Sixth Sunday of Easter
John 15: 9-17

Today’s Gospel is the result of what was said in last Sunday’s Gospel where we read the parable of the vine and the branches. There the relationship between Jesus and his followers, those who believed in him, who trusted him and had faith in him to the point of surrender, changed radically. No longer are they servants or slaves, but friends. Nothing is to be hidden one from the other; there is equality, in a sense. This very special relationship, which is so important in the present paradigm of the Church, is a very intimate relationship. It would do us well, I believe, to reflect on this Sixth Sunday of Easter just what constitutes an intimate relationship. We have commented on this before in these homilies, but it is good to review this important part of our spirituality from time to time.

I have listed four characteristics of an intimate relationship:

It is an essential or intrinsic relationship: This means we are not able to be who we are supposed to be or do what we are supposed to do without this relationship. I am totally out of sync without it. Husband and wife, for example, are not what they are supposed to be without their counterpart. They are essential one to the other. It is the same with each of us and Jesus. Literally, without him we are nothing.

It demands communication between the parties: Can you imagine a husband and wife who do not talk to one another? I guess it does happen every once in a while, but what a terrible marriage that would be! The same is true with ourselves and Jesus. We must talk to him, listen to him, and carry out his wishes. We must pray and meditate daily.

An intimate relationship happens only over a period of time: We cannot form an intimate relationship in five minutes! It takes years and sometimes it never really happens. We must hang in there, persevere, in a relationship even when the going gets tough. We never run away from or give up on an intimate relationship.

We are willing to change for the one with whom we are intimate: This is why, for example, a religious might be unable to change a certain behavior in response to the wishes of his or her guardian if there were no intimate relationship between them. If we are intimate with Jesus, we will be able to change to his way, truth and life. He will be in charge, not us.

It is good to reflect on our relationship with my God and Lord. Where do I find myself at the present time with the suggested criteria and perhaps a few of my own that I have included? What is it that might need changing or improving?

 Fr. Howard

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
John 15: 26 – 16: 4

“I have told you this so that you may not fall away.”

“Falling away” from Jesus means leaving his ranks. This can happen when the going gets rough. We spoke in Sunday’s homily of the necessity to hang in there in our relationship with Jesus even when the going gets rough. Today’s Gospel speaks of the disciples being expelled from the synagogues and even being killed because of their belief in Jesus. But people have “fallen away” from Jesus for far less than this. We find people leaving when prayer no longer seems to work for them, when they are forced into relationship with Jesus, in acquiring an addiction that causes a person to do what they really don’t want to do, or in following one or the other of the many false gods in today’s world.

It seems to me that we will be OK as long as we have the suggested elements of the intimate relationship intact. When they begin to slack off, we can expect trouble. Jesus warns us to heed what he has said, to remember his words to us. No matter what, he is always there with us. All we need say is that one-word prayer: HELP!

 Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
John 16: 5-11

In today’s Gospel there are intimations that Jesus is going to leave the Apostles. He tells them of his coming departure to the Father. Jesus’ work is, in a sense, finished. Now it is advantageous for the disciples that he leave them so the Advocate may come to be with them. The Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation. He will continue to help the disciples grow in “wisdom and strength.” All of this in preparation for Jesus’ departure to the Father celebrated on the coming Feast (next Sunday) of the Ascension of the Lord and the coming of the Spirit, the Paraclete, on Pentecost Sunday (May 31). Then Jesus’ ministry on earth will be completed, not ended. He will have done what he came to do.

Paralleling our lives with Jesus’ life is sometimes very difficult. We have become his disciples and followers in Baptism. He has given us the Advocate, the Paraclete, in Confirmation. He continues to nourish us and help us grow in the Eucharist. He forgives our sins in Penance and the Sacrament of the Sick and he helps us in our daily work and obligations in Orders and Matrimony. Through these Sacraments he continues constantly to help us grow in “wisdom and strength.” In the words of the old hymn: What a Friend We Have in Jesus!!

 Fr. Howard

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
John 16: 12-15

These verses in John’s Gospel read for today’s Liturgy continue to point out to us the role of the Spirit who is coming to the disciples, his modus operandi, if you will. He is going to prosecute the world. He is going to help the believers, the followers of Jesus, to see that the basic sin was and is the refusal to believe in Jesus. He is going to show them and us that despite the fact that Jesus was found guilty and died an ignominious death by crucifixion, in reality righteousness has triumphed, good has overcome evil, for Jesus has risen and has returned to the Father. And finally, that the ruler of this world, Satan, has been condemned through the death of Christ.

Holy Spirit, continue to be with us and teach us always.

 Fr. Howard

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
John 16: 16-20

“A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.”

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus toys with the words “a little while.” These words refer to his coming death and the time before his reappearance to them after the resurrection. These words puzzle the disciples and they seem to feel lost and confused.

It is easy for us, too, to get lost and confused in our lives in this modern world. Sometimes we just don’t know which way to go. Those of us who were one time hunters always carried a compass. Many have compasses in their cars. These devices point out the direction we are traveling on the road. Jesus is our spiritual compass. His words guide us. I found a beautiful little prayer about just this situation of our being lost that reminds us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd we celebrated a few Sundays ago. I would like to share it with you:

“God of the lost, you seek each person as a shepherd patrols the pasture for the sheep that has strayed. When we are lost in our journey of faith, come and find us and lead us home to where you live with Jesus Christ, our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”

  Fr. Howard

Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter
John 16: 20-23

I imagine that all of us can readily identify with the Gospel chosen to be read today. Jesus says to his disciples, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

For a number of years, as I have said many times in these homilies, I did things my own way. At the time I appeared to be having a good time but inwardly I was grieving and suffering because I had left the Lord’s way for my own way. Then things really collapsed in my life until I found again the way, truth, and life of Jesus. It was then that I found the happiness, joy and peace I had been seeking all along. The words of Jesus, “Your grief will become joy,” came true in my life. I believe these words of Jesus are true and have proven this to myself in my life. Have you found them to be true too? Think of a time in your life when you learned this truth.

 Fr. Howard

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter
John 16: 23-28

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you …..

Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

My on-line dictionary defines assurance as a positive declaration intended to give confidence, freedom from doubt, certainty. This is what Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel give us: assurance, confidence, freedom from doubt. Ask the Father for anything you need in my name and he will give it to you, Jesus tells us. The words “in my name” eliminate the crazy from happening here. They presume that whatever it is we are asking for is good for us.

Assurance is a great thing to have. We often hear this given to us by our friends: “If you need anything, give me a call.” How good can it get! And we know they mean it. Jesus means it, too. And he does answer. We have all the assurance we need in his words. My Lord, how good you are to all of us.

 Fr. Howard

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