Reflections for the 5th Week of Easter 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008 and 2009.
They refer to the daily readings for the 5th Week of Easter 2011.
Fifth Sunday of Easter 2011
May 22, John 14: 1-12
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Those of you who read these daily homilies regularly have read many times where I say that the just quoted words of today’s Gospel are the most important and meaningful words for me in all of Scripture. These words have had the greatest meaning for me and the greatest impact on my life. And following closely along with them are the words of Jesus in the parable of the vine and the branches: “Without me you can do nothing.” These two places in Scripture tell me that I can do nothing alone and that Jesus is the way to do things and if I try and do it all alone I will botch it all up. Anything else is not going to work or get me where I want to go. And I further believe that in quoting the words of today’s Gospel we should underline the the. I am the way = I am the only way, etc.. I think this is what Jesus is trying to tell us and it takes a long time for most of us to have this sink in.
We are all aware that there are many ways, many truths and many lives in this world. Fact is, there are probably as many as there are people. We all have our own ways of doing things, we all have attitudes containing what we believe to be true, and there are many different ways to live. Yet, Jesus is telling us he is the way the truth and the life. Does this mean that Jesus is going to tell me the right way to tie my shoe laces? Must I live a life of poverty as he did? Can’t the rich way of life cut it?
The proper context of Jesus’ words here, I believe, has to do with the spiritual side of our lives and this involves the Great Commandment: Love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus is not concerned with how I tie my shoe laces. But he is concerned if he sees me treating my neighbor violently because that is not his way of loving my neighbor. The happiness, peace, joy and freedom from pain that we all desire come from loving God and my neighbor in the way Jesus has revealed to us in the Scriptures. Not my way. To do this, we follow what Jesus told us to do and how he tells us to do it.
Lord, please continue to show me your way, truth and life and give me the strength to do it.
Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 23, John 14: 21-26
“God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” (I John 4: 16).
These words from the First Letter of John reinforce the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” These words of Scripture tell us, first of all, that God is love. These words are John’s definition of God, if you will. God is love. Consequently, God cannot not love. And if we abide in the love of God and neighbor, we will remain in God and God will remain in us. Love brings us to union with God and also with our neighbor. God loves Lucy Smith and if I love Lucy Smith, God’s love and my love are pointed in the same direction and we are one. And we will continue to be one as long as I continue to love as Jesus loves.
I remember from my Marriage Encounter days hearing that love is not a feeling, it is a decision. To make a decision means to “cut away,” get rid of, whatever is blocking my way of loving God and neighbor. What is blocking my surrender to God’s will? What is blocking my being one with him, remaining in him? Is there anything going on in my life right now that is preventing me from making this decision to love God and thus remain in him and have him remain in me? If so, removing this block is what we are to be concerned about. Let’s ask God to help us remove whatever that block might be.
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 24, John 14: 27-31
“Jesus said to his disciples: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
In these words from today’s Gospel selection, Jesus tells us he is giving to us his peace. His peace, he tells us, is different from any peace we might hope to find in the world. And further, the peace he gives will remove any feelings of being troubled or afraid.
What kind of peace is it that the world can give me? Remember, having peace means to have everything as it should be, nothing out of place, comfort, contentment. I really can’t put my finger on any way the world can bring this to me. There is no such peace in the security of the world, there is nothing the world can give me that is going to lessen my troubles and fears. Rather, what I see going on in the world troubles me and frightens me. Just the opposite of the peace offered by Jesus.
And how do I get this peace of Jesus that does not let our hearts be troubled or afraid? For me I find the source of this peace in the 3rd Step of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous: I Made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand him. This is the spiritual principle of surrender. Let God be in charge, let him do the driving. Do this and we will have the peace Jesus wishes for us. What is there to fear or be troubled about if God has the matter in his hands?
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 25, John 15: 1-8
The lesson in today’s parable that is of great importance for us all is: We can’t do it alone. We are the branches in the parable and we aren’t worth a plugged nickel if we are severed from the vine. If I am joined to the vine, I will bear much fruit. If I am severed from the vine, I can do nothing, I will bear no fruit at all.
Sometimes we think we are so independent. Nothing could be more wrong. Yet many of us take this idea of being independent and try to run with it through life. I did just this for I don’t know how many years until I finally realized what a dummy I was in thinking and acting this way and began to try and surrender to God, to let him be in the driver’s seat. And things have been going just fine since then. Before, when I was running the whole show, it was a disaster. Someone is trying to tell me something.
Lord, please help me to remain in you, to be dependent on you, so I can bear the fruit you want me to bear.
Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 26, John 15: 9-11
The Gospel selection for today sums up what we have been reading and saying all week about remaining in Jesus: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”
Jesus is our model for remaining in him and in the Father. Another reason for Jesus to become incarnate was to show us how to be obedient, that obedience to another is possible. We are so proud of our free will. Look at me! Look at what I can do! Whoop-dee-doo! Talk about pride coming before the fall! Jesus showed us how he was obedient to his Father all the way to the cross. “Not my will but yours be done.” Jesus surrendered to the Father’s will. He is our model for doing likewise. The reward for so doing: Resurrection both here and in the hereafter. In this resurrection, in this spiritual awakening that comes from obedience, we find complete joy. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”
Jesus, once again I beseech you to help me remain in you, to try and accomplish your will for me.
Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 27, John 15:12-17
“Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel reading that if we want to truly love God we must also love our neighbor. We cannot say to God: I love you God and at the same time be harboring a huge resentment against our neighbor. We are called “friends” by Jesus in this Gospel and that means we are also to be friends with our neighbors. One of the things friends do without even thinking about it too much is to forgive one another for a hurt. If Jesus is our friend, he will forgive us our wrongs. And so he does. If we are Jesus’ friends, we will forgive those who do us any harm whatever.
Is there anyone I need to forgive today for some past hurt?
Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 28, John 15: 18-21
There is a somewhat negative side to “remaining in Jesus,” and that is the “hatred” of the world. Jesus points out in today’s Gospel that the world first hated him and because we who follow him do not belong to the things of this world, it will hate us too. People will react to us in the same way they reacted to Christ. If they persecuted Christ, they will persecute us. If they kept Christ’s word, they will keep the word we preach also.
As disciples of Christ we are his followers and believe in his word which is also the word of the Magisterium (the teaching power) of the Church. As such we do not condone the sexual freedom that is going on in the world today, we do not condone or believe in abortion, capital punishment, rage, violence, terrorism, hatred of our neighbor whoever they might be, prejudice, resentments, pollution of the world, hunger in the world, inequality among races or nations, persecution, physical, mental, spiritual or sexual abuse, the abuse or taking advantage of children, the inequality between men and women. All of this and more equals the ways of the world. And because we reject it as contrary to Christ’s teachings, we are rejected. So be it! Blessed are those who suffer persecution for justice’s sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Gospel today echoes the song one of our cleric masters used to sing as he walked the halls of the seminary: I didn’t promise you a rose garden.