Today we see Saint Peter poking into the hidden will of God.
Peter has just been told by Jesus that he will suffer death for the sake of Jesus. Then Peter looks over at Saint John, standing nearby, and Peter asks Jesus, “What about him?” as if to say, “How is he going to die?”
Jesus replies to Peter, “If I decide that John will remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
We are often curious to know the hidden will of God, both about ourselves and about others. Peter happened to hear Jesus reveal something about his own future. But that does not change the tasks laid before Peter. “Follow Me,” says Jesus. Whatever time and circumstances you are set in, be faithful to the Word, repent of your sins, confess Jesus Christ, and live out your vocation. You do not need to be concerned about what God’s secret purpose for your life is. Even if you knew it, how would it do you any good? The right thing to do is still the right thing to do.
Enough of God’s will has been revealed in His Word. We have seen the secret mystery of the ages unfolded in the monumental works of Christ: His incarnation, birth, life, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension. Those things are the will of God revealed to us. There is all the love and mercy of our Redeemer. That is more than enough for us.
So it is also enough to live out our own lives without sticking our noses into other people’s lives. Peter wanted to know what was going to happen with John. Why was that Peter’s business? So also we have more than enough to keep us busy by keeping the commandments in our vocation, and then turning in repentance to Christ whenever we fail. Leave the other people alone. God has a plan and purpose for them, but that is not for us to know. If God happens to reveal it to us somehow, well and good. But otherwise, we should keep our nose in our own business.
What did John do? Here we have the faithful example of the disciple who loved his Lord. This disciple testified of the things he had received. He wrote them down in the fourth gospel that bears his name. He testified truthfully, without embellishing or giving his own opinions. John was concerned with bearing witness to Christ and His death and resurrection. These things are enough, and more than enough.
We, also, can faithfully testify. We are not eyewitnesses of Christ’s earthly life. Yet He, the Lord, has washed us. He, the Savior, has spoken His forgiving Gospel to us. He, our dear Brother, has fed us His most holy Body and Blood. These things were not done by a mere man, but by the God-Man, begotten from eternity, yet born of the Virgin. He has served us in this place with His grace.
We do not need to tell others how that made us feel, or how the quality of our life is better because of Christ. We do not need to add to the Gospel message to make it better or more effective. We do not need to be more friendly or more persuasive or more sensitive to people’s felt needs. No, we need only speak the Word truthfully. Be faithful to the Word, and it is enough, and more than enough.
Faithfulness may bring hardship or even death. But we need not fear death. Saint Ambrose said, “There is, then, nothing to fear in death, nothing for us to mourn, whether life, which was received from nature, be rendered up to it again, or whether it is sacrificed to some duty that claims it … And no one has ever wished to remain as at present.” So whether we go to be with Christ because our body fails in the natural order of things, or whether we go because we confessed the truth and lost our lives, either way it is better for us to be with Christ than to remain in the flesh in this sinful world.
But how do we prepare ourselves to be faithful? (especially since we may have to make a confession under great difficulty, and fortify ourselves to withstand threats and pain and sorrow for this Gospel) We fortify and prepare to be faithful through study of the divine Word. This is the most wonderful and needful work of a man, and brings much joy and peace. As Saint Chrysostom said, “Let us, therefore, pay careful attention to the words, and let us not stop reading and searching them through, for it is from their continual application that we ultimately benefit. We can then cleanse our life so as to cupt up the thorns of sin and the cares of the world, which are fruitless and painful. And just as the thorn, however it is held, pricks the holder, so the things of this life, on whatever side they are grasped, give pain to the one who clings and cherishes them. Spiritual things are not like this. They resemble a pearl in that whichever way you turn it, it delights the eyes. … Let us then lighten ourselves and expand our horizons as we grow in maturity by getting rid of the evil things of this life and practicing the good. Let us obtain everlasting goods, then, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, dominion and honor, now and forever, world without end. Amen.”
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