After Jesus had been taken up to heaven the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
1) The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?
The Lord is my life's refuge; of whom should I be afraid? (Refrain:)
2) One thing I ask of the Lord; this l seek:
To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate his temple. (Refrain:)
3) Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me.
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks. (Refrain:)
Beloved: Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
In our second reading from the first letter of St. Peter and in today's gospel passage, there is one word that appears nine separate times. That word is "glory". Webster's dictionary states that glory means "praise, honor or a distinction extended by common consent; renown; the splendor and beatific happiness of heaven; eternity". In turn, "honor" means "a good name or public esteem; reputation". It also means "respect and esteem shown to another", as in "honor your father and your mother". An honor can also be an award for meritorious achievement, which we will see later.
Now what does our gospel passage tell us about glory? First of all, glory is achieved only through suffering. Christ is fully aware as he speaks the words in today's gospel that the only way to glory is through the cross. Peter expounds on this further when he says "Happy are you when you are insulted (i.e., suffer) for the sake of Christ, for then God's Spirit in its glory has come to rest on you". In Peter's view, persecution and suffering are inevitable in the course of any life here on earth. It is part of human nature that as soon as we are different from others in any way, then we will be picked on, poked fun at, ridiculed and otherwise put down because of the perceived threat that we pose to others. Take the following story for example:
- Jackie Robinson made history when he became the first black baseball player to break into the major leagues by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers at that time, told Robinson, "It'll be tough. You're going to take abuse you never dreamed of. But if you're willing to try, I'll back you all the way." And Rickey was right. Jackie was abused verbally (not to mention physically by runners coming into second base). Racial slurs from the crowd and members of his own team, as well as from opponents, were standard fare. One day, Robinson was having it particularly tough. He had booted two ground balls, and the boos were cascading over the diamond. In full view of thousands of spectators, Pee Wee Reese, the team captain and Dodger shortstop, walked over and put his arm around Jackie right in the middle of the game. "That may have saved my career," Robinson reflected later. (1)
Jackie was willing to put up with all of the abuse because he knew that what he was doing was the right thing to do. And his courageous act elicited another courageous act from Reese, who showed by his action that he supported Robinson in no uncertain terms during this difficult time.
But there is more: suffering and persecution will test our mettle. Robinson's convictions were tested "in the heat of battle", as it were, and he was found worthy. By not giving up and by honoring his commitment to the end, he showed beyond a doubt the stuff that he was made of. And if we take this dedication to its logical conclusion, many times persecution will lead to death, as evidenced by the many martyrs who have died for their faith, including this one.
- He was born in 1894 in Poland. When he was only 12, the Virgin Mary appeared to him and offered him a choice of the graces of virginity or martyrdom. In his zeal, he asked for both and thereafter was filled with a great love of Mary Immaculate. In 1910 he entered the Franciscan Order and in 1917 founded the Sodality of the Militia of the Immaculate whose members consecrated themselves to the Virgin Mary. The success of the Militia eventually led to the founding of a friary near Warsaw whose purpose was to promote the Militia even further through the mass media. He would eventually found two more monasteries in Japan and India.
When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, he was taken prisoner but was eventually released. In February 1941, he was arrested once again and sent the Pawiak prison in Warsaw and was singled out for special ill-treatment. A witness tells that in March of that year an SS guard, seeing this man in a Franciscan habit girdled with a rosary asked if he believed in Christ. When the priest replied "I do" the guard struck him. The SS guard repeated the question several times, and, always receiving the same answer, went on beating him mercilessly until he passed out.
In May, he and four companions were deported to Auschwitz where he was put into forced labor. Despite having lost a lung to tuberculosis when he was only 25, he accepted the hard work with heavy stones and tree trunks without complaining. One day, he was kicked, punched and whipped so severely that he had to be taken to the camp hospital. Although he was suffering greatly, he secretly heard confessions in the hospital and spoke to other inmates about the love of God.
Prisoners at Auschwitz were slowly and systematically starved, and when food was brought, everyone struggled to get his place and be sure of a portion. This priest, however, stood aside in spite of the ravages of starvation, and frequently there would be none left for him. At other times he shared his meager ration of soup or bread with others.
Near the end of July, a prisoner apparently escaped, and men from his bunker were paraded out in the courtyard, knowing full well that for every one who escaped, ten would die. They were selected at random, including a sergeant, Francis Gajowniczek. When he cried out in a despairing voice, "My wife, my children, I shall never see them again!" this priest stepped out from the ranks and offered to take Gajowniczek's place.
"Who are you?" the SS man asked carelessly.
"I am a Catholic priest. I wish to die for that man. I am old; he has a wife and children."
He and the nine others were led off to the death chamber of Cell 18. The dreadful irony of the situation is that the escaped prisoner was later found drowned in a camp latrine, so the terrible reprisals had been exercised without cause. As reported by an eyewitness, while he was slowly being starved to death, he led all of the condemned men in daily prayers. One by one, the others died, leaving only four alive. Of the four, only this priest was fully conscious. Since he was taking so long to die and the cells were needed for new victims, he was given an injection of poison, which he accepted with a prayer on his lips. When the eyewitness returned, he found the man with open eyes and his head drooping sideways, but his face was calm and radiant.
The priest was, of course, St. Maximilian Kolbe. He proved the depth of his love for Christ by willingly dying in another man's place. As the ultimate test for a follower of Christ, he applied devoutly and ultimately Christ's words: "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13).
There is another point which needs to be mentioned about glory: it is only in death that the great ones come into their glory. Because of what he endured, because he opened the door for all African Americans who would come after him, as well as because of all that he accomplished on the baseball diamond, Jackie Robinson was ultimately enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. And here is what has been said about Fr. Kolbe:
- So it was as a Catholic priest that St. Maximilian accompanied his wretched flock of nine men condemned to death. It was not a question of saving the life of the tenth man - he wanted to help those nine to die with dignity. From the moment the dreadful door clanged shut on the condemned men, he took charge of them, and not just them but others who were dying of hunger in cells nearby, and whose demented cries caused anyone who approached to shudder. It is a fact that from the moment he came into their midst, those wretched people felt a protective presence, and suddenly their cells, in which they awaited their final end, resounded with hymns and prayers. The SS themselves were astounded: "We never saw anything like it before," they said.
Kolbe gave witness to his love of God by all that he said and did and ultimately, through his death. In our own lives, we are called upon to give witness to our beliefs by what we say and do. Of course, when we suffer insults or risk criticism by taking a stand, just as Jackie Robinson did, then we are following in the footsteps of Christ who himself threatened the establishment so much that they put him to death.
So it is that glory only comes through suffering, suffering which tests the depth of our faith and which can sometimes cost us our lives. But there is one final point which must be noted here: glory or honor is not something that one takes on oneself. In our gospel passage today, our Lord prayed to the Father: "Give glory to your Son that your Son may give glory to you". Glory was something which was given to the Father by the Son and by the Father to the Son. Likewise, for us, it is either something that we confer on others or something that they confer on us. Several years ago now, I attended our daughter's graduation ceremony from college. Several honorary degrees were awarded and the graduates who had been excellent students were acknowledged for their achievements either "with praise, with great praise or with the highest praise". Their degrees had to be conferred on them by the president of the college. They could not take a degree for themselves without passing a rigorous course of study.
For us, lasting glory is not something that we will achieve in this world. By our actions, by our commitment to our faith, we will achieve it in the next. It will be a glory conferred on us by none other than Christ himself when he says "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master."
1. Take a Stand, excerpted from The Double Win, copyright 1985 by Denis Waitley. Denis is a well-known author and lecturer who may be contacted at 1-800-WAITLEY. Or, for more information, please visit his website at http://www.waitley.com. Reprinted with his permission from Chicken Soup for the Soul At Work, copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Maida Rogerson, Martin Rutte and Tim Clauss, pp. 271-272. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.
2. For the full life story of St. Maximilian Kolbe, please visit any of the following sites:
(Copyright 2017 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friend noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com )
May 24, 2020
Lord Jesus, you became one like us to teach us about the Father's love for us. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you became one like us to bestow eternal life on all of those who believe in you. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you became one like us to give glory to you Father's name. Lord, have mercy.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, lead us to life".
That the leaders of the church will follow the example of the apostles and devote themselves to constant prayer, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will do all in their power to seek peace and not war, we pray to the Lord.
That the elderly, the sick and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will come to know the power of prayer, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
That the glory of Christ may be revealed in our witness to the gospel of peace and justice, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, hear the prayers of your faithful gathered here together in the name of your Son. Grant us the grace of your Spirit so that every work we undertake may be to your greater glory as we await the fulfillment of eternal life which his death earned for us. We ask this in the name of Christ, our Lord. Amen.