Do Not be Afraid to Suffer
April 30, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tuesday of the fifth week of Easter
Reading (Acts 14:19-28) Gospel (St. John 14:27-31a)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, gives to us His peace and then tells us, "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." Those are words that we need to make sure get sunk deep into our hearts and into our minds. "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." When we look at the events that are going on around us in the world, when we think about our children, when we think about all the things that have happened or might happen, people get all upset. They get afraid. They get angry and they get frustrated. It is because they take their focus off of Jesus and put it onto themselves. It is because they get selfish. The Lord tells us that the devil has no power over Him, and if you are in the Lord, if you are totally relying on the Lord, the devil has no power over you either. We give him power by our own free choice because we allow our hearts to get troubled and afraid.
We can look, for instance, at what happened to Paul and Barnabus in the first reading. They go into these towns; they begin to preach and they are making lots of converts. Yesterday, we saw how the priest from the temple of Zeus wanted to come and offer sacrifice to them. Then, all of the sudden, some people from Iconium and Lystra come down and they tell the people from the town to turn against Paul and Barnabus. So they did and they stoned them. Paul - being left for dead - when he comes back up, goes right back into the town and preaches again. And if that were not enough, as soon as they get done there, they retrace their steps to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. These are the very places where the people who stoned him came from, and he walks right into their cities and continues to preach. Most of us, if something like that would have happened, would have run the other direction. Paul walked right into it, confident in the Lord, and then tells the people we must suffer many things if we are going to enter into the kingdom of God.
There is no need to be afraid, but when we think about the possibility of having to suffer something, that is when we become terrified. That is when we become troubled. But there is no need to be afraid. If the Lord is the One Who is working with us, if He is in us and we are in Him, then it is not a reason to be afraid. We are afraid because we do not want to have to suffer, but as Our Lord told us, "If you loved Me, you would rejoice." We would rejoice that He would go back to the Father, but we would rejoice also to be found worthy to suffer with Him and on behalf of His name as the disciples did.
That is what it really comes down to. When we find ourselves shrinking away from the possibility of suffering, when we find ourselves turning our back on the Lord and walking the other direction because our hearts are troubled and afraid, the real reason is because we do not love Him the way we ought to or the way we want to. It is a clear proof to each one of us that we are not loving the Lord with our whole heart and soul and strength, and that is then what we need to work on. If we do not love Jesus Christ with our whole heart and soul and strength, we are not going to be able to survive; and in order to do it, it will take an extraordinary grace from God. We need to pray for that and we need to dispose our hearts to it. It is not something we can do naturally. It is not something we can do by ourselves. That should be patently evident to each one of us - how many times we have tried and failed. We must turn to Him now and ask Him for that love, ask Him for that confidence, ask Him for His peace that He promised to us so that our hearts will not be troubled, they will not be afraid; but rather, they will be filled with love, even to the point where we will rejoice that we will be found worthy to suffer on behalf of His name.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.