Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 2
John 13: 31-35
“As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples.”
Sometimes when I challenge someone else to be what Jesus wants them to be and to do what he wants them to do, the answer comes back, “I know, Father, but it is not easy!” And, pray tell, who ever said it would be easy to be a disciple, a follower, of Jesus? It is, as we used to say, a hard row to hoe.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that if we want to be his disciple we will love one another as he has loved us. Now that is a real challenge! For some reason here lately, when I think of discipleship with Jesus I think of those 4 identifying marks of the Suffering Servant that we spoke of from Isaiah in one of our homilies during Passion Time or Holy Week. Remember, we said the Suffering Servant, and consequently every disciple of Jesus, had to be gentle, bold, willing to pay the price (costliness), and mighty.
These marks also fit right into the context of today’s Gospel.
If I love my neighbor as Jesus loves me, I must love my neighbor (everyone!!) in a gentle way. I must be kind, attentive, respectful to everyone I meet. I am not to rush past them, brush them off or ignore them, because I don’t like the way they look, dress, talk or behave.
If I love as Jesus loves, I will be bold and out-going about it. I will let the whole world see I love what this world might label as unlovable just because they are what they are. They exist, they are there, God put them there just as they are, they are his son or daughter, just as I am, and my love for them must be outward and assertive regardless what others might think.
I must be willing to pay the price in loving my neighbor. There is a costliness to such love. Others might decide they don’t like me because I love the poor, the person of different color, race or religion or those who are exploited by society. I may look like a fool to the world but I must remember that, like St. Paul, it is OK to be a fool for Christ.
Finally, I must be strong and courageous. It is not easy (there is that word again) to love people others treat with contempt. It is not easy to go against the flow. It is so much easier to swim with the currant than against it, so much easier to follow the lead of others, the gossip of others, than to forge my own way of loving people. As we remarked before, there is no place in the discipleship of Jesus for a wimp.
And do you know what else? When I look at loving others in this way and the necessity of doing it if I want to be Jesus’ disciple, I have a long way to go. Sometimes I think that in my 79 years, I haven’t even got off to a good start yet.
Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter, May 3
John 14: 6-14
“I am the way and the truth and the life.”
My Commentary on the Scriptures reminds us that “life” has been a constant thread throughout the Gospel, and the granting of eternal life is the root mission of Jesus. Jesus came to bring us abundant life. Life is being or existence. Here on earth, it is only for a time. And we would like it to be a happy time, a fruitful time, a time during which we can love and be loved and make a difference through our being or existence.
Jesus knows this and in today’s Gospel he tells us how to accomplish it. We come to the realization that he is the way to this happy and meaningful life. He has come to give us directions on how to choose this life for ourselves. And if we do it, we are, as they say, winners. Since I discovered and embraced this truth, my life has been happy and fruitful beyond my every hope. There was a time in my life when I didn’t even dream my adult life could be as happy as it is right now. And it continues to get better! I’m certainly no saint, but I do try and that is all God wants us to do.
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter, May 4
John 14: 27-31
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
As we read in today’s Gospel selection, Jesus is preparing to leave his disciples and go to the Father. Before he leaves, he gives them a final gift, the gift of his peace. He makes it very clear that his peace is not the same peace the world gives, a lack of war or troubles of one kind or another. Rather, the peace of Jesus is a peace that results from his being our way, truth and life and our acceptance of this. If we surrender to Jesus, let him be in control of our lives, then we will have the peace he promises.
God’s peace is SHALOM in Hebrew. Shalom is wholeness, fulfillment, contentment, holiness. This kind of peace does away with our fears or any separation from God. As long as we are with him and he with us, there is no need for us to fear. How many times in the Gospels he tells his disciples not to be afraid because I am there, I am with you. All peace depends on having this peace of Shalom. There is no peace without it. He is the way, truth and life and accepting this brings us his peace.
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter, May 5
John 15: 1-8
Today’s Gospel gives us the beautiful and so-meaningful parable of the Vine and the Branches. This parable shows how close our relationship to Jesus is to be: we must be joined to him as a branch is to the vine. Where there is separation, there is death. There is no shalom, there is no holiness, no wholeness, no peace. Our shalom is nourished with all the life and power we have from the vine and that vine is Jesus. This parable stresses the word “remain” or “abide.” This word appears 7 times in these 8 verses of John’s Gospel. The Greek word for remain is MENEIN and it means mutual indwelling (God in me and I in God) and a continuous union. We are not to let it lapse by being separated in any way from the Vine.
Also in this parable are the words of Jesus which were so important to me when I was trying to latch on to some spirituality in my life: “Without me you can do nothing.” Which means by myself and though my own efforts I am zilch. I needed to know that and I needed to stop going my own way, thinking I was the captain of my own ship. It is the Lord who does, not I. As long as I remember that, I am OK and good things happen. When I start being in charge of myself or others, it is time to look out!
This parable went a long way toward saving my life in more ways than one. Thank you, Lord Jesus.
Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter, May 6
John 15: 9-11
In today’s short Gospel, Jesus tells us that he loves us with as much love as the Father loves him. We can’t even imagine that, but one thing is sure: none of us ever has to feel unloved again, not even for a moment. The Father and Son are one and their love for one another is infinite. When we start using that kind of language, then it is beyond me. I am so finite and fouled up, going in and out of darkness into light and from the light back into darkness, that half the time I don’t know where I am, much less have an understanding of words such as infinite.
But all is not lost since Jesus is in charge and I know he loves me in spite of myself. What a beautiful mystery!
Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter, May 7
John 15: 12-17
After a whole week of homilies on the topic of God’s love for us and ours for him, we arrive at the Great Commandment. How could the Great Commandment be anything other that what it is? Love is everything because God is love and if we remain in love we remain in him and he in us.
Jesus calls us his “friends” in the Gospel today. I can’t think of a greater compliment that to be called a friend of God. And we must remember that friendships are reciprocal. It means that God is kind, respectful, loving, compassionate, forgiving and serving of us (as all friends should be) and we must be the same towards him. Let’s not forget or do anything to harm our friendship with God.
Lord, thank you for choosing to be my friend. Just to say these words humbles me beyond belief. Help me, give me the strength to be such that I may always be able to say to you: Jesus, I love you too.
Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter, May 8
John 15: 18-21
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel selection that if we remain in God and God in us, the world will hate us as it hated Jesus. The world here becomes that which rejects Jesus, alienates him from itself. We see this rejection of Jesus all through the Gospels. We have referred to it many times as ignorance, and I still think that is what it basically is.
God is alienated, rejected from our lives when we take over, when we forget that He is the way, the truth and the life, when we forget that He is the Vine and we are the branches and that without Him we die, when we forget that without Him we can do nothing. We must remember these things and focus on them daily. We must live accordingly, or we too will alienate the Lord Jesus and sacrifice our life, our shalom, our peace, our happiness, our wholeness, in the process. Not a good place to be!