These things have I spoken unto you, that in my ye might
have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer;
I have overcome the world.
(St. John xvi. 33)
Today is the Fifth and final Sunday of the Easter Season. Today is called Rogation Sundaybecause our English word is derived from the Latin word rogareand it means to petition, ask, or supplicate.The tradition of Rogation Sunday comes to us from the 4th century and was standardized in the Latin Church by Pope Gregory in the 6thcentury. It was originally a Roman festival called Robigalia, which comes from robigo– meaning wheatrust,a grain disease,against which pious pagans petitioned the gods by sacrificing a dog to protect their fields. In England, on Rogation Sundaysome clergymen and their flocks process around the parish boundaries to bless the crops and pray for a fruitful harvest.
But the original purpose of Rogation Sundaygoes back to Jesus’ opening words in today’s Gospel: Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you. (St. John xvi.) Jesus’ words follow the prophecy of His eventual Ascension back to the Father, where He says, In that day, ye shall ask me nothing. (Ibid, 23) Jesus was preparing His Disciples for that new risen life that He would win for them. But its possession, as we learned last week, would depend upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. What Jesus teaches us today then is that we must ask the Father in or through His Namefor the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Word or Wisdom of God made flesh through whom we pray and supplicate the Father. This is why we end every prayer with through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus says today: Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. (Ibid, 24) Notice He concludes by telling us that we ask sothat our joy may be full. (Idem)Eastertide is all about learning to ask God the Father for the fullness of joyor for what will fulfill our deepest longing and desire. For what else is Eastertide about than how the resurrection from sin, death, and Satan begins to give us that joythat God has in store for us? But to begin to obtain that joy, we must set our sights on those things which are above and not things of the earth. (Col. iii. 2) In heart and mind, we must follow Jesus back Heaven. Here alone we shall find the origin and source of the perfect joythat we should desire from the depths of our hearts.
Yet, what is this joy? For Jesus, this joy is the fulfillment of God’s will. True joyis found by entering into that delight that loves to do God’s will. It is not found first and foremost in bodily health, through earthly ambition and success, by securing temporal riches and treasures, and not even in gaining converts and in seeing God’s work succeed! True joyis found in the vision of God and the experience of His love. True joyis found in the experience that Jesus had with the Father and wants to share with us.
But to do so, we must leave behind the cares of this world which choke God’s Word. If we are consumed with this life and its earthly comfort, we shall never have the time that we need to get into right relation with God. To get into right relation with God, we must follow Jesus, that where He is, there we might be also. (St. John xiv. 3) If we do not get into right relation with the Father, through Jesus the Son, we can never hope to find true joy. So, to follow Jesus and to live in and through Him, we must make time and space for contemplation. Bishop K.E. Kirk has this to say about it:
Contemplation, or the Prayer of Simplicity or Quiet, is the highest interior activity of the spiritual life - indeed, it aims not at being an activity at all, but at reducing the soul to a purely passive condition in which it may listen, unimpeded by thoughts of self or the cares of the world, to the voice God alone.
(Some Principles of Moral Theology, p. 163)
Thus, stillness and quiet are necessary preconditions for the relationship that Jesus desires for us to have with our Heavenly Father. If in stillness and quiet, we become passively open to God’s presence, we shall be postured spiritually to find eternal joy. Jesus says today, The time is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in parables, but I will tell you plainly of the Father. (Ibid, 25)In stillness and quiet, in a plain and simple way, Christ wants to share His joy with us. I came forth from the Father, He says. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that this was for three reasons: (1) That He might manifest the Father in the world: ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the Only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.’ (St. John i. 18) (2) To declare His Father's will to us: ‘All things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.’ (St. John xv. 15) (3) That He might show the Father's love towards us: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him….’ (St. John iii. 16) [Easter Homilies: XII] Jesus wants to reveal the Father’s love to us. This is His joy.In stillness and quiet, if we ask,Jesus will show us the Father, how the Father desires that we should live, and the way to it. This is His joy.
Christ comes down from Heaven to us but then by His leaving He gives us an example. ‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.’ (1 St. John ii. 15) ‘Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.’ (St. John xv. 19)He must leave us and ascend to the Father so that He might give to us the Holy Spirit: ‘If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.’ (St. John xvi. 7) and‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ (St. John xiv. 2) To which place may He lead us. (Idem) Christ reveals the Father to us, He shows us how to live, and then He leaves us so that we might receive His Holy Spirit to prepare for our final journey to God’s Kingdom. We must welcome the His Spirit into our souls as Christ makes us suitable for the place He is preparing for us. This should begin to pour a deeper joy into our hearts and souls.
But, the true joy of experiencing God’s Word, that has been spoken through Jesus Christ, can be obtained not only [when we] hear it, but [also when we] desire to obey it orlive by it (St. James i. 22), as St. James says this morning.Monsignor Knox tells us thatbeing a hearer of God’s Word and not a doer – the man who looks in the mirror and forgets what manner of man he is, is much like someone who listens carefully to a reading of Thomas a Kempis’ ‘Imitation of Christ’. He understands it and thinks that the book is really about Christians like himself – he finds a reflection of himself in it. [But] it is only if he will give a good long look at our Lord’s teaching that this self-satisfied person will see the real picture which it conveys, very different indeed from the ‘self-portrait’ that he first found in it! (Epistles and Gospels: Know, p. 138) If God’s Word in Jesus Christ is seen and heard but not translated into our everyday living, we shall never reach the heights and summits of true joy in Heaven. We become self-satisfied, stale, and sterile. Then we shall hoard the joy for our own selfish purposes.But the real picture of what Jesus shows us is what we must become in deed and in truth.What we should not find is our own self-portraits but the picture of God in Man, Jesus Christ, as the truest illustration of the Person whose joy for the Father was so alive on earth that it could not help but lead back to Heaven.
The trial run for becoming doers of the Word is found here on earth. Mother Teresa of Calcutta says this about contemplating the life of Jesus.
In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence,
God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only
when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with
Himself (–with His Holy Spirit.) Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.
Mother Teresa never pretended that the silent contemplation of God in Jesus was easy. She, of all people, spent most of her life pulling the poor untouchables out of the gutters of Calcutta, washing them, feeding them, nursing them, bringing them to healing, and strengthening them for new life. Do you believe that she could have carried on with such love if she had not opened up to that supernal joy that God’s Word in Jesus had enflamed in her heart? She, of all people, revealed to us God’s face in Jesus, God’s eyes in Jesus, the hands and feet of God in Jesus, busily being not only a hearer of the Word but a doer of the Word! Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (St. James i. 27) Mother Teresa found joy in Jesus’ love of the Father and the Father’s love of Jesus. Mother Teresa embraced that joy in her heart and could not keep it to herself.
On this Rogation Sunday let us ask God for the inspiration [to] think those things that are good, [so that] by [His] merciful guiding [we might] perform the same. (Collect)By contemplating the peace which we find in our Saviour, let us be moved by the joy that moves the universe and longs to save all men. Let us be of good cheer with great joy for Christ has overcome the world. There is no greater joy to be found than this, Jesus alive in our hearts and souls moving us to love one another as He loved us. If we love this joy and share this joy the place that Christ prepares for us will indeed be our joy forever.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: