.” To understand these words we must know that in John’s gospel the word “world” is used in two senses: good and bad. When Jesus says, earlier in the gospel, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” [3:16] he is using the word in a good sense. He is speaking of the world as it comes from the hand of God, the world of God’s making. God must love that world, for he does not make anything that is not lovable.

          When he tells his friends to take courage because he has “overcome the world,” he is speaking not about the world of God’s making, but the world of human marring: the world deformed by human sin, centered not on God but on our own selfish desires, the world not of giving, but of getting.   

          “In the world you will have trouble,” Jesus says. Other translations say not trouble but “suffering” or “tribulation.” Can we Catholic Christians in the comfortable and rich country of the United States honestly claim to have trouble, suffering, and tribulation? If we refuse to abbreviate the gospel, yes we do. When we call the killing of unborn babies a grave crime, equivalent to murder, we are accused of “waging a war on women.” When we insist that marriage is only possible between one man and one woman; and that, once established, it can be terminated only by death, we are accused of “hate speech,” and vilified as homophobes and opponents of human equality.

The trouble and suffering of Christians worldwide is far greater. In his richly documented  book, The Global War on Christians, journalist John Allen writes: “We’re not talking about a metaphorical ‘war on religion’ in Europe and the United States fought over issues like whether it’s okay to erect a nativity set on the courthouse steps. We’re talking about a rising tide of legal oppression, social harassment and direct physical violence, with Christians as its leading victims. Christians today form the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often its new martyrs suffer in silence.”

Jesus speaks to us today the same words he spoke to the apostles at the Last Supper two thousand years ago: “In the world you will have suffering, but take courage. I have overcome the world.”