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Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” John 14:1–2
These consoling and encouraging words, spoken by Jesus to the Apostles at the Last Supper, come immediately after Judas left to betray Jesus and after Jesus told Peter, in the presence of the others, that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed. As a result, the Twelve (now Eleven) would have been discouraged, especially Peter. Jesus senses this and says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…”
Peter was told that he would soon commit a grave sin against Jesus. As we are later told, as soon as Peter committed these sins, he went out and wept bitterly. Perhaps, as he did, he would have recalled Jesus’ words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled…”
Being tempted toward sin can be discouraging. But that can turn into a good thing. If we are not affected by our temptations, then we lack love for God. And if we give into those temptations and fail to experience sorrow, this is even worse. However, discouragement over our sins cannot remain; it must turn into its opposite, the virtue of hope. Hope will result from sin only when we hear and understand Jesus’ promise, seen above.
Jesus not only tells the disciples not to be troubled, He also tells them why. Jesus promises them He will prepare a place for them in Heaven and will come to take them to that place in His Father’s House, despite their failings. By believing, Peter and the other apostles will be able to dispel the initial discouragement they feel over their failings and turn back to God with the anticipation of Heaven.
Do you get discouraged by your sin? Begin by calling to mind any sin that you regularly struggle with. Habitual sin, especially, will lead to either sorrow, repentance and hope, or to a discouragement that ends in despair and the abandonment of virtue. Like Saint Peter, we must strive to weep bitterly over our sins. We must let our sins, and the temptation toward despair, become a motivation to regain hope, courage, and determination. This will only be possible if we always hear Jesus say to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” We must sense His compassion and tenderness and allow that love to fill us with confidence that we will one day overcome all sin and be welcomed into the Father’s House.
Reflect, today, upon any sin with which you regularly struggle. As you do, consider whether your discouragement leads to despair or hope. Hope does not come from your ability to overcome sin on your own. It comes from the compassion of our Lord and His promise to redeem you. If you do have a troubled heart, that is good. It is the starting point for hope. Allow Jesus to lift your troubled heart and to point your eyes to Heaven.
Most compassionate Lord, though I am a sinner, You speak to me with tenderness and call me to repent so that I will always have hope in Heaven. Please give me a true and holy sorrow for my sins and help me to always turn back to You so that You will one day lead me to the fullness of the Father’s House. Jesus, I trust in You.
Seeking to be Pruned
Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B)
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” John 15:1–3
Pruning a vine is an important part of helping it to grow and produce not only more fruit but the best fruit. If left unpruned, a grape vine will eventually produce less fruit and poorer quality fruit. Good pruning helps to direct the nourishment of the vine to the new buds that are most fruitful.
Jesus’ teaching above uses the imagery of pruning a vine to help us understand that faith must lead to charity. First, Jesus says that He is the “true vine.” He is the only source of the nourishment we need for the new life of grace. He is the only way to Heaven and salvation. Knowing our Lord and being attached to Him firmly is faith. Second, our Lord says that He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit. This indicates that faith without the good fruit of charity is dead and is like a branch on a vine that produces nothing. Third, when Jesus finds a branch that bears good fruit, he doesn’t leave it alone. Instead, He prunes it with loving attention so that “it bears more fruit.”
To apply these teachings to your own life, begin by looking at your faith as if it were a branch firmly attached to a vine. Do you believe all that God has spoken through His holy Word? It is useful to regularly examine your conscience in regard to your faith. Since faith is the first step in the spiritual life, it must remain firmly grounded in the Truth God has revealed. This means we must regularly study the Word of God as it is revealed through the Scriptures and the catechetical teachings of the Church, and assent to those teachings with all our mind.
Next, after affirming your faith in all that God has spoken through the Scriptures and the Church, try to examine your charity. Do you see concrete acts of love in your life that result from your faith? In other words, we can “love” many things in a purely emotional sort of way. But charity is based on faith, not on how we feel. Charity is the fruit of faith. What acts of charity can you point to in your life? What have you sensed God calling you to do in a selfless and sacrificial way? Have you done it?
Finally, when you discover the ways that charity is alive within you, know that God will focus His pruning there. Pruning can be painful. It will require sacrifice, patience in the face of trial, overcoming selfishness, and doing things you don’t feel like doing. In fact, sometimes God even makes charitable acts seem unpleasant as a way of pruning your motivations and making them more pure, based more on faith than on emotion. But this is good.
Reflect, today, upon this holy imagery from Jesus. It’s a lesson from nature that reveals the supernatural life of grace at work. Don’t be deterred by the pruning God wants to do. Embrace suffering with love, respond to injustice with forgiveness, offer mercy when you don’t feel like it, and seek to serve selflessly those who seem undeserving. Doing so will prune you so that God will be able to build up His Kingdom in glorious ways through you.
Jesus, most glorious Vine, You and You alone are the source of all nourishment in life. From You all good things come. Help me to have a firm faith in You and all that You have revealed, so that this faith will bud forth and bring about an abundance of good fruit for the glorious building up of Your Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.
Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C)
When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once.” John 13:31–32
If the life we live here and now is all we will ever have, then it makes sense to believe that death is our worst enemy. But as we know, this life is but a grain of sand in the ocean in comparison to eternity. For that reason, we must see death as our passing into the glories that await. The death of a loved one is difficult for sure. And when we face our own death, there are many temptations we might experience toward fear of the unknown. But if the Son of God chose to endure death itself, then we must work to see death differently.
Today’s Gospel passage speaks of Jesus’ coming death as His glorification. “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” Jesus spoke these words right after Judas left the Last Supper to betray Him. From an earthly perspective, it is unlikely that anyone would consider their betrayal and brutal death as the moment when God is glorified. But from a heavenly and eternal perspective, Jesus’ death was the greatest glorification He could offer to the Father. This only makes sense when we put on the mind of God.
As we continue to celebrate our Easter Season, we look beyond the suffering of Christ to see the fruit of His suffering. We see that death was defeated and that Jesus will now forever live in His glorified and resurrected body in Heaven. He will forever carry the marks in His hands, feet and side, and those marks will forever glorify the Father. The Resurrection of Christ changes everything, including death. For that reason, we must continually work to put on the mind of God and see our human lives as He sees them.
What is it that you live for in this life? What are your goals and ambitions? If you find that you focus excessively upon immediate pleasures, material wealth, selfish objectives and passing ambitions, then it is time to ponder the lesson of Jesus’ glorification. By facing His own death as an opportunity to glorify the Father, Jesus made it possible for us to do the same. And though there will always be a healthy sorrow associated with the passing of a loved one, the hope of Heaven and eternal glory must become the lens through which we see all things in this life.
When you look at your life, it is essential to see the cross that God has given to you. That is because your cross is the gateway to this eternal glory. Each person’s cross will be different. A cross is not simply our suffering; it’s our call to live sacrificially. This is love. It’s the calling we are given to lay our lives down for others. To serve others. To forgive every wrong, to love every sinner, to show mercy and compassion toward those in need. And to do all of this in response to God’s perfect will. The crosses in our lives are opportunities for love in its purest form. This is how Jesus saw His Cross and this is how we must see ours.
Reflect, today, upon death, but try to look at it as a calling to give of yourself sacrificially out of love. The best way to prepare yourself for a glorious death is to live in the love of God here and now. To the extent that you can do that, God will be glorified as you share in the glory given to Christ.
My loving Lord, You transformed death itself into the perfect means by which You gave glory to Your Father and were glorified Yourself. Please help me to enter into Your mind so that I can see my life as You see it and to live for that eternal glory to which I am called. Jesus, I trust in You.
Remembering God’s Revelations
Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” John 14:25–26
Sometimes we forget all that God has spoken to us. For example, we may have some clear experience of God’s presence in our lives, such as a powerful spiritual insight gained through prayer, a deep conviction of His voice spoken through a sermon, the transforming freedom encountered through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or some form of unmistakable clarity imparted through the reading of the holy Scriptures. When God speaks to us, imparting His Truth, strength, forgiveness and every other form of grace, we are spiritually consoled as we sense His closeness. But when trouble comes our way, those moments of clarity can be easily lost.
The disciples would have had many clarifying experiences during the three years of Jesus’ public ministry. They marveled at the spiritual authority they encountered in His sermons, witnessed countless miracles, looked on as sinners were set free, saw Jesus transfigured in glory, and watched our Lord enter deeply into prayer with the Father. Each time they encountered the power of God at work, they would have grown in their conviction that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the World. But Jesus also knew that these disciples would soon have their faith in Him shaken. He knew that as they looked on from a distance in fear as Jesus was arrested, beaten and killed, they would start to forget all that they previously experienced. Fear can cause confusion, and Jesus knew that His disciples would soon fall into that trap. For this reason, Jesus spoke the words above to His disciples. He promised them that the Holy Spirit would soon come upon them to teach them everything and to remind them all that He told them.
How nice it would be if every lesson we ever learned from God remained front and center in our lives. How nice it would be if we never allowed fear to confuse us and cause us to forget all that God has spoken to us in varied ways. Just as Jesus knew the disciples would need the help of the Holy Spirit to remember, He also knows that we need the same help from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the words spoken to the disciples above are also spoken to us. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
What lessons of faith have you learned in the past that you need to be reminded of? It is the role of the Holy Spirit to bring those lessons to mind every time we need them. Therefore, as we move closer to the glorious celebration of the Solemnity of Pentecost, it is a good time to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for the gift of remembering the many ways that God has revealed Himself to us. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit work in perfect harmony with each other, but each has a distinct role in our lives. The Holy Spirit’s role is especially to lead us day-by-day into the fulfillment of the Father’s will of becoming perfectly conformed to the Person of Christ Jesus.
Reflect, today, upon this powerful promise that our Lord gave to His disciples and to us. Pray to the Holy Spirit. Open yourself to the Spirit’s ongoing direction in your life and never allow fear to lead to confusion. Instead, allow God to dispel all confusion and to remind you of all that He has spoken to you throughout your life.
Most glorious Lord Jesus, You promised the disciples and all Your people that the Holy Spirit would be sent to us to remind us of all that You have revealed. Holy Spirit, please continuously descend upon me, teach me and guide me. Help me to never forget the many lessons I have been taught so that I will never let fear lead to confusion. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Peace of Christ
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
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.” John 14:27
So how does the peace that Jesus gives you differ from the apparent peace that the world gives? We all want peace in life. The desire for interior peace is written upon our very nature. And though many people make choices that lead to interior disorder and even chaos, those choices are often made out of a confused sense of what actually provides fulfillment.
For example, those who choose to feed an addiction to drugs or alcohol often began that addiction out of a misguided desire for happiness. The temporary fix experienced gives the temporary sense of well-being. But objectively speaking, it is very clear that the temporary “peace” one receives from these actions leads ultimately to a loss of the very thing they desire. And when these choices become addictions, the person often finds themself trapped in a downward spiral.
There are also countless other ways in which people find themselves seeking satisfaction and fulfillment in life. Money, promiscuity, cheating, selfishness, anger, deception, and the like are all actions that are done with the intent of some satisfaction. Our daily goal must be to unmask those deceptive actions so that we can see them for what they are and for the fruit that they produce. These are clearly among the many ways that the “world” offers us peace.
When it comes to true happiness in life, the gift of true interior peace is one of the clearest signs that we are on the right track and are making the right decisions. When we choose the will of God each and every day, those choices may be difficult and require much initial sacrifice. Love can be hard. Faithfulness to the moral law of God can be challenging. And refusing to sin is difficult. But choosing the will of God throughout our day, every day, will begin to produce within us the consoling and sustaining gift of the peace of Christ.
True peace produces strength. It leads to interior integrity and wholeness. It produces clarity of thought and certitude in convictions. God’s peace leads to more peace. It leads to choices based on well-thought-out actions of love. Peace leads us to the will of God, and the will of God leads to peace. The cyclical effect is exponential and is one of the clearest guides to happiness in life.
Reflect, today, upon whether you truly have peace in your heart. Do you recognize the still, strong and sustaining presence of God within your soul? Do your daily choices produce greater integrity of heart and clarity of mind? Do you find that you have joy and calm, even in the midst of life’s greatest challenges? Seek out this peace, for if you do, you will be seeking out the good God Who produces this glorious gift within your heart.
My Lord of true peace, You and Your holy will are the only path to the deepest fulfillment of all of my desires in life. When I make poor choices that lead to disorder and confusion, help me to turn to You with all my heart. Please unmask any deception I struggle with and give me the strength I need to seek You and Your peace alone. Jesus, I trust in You.
Firmly Connected to Christ
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
The first amazing thing to recognize in this passage is the simple fact that God wants to produce good fruit in your life. He also wants to bring His grace and mercy into the world through you. The vine does not produce the fruit alone but does so through the instrumentality of the branches. So if we take this teaching at face value, God is saying that He has chosen to bring His grace and mercy into your life and into the world through you.
To add greater clarity to this holy mission that we have all been given, Jesus makes a very profound statement. He says “without me you can do nothing.” When considering this line spoken by our Lord, it may be useful to reflect upon what the word “nothing” means. Saint Augustine points out that Jesus added “you can do nothing” to emphasize the fact that, by ourselves, by our own effort, we cannot even produce a “little” good fruit. For example, it would be like cutting off a twig from an apple tree and hoping that the twig will produce an apple.
The fruit that God wants to produce also takes place within your soul, in the form of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. These fruits consist of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (See Galatians 5:22–23). Each one of these gifts from God will have the effect of transforming you more fully into an image of God Himself in our world. Try to take a moment to consider each one of those Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Each one is very desirable. Growing in a desire for them will help you grow in a desire for the Holy Spirit in your life.
When the Gospel passage quoted above is considered in its two parts, it is also clear that if we separate ourselves from God, then it is impossible to experience any one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Without a firm connection to our God, we will have no love, no joy, no patience, kindness, etc. None of that is possible unless our lives are firmly connected to the Vine, Who is Christ Himself. So fostering a positive desire for these good fruits, as well as a holy fear of losing them, is useful.
Reflect, today, upon the beautiful and meaningful image given to us by Jesus of the vine and the branches. Think of a vine and then think of yourself firmly attached to that vine. Sit with that image prayerfully and let God speak to you. He wants to do great things in you and through you. If you will only cling to Him with all your heart, an abundance of good fruit will be produced.
Jesus the Vine, You are the source of all goodness, and, without You, I can do nothing. Help me to always remember how deeply I need You in my life and help me to cling to You always. Please bring forth an abundance of good fruit in my life and, through me, into the world. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Good Fruit of Obedience
Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“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.” John 15:10
When Jesus spoke the line above, He followed it by saying, “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” These two lines, taken side by side, provide a helpful unity of Jesus’ teaching regarding holy obedience to Him.
First, Jesus speaks of the necessity of keeping His commandments. To some, such a statement, when taken by itself, can seem burdensome, dictatorial, oppressive and confining. But is it? The answer is found clearly as we read on.
The next thing Jesus teaches is that the effect of keeping His commandments is that we “remain in His love.” He further explains that He is not asking us to do anything that He Himself was not willing to do. He was obedient to the will of the Father, keeping the commandments of the Father to perfection. Therefore, we should hear His command as a dictate flowing from His own freely lived choice to be obedient. As the Incarnate Son of God, He perfectly obeyed the Father in His human nature. The result was that He remained perfectly filled with the love of the Father. But that’s not all. Joy is also experienced in a “complete” way when we imitate Jesus’ perfect obedience.
In light of the teaching from our Lord, how do you view holy obedience to the will of God? Take, for example, each of the Ten Commandments. Do you struggle with unwavering obedience to them? Do you experience them as oppressive and imposed limitations rather than what they truly are? When understood correctly, the Ten Commandments, and every other dictate of the will of God, are exactly what we need and, even more so, exactly what we deeply desire in life. We want interior order rather than chaos. We want integrity rather than fragility. We want joy rather than sadness. And we want unity with the love of God rather than the loss of God. The path to the life we so deeply desire is obedience to the commands of the will of God in all things.
Reflect, today, upon your immediate interior reaction to holy obedience. If you do find yourself resistant in any way to this teaching of Jesus, then that is a good sign that you need this teaching more than you may know. Try to look at obedience in the light of truth. Try to see that, deep down, your soul yearns for obedience and the interior order it brings. Examine, especially, any areas of obedience you struggle with and firmly recommit yourself to unwavering obedience to each and every command of our Lord.
My obedient Lord, You obeyed the will of Your Father in Heaven to perfection. Through this obedience, You not only experienced the full love and joy of the Father in Your human nature, You also set for us a perfect example and model for holiness. Help me to see the areas of my life in which I need to be more obedient, so that I, too, will share in Your holy life and that of the Father’s. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” John 15:14–15
To some, Jesus’ definition of friendship may, at first glance, seem odd. He says that we are His friends only when we do what He commands us to do. Imagine saying that to one of your best friends. Such a statement would most likely be met with a laugh and dismissal as foolishness. So is true friendship always based on obedience?
Obviously, the expectation that your friends obey you so as to win your friendship is not the basis of any authentic friendship. Jesus is the only one Who can base your friendship upon obedience to His holy will. Why? Because of the nature of what He commands you to do.
Jesus is pure Truth. What He wills is the perfection of love. Therefore, His statement that you are only His friend if you do what He commands you to do teaches that friendship is based on the truth. It’s based on love, goodness, kindness, selfless sacrifice and self-giving. And it is all of these truths that Jesus commands us to do. Therefore, Jesus is essentially telling us that His will alone provides the pathway to the friendship we desire to have with Him.
In regard to your friendship with others, each true friendship can only be based on that which God wills for friends. And, in that sense, you can “command” the will of God for your friendships. This means you are only willing to establish a friendship upon the truth. It means you are only willing to share a relationship based upon selfless, sacrificial, self-giving mercy, compassion, honesty and love.
Reflect, today, upon your understanding of friendship. Begin with your friendship with God, but then also ponder your friendship with others. Do you love our Lord in the way that He commands? And as you ponder your friendship with others, examine whether or not each friendship also conforms to obedience to the will of God. If you can love God and others in conformity with the dictates of true love, then your friendships will produce an eternity of deep fulfillment.
My divine Lord, You call me to a friendship with You based only on the dictates of pure and holy love. I thank You for this command of love and accept this invitation. Help me, Lord, to continually deepen my friendship with You in accord with the truths of love and help me to base all my friendships only on the commands of this holy love. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Hatred of the World
Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Jesus said to his disciples: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.” John 15:18–19
This is a sobering thought: “the world hates you.” That is, if you are among those who have been taken by our Lord out of the world. In that case, Jesus says that the world will hate you.
No one wants to be hated. No one wants to experience the wrath, persecution, attacks, or ridicule of another. Hatred is ugly, painful and difficult to endure. But that is part of the nature of hate. It’s not only a form of persecution, it’s also a form of manipulation. Hate is an attack upon another by which the hater seeks to inflict injury and to manipulate them to change and conform to their will. The secular and unchristian “world” wants to win you over and away from God. Jesus offers this teaching, in part, to prepare us so that when we do experience hatred from the world, we will not be affected by it nor manipulated to turn from Him. Therefore, this teaching is a revelation of much mercy from our Lord.
Remember that Jesus spoke of three enemies of our soul. The flesh, the devil and the world. In this Gospel passage, to “belong to the world” means that a person allows themself to be negatively influenced by the countless lies embedded within the world. The secular media, pop-culture, biased opinions, social pressures, false images of happiness and the like seek to constantly misguide us and draw us in. We are regularly tempted to believe that fulfillment is found in money, our physical appearance, the recognition of our accomplishments and much more. The world tells us that our opinions must conform to the secular values of the age—and if they don’t, then we are judgmental, close-minded extremists and should be shunned and “canceled” or silenced.
These worldly temptations and pressures are real, and, for that reason, Jesus’ words are freeing. They free us from the manipulations and deceptions we will experience when we live our faith openly for all to see. When we do so, we will be hated by the world. But knowing that provides peace of heart when it happens.
Reflect, today, upon these powerful and consoling words of Jesus. If you do not experience any form of hatred from the world, then this should be a concern and the cause for reflection. And if you do experience some form of hatred, know that our Lord prepared you for this and offers you His strength and courage to endure it with joy. In the end, all that matters is what our Lord thinks—and nothing else. In the end, if you experience hatred by the world in any form, know that this makes you more like Christ Himself.
My persecuted Lord, You endured the hatred and ridicule of many who were engulfed by the false values of the world. I pray that I may share not only in Your life of love and mercy but also in Your strength during the times that I also endure the world’s hatred. I commit myself to You and pray that You continually take me out of the world and bring me close to Yourself. Jesus, I trust in You.
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