Reflections for the 6th Week of Easter 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 6th Week of Easter 2011.
Sixth Sunday of Easter 2011
John 14: 15-21
Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
With these words the Gospel for this Sixth Sunday of Easter begins. Jesus seems to be stating the obvious here. How could I love him and not keep his commandments? How can I love my mother and not be obedient to her wishes? Both of the last two statements sound like contradictions, don’t they? And just maybe they sound like contradictions because they are. Love and disobedience do not go together.
The word obey comes from the Latin oboedire which means to listen to, to hear. If I love you, I am going to listen to you, hear you, and furthermore I am going to follow what you say, I am going to make it my own. Jesus tells us in Scripture in Luke 11:28: “Rather blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” We do not love someone if we disobey what they tell us to do. I do not love God or Jesus if I repeatedly go my own way and disobey the commandments. Disobedience to God is what we commonly refer to as a sin. Sin and love are contradictory terms.
Needless to say, rationalization will play a big part in all of this. I don’t want to disobey someone and not love them by so doing, so I rationalize my actions. If they only knew the circumstances I find myself in, they would approve of my apparent disobedience. Sometimes that may be true, but many times it is not and just amounts to a self-given permission to do what I want to do and to hell with what anyone else wants me to do. I did this for years when I was drinking. Sure, I had promised God to do this or that, but he’ll understand if I do the opposite this time. Quite obviously, we are treading on very thin ice when we do this.
Teens get into this dilemma a lot concerning curfews laid down by their parents. “Be home by 10:00.” “OK, Mom.” I heard one on TV the other evening about a rather resourceful teen who set all the clocks in the house back a half hour to give herself more time to make the curfew. Then she set them all back to the correct time by the next morning. Clever, but it amounts to disobedience all the same.
Jesus and the Father have given us their commandments. If we wish to follow their way, we must be obedient to them. It only makes sense this way.
And besides, we are only going to attain the happiness and peace and serenity we want in life by following Jesus’ way. My love for him brings many wonderful rewards. The moral of this whole story is not to play games with those we say we love. I tried this for years and was not really happy doing it. The way to happiness is obedience: if we say we are going to do something or agree to do something, then, by golly, let’s do it. We must be true to ourselves and to those whom we love.
Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
John 15: 26–16:4a
The obedience we spoke of in yesterday’s homily sometimes carries a price tag along with it. I spoke a while back about one of the priest-clericmasters I had in the seminary who would give us a distasteful job to do and when he saw the frown on our faces as we set out to do it, he would begin to sing that old song: “I Didn’t Promise You a Rose Garden,” or something like that. That would cause us to start laughing and the job went a bit easier. Jesus was obedient to the will of his Father as we read often in the Scriptures and his life wasn’t exactly a rose garden either. In saying yes to the Father he also said yes to being scourged, crowned with thorns, carrying a heavy cross and being crucified upon it for our sake; hardly a rose garden.
The same is true for all of us. Jesus asked us to follow him and his way but this doesn’t mean we will not have troubles in life; sickness, addictions, disappointments, sadness, grief, death, divorce, temptations, etc., will all happen as we continue to follow him. But he has promised that he will not leave us orphans. He has promised to be there for us. He will make sure we have grace and the strength of perseverance. All we have to do is ask him.
Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
I spent about an hour going on line and looking through various Commentaries on the Scriptures trying to determine the practical meaning and purpose of John the Baptist leaping in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth. What does this mean? Why did it happen? Why is it mentioned in the Scriptures? I really didn’t find too much to help answer these questions. One opinion stated that this means John was at that moment cleansed from original sin. Another says it in no way means this, nor does it mean that John had the use of reason while still in the womb. One explanation that appeared a couple of times was the significance that John was subservient to Jesus and not the other way around. This seems to be the main reason for the leaping, but it really doesn’t do a whole lot to satisfy my curiosity. I still don’t think I know the meaning of this leaping in the womb.
The word “Visitation” in Canon Law has a business-like meaning attached to it. It is not just a simple visit to say HI to everyone. There is a definite purpose in mind when the Provincial or General visitates a house of Friars. The Visitator checks the books, the common life of the Friary, and so on. Could it simply be that Mary recognized the fact that Elizabeth in her old-age would need extra help with a pregnancy and went to give her this help? I’ll just bet you this reason is closer to the truth for Mary’s visitation than some of the others I have read.
Mary, with concerns of her own at being chosen the Mother of the Redeemer, nevertheless thinks also of her aging cousin and goes to help her. This is a good point for us to remember. Just because we have things to do doesn’t exempt us from helping others bear their burdens. Let this Feast of the Visitation of Mary remind us to pay attention to the needs of others and not to be totally absorbed in our own problems.
Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
John 16: 12-15
Jesus is now ready to ascend to the Father. His work on earth has been accomplished. But before he leaves the disciples, he tells them, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of Truth, he will guide you to all truth.” There is much that Jesus wished to share with his followers, but they “couldn’t bear it now.” They were not mature enough in the ways of God yet to understand or grasp all that he had to tell them. Jesus is not saying they were “stupid” or anything like that. He is simply telling them they would mature and grow and be ready to know things in the future they could not understand where they were at present
The same thing is true of all of us. We don’t introduce a three year old child to Trigonometry. They aren’t ready for that yet. I certainly understand the Gospel and Christianity better today than I did in the fifth grade. I have grown and matured as have we all. Fact is, I am never too old to learn and I hope we will all be aware of that. I continue to grow in the nuances of spirituality, in my relationship with God and his importance in my life. I hope this applies to all of us.
Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
“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 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.”
Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter
John 16: 20-23
Jesus said 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.”
The words of Scripture mean much more to me when I can identify with them in my own life. And I can readily identify with the words just quoted above from today’s Gospel. For many years I followed the ways of the world, doing things my own way. Outwardly I thought I was having a good time but inwardly I was grieving and suffering because I had left the way of the Lord for my own way. Life was not going the way I thought it would. Then, because of my wrongdoing, things really collapsed and I was reintroduced to the way, truth and life of Jesus where eventually, and to this day, I found happiness, peace and joy. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel “your grief will become joy.” And this has come true in my life.
There is no explanation on this earth for many of the riddles that confront the human race such as why must we suffer and why is there evil in the world. But surely one answer to the above questions is to make us better people and to help us encounter God in our lives. From your grief will come true joy. I believe this is true and have found it to be so in my own life. Have you found this to be true in your life?
Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter
John 16: 23b – 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.