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Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you.” John 14:15–17
Imagine a spouse or a friend saying to you, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Such a statement might cause you to react with surprise. Ordinarily, we do not see obedience to another as a sign that we love them. However, what if a parent were to say to a child, “If you love me, you will be obedient.” That statement is easier to accept because of the unique role of a parent to their children. In regard to our love of God, obedience to His divine will is the greatest act of love we can offer. This is because God’s will is perfect. It’s exactly what we need in life. It’s what we were made for. And it is the one and only way to achieve the human fulfillment that we seek. Only God can say such a thing to us because only God is God.
Jesus followed up His call to obedience by saying that obedience to Him will result in Jesus and His Father bestowing the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth upon you. The Holy Spirit will remain “with you, and will be in you.” This is such a profound statement from our Lord. In fact, so much of what He says within this sermon given at the Last Supper is profound beyond comprehension.
One clear thing this tells us is that obedience to God leads to a discovery of the Truth. And as Jesus says elsewhere, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32). Obedience leads to Truth. Truth leads to freedom.
This begs the question: Do you want to be free? Clearly you do. We cannot not want to be free. Meaning, we are obliged to want freedom, just as we are obliged to want happiness. Why? Because the desire for freedom and happiness is written upon our very nature. It is a desire that we cannot escape. It’s how we are wired. However, it is quite possible to become confused about the way we achieve these desires. For many, obedience is not always understood as the pathway to that desired freedom and happiness.
Consider, again, a child. Imagine a parent telling that child not to eat a certain wild berry that grows behind their house because the parent knows the berry is poisonous and will cause the child to become sick. If the child disobeys and eats the berry anyway, he will learn the important lesson that he should have been obedient. Or if the child were to get in a fight with his brother and was angry and crying, the parent may tell him to say he’s sorry and reconcile with his brother. If the child refuses, he will remain angry and crying. But if he obeys, then he and his brother will once again be able to have fun together.
On a grand scale, this is what God does for us. He is the perfect Father Who always knows what is best for us. For that reason, we must not only conform to His will, we must desire it, seek it out and desire to be obedient to the greatest degree. This is the path to Truth. It is the path to freedom. It is the path to the happiness we desire.
Reflect, today, upon your own level of obedience to the will of God and your understanding of the importance of that obedience. Do you realize that God’s will is perfect? Perhaps you do intellectually, but how about practically? When you read through the Scriptures and hear Jesus’ commands of love, do you seek to follow them without hesitation? For example, do you forgive those who seem undeserving? Can you say, with our Lord from the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do?” Reflect upon anything this past year that was difficult for you to embrace from God. Ponder it, pray over it and seek to obey whatever He has revealed to you. Doing so will be the first step toward the fulfillment of your deepest desires in life.
Most glorious Jesus, Your will is perfect in every way. Obedience to Your will leads to the fulfillment of my life and my every desire. Please bestow the Spirit of Truth upon me so that I will always know Your will and embrace it with all my might. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friendship with God
Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B)
“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. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” John 15:15–17
Just prior to the passage quoted above, Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Is that the measure of true friendship? That we do what our friend commands us to do? That depends upon which friend we are speaking about.
There are many images we use for God. We call Him Father, Savior, Master, Lord, King, Redeemer, Spirit and Friend. When it comes to God as our divine Friend, it is important to understand the nature of that friendship properly. Jesus’ friendship is not one that simply makes us “buddies.” Friendship with our Lord is not the same as a friendship between two equals. He is God. And because He is God, our friendship with Him takes on unique characteristics that are not present in other friendships. With that said, there could be no greater friend than the Lord Himself.
Among humans, our friendships have various foundations. It could be that two people have mutual interests and they enjoy engaging in those interests together. It could be that two people have spent much pleasant time together since childhood. Or it could be that two people have endured some difficulty together and that experience has bonded them together. But according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, friendship in its purest form is based on just one thing: mutual charity.
Charity is the form of love that is purely selfless. It’s a way of relating to another in which a person’s sole focus is the good of the other. It is not based on one’s own self interests. It’s not a matter of “what do I get out of it?” In 1 Corinthians 13:4–8, St. Paul defines the love of charity this way: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” This is not only the definition of charity, it is also the only foundation for true friendship.
When you consider all of these qualities of charity, you will find that God relates to us in each of these ways. For that reason, God offers us the purest friendship possible. Whether or not we reciprocate these qualities to God will determine the depth of the bond of friendship that we establish with Him. But there is more. When we love God, we must love Him in a way that is proper and proportionate to Who God is. For example, if we offer charity to God, we seek to fulfill only God’s interests and rejoice in the Truth of Who He is. Thus, the charity we offer to God comes in the form of worship. He is God and is worthy of worship, adoration, surrender, trust and perfect obedience. When it is God we are loving, the very essence of the Person we love requires these responses.
One beautiful and consoling thing to recognize with this form of charity given to God is that it also establishes a true friendship with God. When we offer our worship to God, we are in a position to receive the very life of God in return. And the giving of ourselves, coupled with the reception of the life of God, establishes a bond of holy friendship that will transform us, unite us with Him and fulfill us to perfection. Friendship with God makes us one with Him and opens us to receive everything that He shares with us—namely, His very Self.
Reflect, today, upon the invitation Jesus has offered you to enter into a true friendship with Him. This means that God becomes the center of your life. It means that you seek to give yourself, selflessly and without reserve, to Him Who is deserving of all your love. It means you choose worship and obedience to perfection. The reward of such love is that you are able to enter into a bond that is so holy, so pure and so fulfilling that it completes you, enabling you to become who you were meant to be.
My God and true Friend, You offer me everything in life. You offer me Your perfect love, given fully and without reserve. I pray that I will reciprocate that depth of love and offer to You all that You deserve. I offer You my love, worship and obedience, dear Lord. May this mutual love form a bond that will never end. Jesus, I trust in You.
Loving the Trinity
Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year C)
Jesus said to his disciples: “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. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.” John 14:23–24
The Father and the Son are One. Their unity is perfect in every way. They share one divine nature. Yet they are distinct Persons. They are not only perfectly united as One God, they are also able to be in a loving communion of unity with each other. The mystery of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a mystery so deep that we will never fully comprehend Them. They are the “unknowable God” Whom we seek to know. Thus, our relationship with God is an ongoing journey by which we plunge ourselves into this mystery more deeply every day and through eternity.
Today’s Gospel gives us a glimpse into the glorious unity of God, but it goes further. It also reveals the desire in the Heart of God to come and dwell within us. If we love God and keep His Word, the Trinity will come to us and dwell within us. “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.” This invitation given to us to share in the unity of God is also a mystery too deep for words.
As a child, perhaps you were taught about the mystery of the Trinity by being shown a three-leaf clover. Each petal represents one of the divine Persons, but the whole leaf represents Their unity. We benefit from this simplistic imagery to help us begin to understand Who God is. But in reality, there is only one thing that will help to fully reveal God’s very Self to us. What is that one thing? It is exactly what Jesus spoke about: Loving obedience to the Word of God.
Obedience to the Word of God is the best expression of love we can offer to God. This is because God’s Word is Truth in its fullness. When we understand this Truth and live by it, then this is love. Furthermore, this form of loving obedience will result in something that is unimaginable. It will result in the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity in our souls: “…and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
Though this language is clouded and mysterious, when the Most Holy Trinity comes to dwell within a person, the cloud begins to be lifted and the mystery begins to become known. Therefore, the only way to begin to discover this incomprehensible mystery of the life of the Most Holy Trinity is to allow the Trinity to dwell within you. And the only way to invite God to do so is through love of Him. And the only way to love Him is through obedience to the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God. We especially come to know Him as the Word of God through our reading of the Scriptures and by living the message it proclaims.
Reflect, today, upon the most central calling you have been given. That mission is to become a dwelling place for God. And that is only accomplished by your love of God which is expressed through obedience to His Word. Ponder obedience. Tell God you will obey His every command of love. Look at your actions and consider any ways that you fail in obedience to all that our Lord has commanded. Where you see any deviation, know that correcting that deviation is the pathway not only to a deeper love but also the pathway to a fuller unity with the Triune God Who seeks to unite Himself to you from within.
Most Holy Trinity, Unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, come dwell within me. I pray for the gift of love of You, expressed through my obedience to Your every command that is revealed through Your holy Word. May I become more fully aware of every way I delay in my obedience so that I may change my ways and open myself more fully to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.” John 15:26–27
Jesus informs His disciples that “the Spirit of truth” will come and that the Spirit, as well as the disciples, will “testify” to Him. When Jesus first spoke these words to His disciples, they would not have comprehended what He meant. Since these words are prophetic in nature, they are words spoken that were to come to fulfillment and, then, once fulfilled, the words would be understood. So what does Jesus mean?
When we look at the Acts of the Apostles and read about the early Church, it is clear that something incredibly transforming took place after Jesus ascended into Heaven. Up until that time, the disciples and other followers of Jesus had faith, but they were also fearful. They communicated with those others who believed, but did so in secret and with fear. But as soon as Pentecost came and the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, descended upon them, the Apostles began to be used by God to powerfully proclaim the Gospel without fear and with great effect upon many. It was this experience of the disciples of our Lord, being filled with the Holy Spirit, to which Jesus was referring.
After Jesus died, and perhaps even more so after Jesus ascended into Heaven, it is likely that some of His disciples immediately concluded that the new movement Jesus started was now over. They could have never conceived of the idea that what Jesus started was only beginning. They could have never conceived of the fact that soon they would share in the beginning of the Church, proclaim the Gospel with courage and power, see the conversion of countless lives, witness the ongoing forgiveness of sins, and ultimately give their lives in imitation of our Lord. These disciples had no idea just what awaited them with the coming of the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. What was awaiting them was their sharing in the ability to “testify” to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. They soon realized that Jesus was actually more alive than ever and that He was now going forth to convert souls by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the instrumentality of all of His new disciples.
The same is true in our lives today. It is far too common for Christians to simply believe in Jesus personally, but then fail to wholeheartedly give testimony to Him by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. It is far too common for followers of Christ to act more like the disciples prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Too often, Christians keep the Gospel to themselves, fearful of giving testimony by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Reflect, today, upon these prophetic words of Jesus. Though these words were initially spoken to the Twelve, Jesus also speaks these words to you today. He wants you, too, to be a witness to Him, giving testimony to others so that they will come to believe. Reflect upon how well you fulfill this prophetic calling. Where you are lacking, pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in your life so that God can reach many hearts through you.
Most glorious Jesus, You promised to send upon Your disciples and also upon me the Holy Spirit, the Advocate and Spirit of Truth. Holy Spirit, I welcome You into my life and offer myself to You without reserve to be used to give testimony to the Truth. Please do use me, my God, and touch many lives through me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Grieved at Changes in Life
Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Jesus said to his disciples: “Now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:5–7
Jesus continues to speak prophetically to His disciples about the necessity for Him to go to the Father so that He can send the Holy Spirit. What’s interesting in this passage is that Jesus points out to His disciples that “grief” has filled their hearts because of what He has said to them. Clearly, this grief in their hearts is because they do not understand what they will soon experience and do not want their relationship with Jesus to change.
Throughout our lives, our Lord will call us to change. At times, He calls us away from that with which we are familiar and comfortable, and He calls us to something new. This can be frightening and can become the cause of “grief” for us also. To help, let’s consider this passage above in detail.
Recall that there were many times, prior to Jesus’ death, that Jesus slowly started to reveal to His disciples, especially to the Twelve, that He would be going to the Father and that He would no longer be with them in the way He had been. Jesus wanted the Twelve to begin to understand that their relationship with Him, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit would soon take on new meaning in their lives. But the fact that this was something new, a change to what they had grown accustomed, meant that they were more focused upon the grief that accompanies loss than they were focused upon the joy that awaited.
This same experience can often be found in all of our lives. Though dramatic change is not necessarily a regular occurrence throughout life, most everyone will experience change at various moments in life. And when that change occurs in accord with the will of God, it must be embraced with hope and great expectation.
For example, vocational changes, such as getting married, having children, or entering a religious vocation, always bring with it much change—but a change that God can use for much good. Also, the death of a loved one, a move to a new community, a new job or school, the establishment of new relationships and the like can be difficult but also fruitful. Since the Gospel passage above specifically refers to the change that comes from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it might be helpful to consider the fact that whenever some new change takes place in our lives, the Holy Spirit is there, waiting to enter into the new situation in ways we could have never imagined. So if you find yourself at times experiencing the grief of some loss, or difficulty with some new endeavor in life, know that the disciples experienced something similar. But in the end, Jesus’ words came true—“it is better for you that I go.” Though they did not want to see Jesus die and then ascend to Heaven out of their sight, this was part of the plan of God for their lives. So also when the changes we encounter in life are part of God’s divine plan, we can be certain that good things await.
Reflect, today, upon anything that our Lord may be asking of you in regard to a change in your life. Are you open, ready and willing to do whatever He asks? Or are you fearful or grieved by the thought of some change. Be open to anything our Lord asks of you and know that the full embrace of His holy will is the only path to true happiness in life.
My dear Jesus, You prepared Your disciples for the new life of grace that they would receive after Your death and Resurrection. Though fearful and uncertain, they embraced the new life You called them to live, and You did marvelous things through them. Please open my heart to the full embrace of my vocation and any changes that You desire for my life. I say “Yes” to You, my Lord, and pray that You work powerfully through me by the Holy Spirit. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Best is Yet to Come
Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Jesus said to his disciples: “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.” John 16:12–13
This passage still rings true for all of us today. God wants to reveal to us, within the depths of our consciences, the deepest, most profound and transforming truths that flow from the mind of the Father in Heaven. But we cannot bear it all now. Not fully. And eternity will be spent continually deepening our understanding of all that God reveals. And the process of this ongoing and deepening discovery will fill us with an ongoing and deepening joy. This will be our Heaven, but it must begin now.
First of all, it’s important to understand that God does “have much more to tell you.” Interestingly, coming to know how much you do not already know is itself a form of knowledge. Knowing that there is so much more, that God’s wisdom is infinitely beyond you, that the mind of God compared to yours is incomparable is itself a beautiful truth that must be understood. This truth should both humble you and also fill you with a holy awe of God and the infinite depth of wisdom, truth, beauty and glory contained within Him. This is an essential first step.
Furthermore, by saying that “you cannot bear it now” does not mean that you should not try to bear more and more of the truth that God wants to reveal. In fact, it’s a form of invitation, in that it indicates that there will come a time when you will be able to comprehend more. This should once again foster a hope and anticipation for all that remains hidden to be revealed. Humility in the face of the infinite God is necessary for growth in wisdom and knowledge of God.
How does this growth in wisdom and the knowledge of God happen? It happens by the power and working of the Holy Spirit. It is the “Spirit of truth” who will “guide you to all truth.” But even this statement, once again, implies that this is a process. It is the Spirit Who will “guide” you. And this guidance will continue throughout this life and on into eternity.
This teaching of our Lord begs the question: Have you begun the process? Have you begun to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth? Have there been concrete moments in your life when you came to know God in a new and profound way that could only have been possible by the power and working of God Himself?
Reflect, today, upon these essential questions. If you have had God the Holy Spirit speak clearly to You, then humble yourself before that truth. Pray for more wisdom and more knowledge of all that you do not know. And if you cannot relate to the idea of there being so much more that is beyond you, then humbly turn to our Lord and beg Him to begin to open your mind to all that He wants to say to you. The infinite mind of our God awaits you to be discovered and embraced. Begin the process today and let Him guide you into all truth.
God of all truth, You, Your wisdom, Your love and all of Your glorious attributes are infinite in nature and are beyond my complete comprehension. As I humble myself before these holy truths, dear Lord, please bestow upon me the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, so that I may open my mind more fully to You by Your grace. May the process of deep discovery be one of great joy and become for me a process that continues into eternity. Jesus, I trust in You.
(If you celebrate the Ascension in your diocese today, see the reflection below. Otherwise, skip to the next reflection and return to the Ascension reflection on Sunday.)
Ascension of Our Lord (Year A)
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18–20
These are the parting and final words our Lord spoke while on earth. As soon as He spoke them He ascended into Heaven to remain with His Father forever, preparing a place for us so that we could join Him one day. Never again on earth would the disciples hear Jesus speak to them or see Him in physical form. Though He would soon send the Holy Spirit upon them and speak clearly to them interiorly through prayer, they would not encounter His audible voice and physical presence once again until Heaven.
Just prior to the passage quoted above, we read that the disciples did two things. One was ideal; the other was not. We read: “When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.” Of course, the fact that they worshiped Him is ideal, but the fact that they doubted is somewhat shocking and disappointing. After all that they went through with our Lord, after all they witnessed and heard, they still doubted. They witnessed Jesus cure leprosy, restore sight to the blind, heal the crippled, preach with a new authority, convert sinners, raise the dead and even rise from the dead Himself. And after all of this, they still had doubts.
Perhaps their doubts are recorded in this final encounter with our earthly Lord because it reveals to us our own ongoing doubts. Perhaps the real doubters are not only the disciples but also each one of us.
When you look into your own conscience, what do you see? Do you see a person with perfect faith and trust in God? Or do you see a person who seeks to worship God but also struggles with doubts? A doubt is a lack of faith. It is different from a difficulty, an uncertainty, or a confusion. A doubt is an action by which we positively make the choice to start down the path of disbelief. It’s more than a weakness; it’s a choice and not a good one.
The good news is that these doubting disciples eventually received something that eliminated every doubt from their minds. They received the Holy Spirit, and this gift of God began to dispel every temptation to doubt as they received the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. In particular, the gifts of Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge would deepen their faith in God and enable them to both worship and believe.
As we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, reflect, today, upon the image of these disciples worshiping God and doubting at the same time. If this image strikes a chord within you, then pay attention to it. It is good to worship God, but it is also good to humbly admit where you lack perfect faith. Where you see this lack of faith, hold onto the hope that, just like these disciples, you will receive the full outpouring of the promised Holy Spirit in your life so that every doubt will be dispelled and you will receive true Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge in their fullness.
My Ascended Lord, You entered the glories of Heaven, body and soul, as Your disciples looked on. They worshiped You but also struggled with doubts. Help me to also worship You with my whole being. As I do, reveal to me my lack of faith and trust in You and dispel these sins by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, I trust in You.
(If you celebrate the Ascension in your diocese today, see the reflection below. Otherwise, skip to the next reflection and return to the Ascension reflection on Sunday.)
The End is the Beginning
Ascension of Our Lord (Year B)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15–16
We celebrate today one more step in the completion of the mission of the Son of God. Humanity had sinned at the beginning of time and fallen from Original Innocence. God immediately began to prepare the world for the gift of eternal redemption by establishing a covenant with Noah, Abraham and Moses. He raised up various prophets and kings to further prepare His people for what was to come. And then, when the time was right, God entered our world through the Blessed Virgin Mary. Jesus, the Son of God, eventually entered into His public ministry, teaching, performing miracles, gathering the faithful to Himself, dying, rising and then appearing to His disciples in preparation for the Ascension. The Ascension completes the mission of the Son of God. Today we honor that definitive moment when God the Son, in His transformed and resurrected Human nature, ascends by His own power to the Father, bringing with Himself our humanity so that all humanity may ascend with Him.
As we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, we must first see all that led up to that moment and seek to unite ourselves with all of those preceding events. We must listen to the words of the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament. We must especially listen to the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament and embrace His words without hesitation. And we must unite ourselves with His own death, dying to sin, so that we may also share in His Resurrection. Today, we must further see the invitation we are all given to ascend with Jesus to the Father. We must understand that where Jesus has gone, we are invited to follow if we only believe, embrace and live all that took place leading up to this glorious moment.
The Ascension was the end of Jesus’ life on Earth but also the beginning of our sharing in the life of Heaven. As Jesus ascended, He commissioned His disciples to go forth and “preach the gospel to every creature.” They were to preach to all about the saving plan of God that began at the time of Adam and Eve and was completed with the Ascension.
Reflect, today, upon your calling to not only share in this glorious moment of Jesus’ Ascension but also your calling to go forth and to do all you can to draw others into this new life. Reflect upon Jesus, Who also speaks to you today to invite you to bring others to that mountain. By teaching friends, family and all with whom God has entrusted to you to share the Gospel, you fulfill Christ’s mission to “go into the whole world” to gather the scattered people into the one fold of Christ so as to ascend with Him one day into eternity.
My ascended Lord, all things throughout history were but a preparation for the moment when You drew fallen humanity into Heaven to be with Your Father forever. Help me to always heed Your holy words, so that I, too, will share in Your Ascension. Use me, dear Lord, to also go forth and to draw many others to You so that the Kingdom will be filled with all those whom You have called. Jesus, I trust in You.
(If you celebrate the Ascension in your diocese today, see the reflection below. Otherwise, skip to the next reflection and return to the Ascension reflection on Sunday.)
Witnessing to the Gospel
Ascension of Our Lord (Year C)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:46–49
And with that, the earthly mission of Jesus was completed and He ascended into Heaven. Or was it? Was His mission completed? Yes, but only in the sense that our Lord’s work of destroying death and offering new life was accomplished by His life, death and resurrection. Human nature was now invited to share in a new life of grace.
Prayerfully imagine standing on the mountain of the Ascension with our Lord. As you gaze upon Him, imagine that you were also present with Him throughout His public ministry. Imagine witnessing His many miracles, the way that He converted the hardest of hearts, the authority with which He spoke, His arrest, torture, death and then His Resurrection. Imagine seeing His hands and feet, once pierced, now radiating glory from those wounds. As you see our Lord in this way, imagine Him looking at you with love and saying to you that He has chosen to send you forth to the world to be a witness to Him and to all that you have seen and encountered. You are to go forth sharing the Good News of His life, death and resurrection with all whom you come in contact with.
First, our Lord has, indeed, shared His entire life with you. By reading the Gospels, you become a firsthand witness to all that Jesus did and accomplished. His Word is alive, and it reveals His very Person to you, just as it did to His first followers. Second, Jesus does call you to go forth and to share this living Gospel with the world. Therefore, it is important to ponder how you can do such a thing. How can you give witness to the Resurrection of Christ? How can you change lives? How can you continue the mission of Jesus Himself?
The promise given by our Lord to the disciples on the mountain of the Ascension is also a promise given to you. He is promising to send the Holy Spirit upon you so as to clothe you “with power from on high.” Only by receiving that power and using it fully will you be able to accomplish the mission that our Lord has given to you. Therefore, will you open yourself to the Holy Spirit and commit yourself to the continuation of Christ’s mission?
If we were to fully understand the mission we have received from Jesus, it would fill us with a holy fear. But too often the realization of what God wants of us fills us with an unholy fear instead. We think about evangelizing others, sharing our faith, witnessing to the truth by our actions, loving our enemies and living for the Gospel alone, and it can appear overwhelming. If that is the case with you, then know that this form of unholy fear can be dispelled so that the gift of holy fear can take its place. Holy fear is a gift of the Holy Spirit that inspires us to sense the awesomeness of God and the mission we are given by encountering it firsthand. It motivates us, encourages us and leaves us with wonder and awe. From there, this and every other gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the unending mission of Christ.
Reflect, today, upon the particular mission that God has given to you. Prayerfully look at Jesus as He stands on the mountain of the Ascension and looks at you. As He does, let Him reveal to you not only His very Person but also your particular sharing in His ongoing mission of sharing the Good News to the ends of the earth. Receive that mission with courage, joy and holy fear. Reverence it, savor it, ponder it and accept it. Commit yourself to this glorious sharing in the life of Christ by committing yourself to become a witness to Christ until the end of your life on earth.
My ascended Lord, as You entered body and soul into the full and glorious presence of Your Father, You handed on to your disciples the duty of completing Your mission on earth. I hear Your call in my life, dear Lord, and commit myself to the glorious task of continuing that mission on earth. Please use me as You will and fill me with power from on high so that I may help share Your saving Word to the ends of the earth. Jesus, I trust in You.
(The reflection below is used when the Solemnity of the Ascension is transferred to the coming Sunday.)
Deepening Your Understanding
Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
So some of his disciples said to one another, “What does this mean that he is saying to us, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” So they said, “What is this ‘little while’ of which he speaks? We do not know what he means.” John 16:17–18
How about you? Do you know what Jesus means? Or do you find that you are confused by what He said just like these disciples were? Though pride may tempt you to claim that you fully understand all that Jesus taught, the humble and honest truth is that you are probably very much like these disciples in their confusion. And that is not necessarily a bad place to be.
First, the confusion of these disciples shows they took Jesus seriously. They were not indifferent. They cared, were interested, wanted to understand, and must have had some level of faith in Jesus. Otherwise, they would have ignored Him. But they didn’t. They listened, tried to understand, discussed His teaching, thought about His words and humbly concluded that they didn’t understand.
Jesus is not critical of their confusion. He sees that they are trying and that they have some level of faith. And even though these disciples are confused, Jesus continues to speak to them in figures of speech rather than directly and clearly. One of the reasons that Jesus speaks in figurative language is because the message that He is teaching is profound and deep. It’s not something that can be quickly and easily understood and mastered. The mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven are so deep, vast, profound and mystical that the only way to begin to understand them is to first have faith. Faith does not mean you fully understand everything. Faith is a supernatural gift by which you come to believe without fully seeing and understanding. The certainty comes for God, not from your own reasoning ability. But faith always leads to deeper understanding. Therefore, as these disciples professed their faith, they also came to understand. And even though Jesus speaks in this figurative way, these disciples ultimately made the choice to believe. Later in this chapter they conclude, “Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God” (John 16:30).
If you find yourself confused about various matters of faith, God, morality, and the like, or if you find yourself confused about the various mysteries of life itself, or your life in particular, do not be afraid to admit to this confusion. Admitting confusion is the humble admittance of the truth, and this humility will be a helpful step toward the gift of faith.
Reflect, today, upon whether you struggle at all with indifference toward the mysteries of life. If so, commit yourself to be more like these disciples who intentionally grappled with all that Jesus spoke. Do not be afraid to admit your confusion and to place that confusion before our Lord. Strive to have the gift of faith and allow that spark of faith to become the pathway for your deeper understanding of the many mysteries of life.
My mysterious Lord, You and all the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven are so deep and profound that no one will ever fully comprehend their depth, breadth and beauty. Please open my mind, dear Lord, to a deeper understanding of You so that I may profess my faith in You and in all that You have chosen to reveal. I do believe, my God. Help my unbelief. Jesus, I trust in You.
The “Labor Pains” of God’s Will
Friday of the Sixth Sunday of Easter
“When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.” John 16:21
This truth can certainly be extended to any form of anguish we experience for a good reason. Note that the pain experienced in childbirth is pain for a good and holy reason. Therefore, the pain is forgotten, in a sense, when the mother sees and holds her newborn child. That suffering is forgotten in the sense that it is transformed into joy by the birth of a child.
There is much in life that can cause anguish. In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes on to say to His disciples: “So you also are now in anguish.” He says this because He had just finished speaking to them about His coming departure to the Father and about the suffering that they would all experience in the form of persecution. But then He says to them that after He departs and they no longer see Him, they will then see Him again and will rejoice. And He says, “On that day you will not question me about anything.” This is an important line to understand.
Anguish, or any form of suffering, can tempt us to question our lives and even to question God. It is clear that after Jesus was killed, the disciples questioned everything. They were confused and frightened. All appeared to be lost. Then, to a lesser degree, after Jesus ascended into Heaven and prior to Him sending the Holy Spirit, the disciples would have also experienced confusion. Why did Jesus leave them? Why didn’t He stay longer? Who was going to lead them now? These and many other similar questions would have arisen in their minds.
So also with us, when things do not go as planned, or when things take a painful turn in our lives, we can immediately question and even doubt the perfect plan of God. If things fall apart because of our sin, then repentance is the remedy. But if things fall apart, in the sense that life becomes difficult, then we should especially listen to the words of Jesus today.
When anguish in life happens because we are fulfilling God’s will, we must see that anguish as a means to a much greater good. Just as the pains of childbirth lead to the gift of a child, so the pains of bringing forth God’s will in our lives will lead to the presence of God Himself. Patient endurance is a virtue that is especially important in this case. For example, the anguish of overcoming an addiction, or of praying when we don’t feel like praying, or of forgiving someone who hurt us are all examples of anguish turning into blessings. Very often, combatting our own selfish will is difficult. But the fruit of engaging in such a battle within us is joy. There is joy found in victory over sin. Joy is found in persevering in prayer. Joy is found in every difficulty we endure for the Kingdom of God. But the joy is not always our first experience. It is only experienced when we patiently endure the situation.
Reflect, today, upon any form of anguish you are currently enduring for the glory of God, or anything you are currently avoiding because it seems difficult to do. Do not shy away from these difficulties. See them as a means to a glorious end. Endure the “labor pains” of the purification and mission God is calling you to by looking beyond the difficulties you initially experience so that you will see the end result that awaits you.
My glorious Lord, You endured Your passion with perfect virtue. You never wavered from fulfilling the will of the Father, and the fruit of Your perseverance was the glory of the Resurrection. Please help me to patiently endure the crosses in my life and give me hope to see that from them You will bring forth the good fruit of eternal joy. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Love of the Father Revealed
Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter
“I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father.” John 16:25
When is it that Jesus will speak clearly about the Father? When is that “hour” of which He speaks? First, this “hour” can be understood to be the time after His death, Resurrection and Ascension to Heaven. It is then when the Holy Spirit will come upon them at Pentecost to open their minds to understand all that He has taught with much greater insight and clarity. But in John’s Gospel, the “hour” is also a reference to His death on the Cross. It is His hour of glory, the hour in which the Son of Man saves us through His holy passion. Therefore, this statement of Jesus should be read within the context of Him alluding to His coming passion. Recall that this sermon Jesus gives is part of His “Last Supper Discourse.” It is given immediately prior to Jesus going out to the Garden of Gethsemane to be arrested.
When we consider this “hour” to be the passion and death of Jesus on the Cross, we should be aware of the fact that His act of dying is not only a saving act of redemption, it is also one of the clearest ways in which He speaks about His Father in Heaven. Jesus’ suffering and death does, in fact, reveal the Father to the disciples in ways that His “figures of speech” could not reveal. Jesus’ veiled language was spoken as truth but as truth that could not be fully communicated. However, Jesus’ freely embraced suffering and death does clearly communicate the Father in the most profound way possible. The Cross is pure love, and the Father is pure love. Jesus’ death on the Cross in obedience to the will of the Father reveals to all that the Father loves us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His only begotten Son so that if we but believe in Him, we will inherit eternal life.
The message of the Cross is a true teaching about the love of the Father. It’s a teaching that took place through an act of the most pure and sacrificial love imaginable. The Cross was Jesus speaking “clearly about the Father” insofar as it reveals the depth of the Father’s love for all humanity. If you find this difficult to understand, then you are not alone. The disciples themselves struggled with this. That is why they ultimately needed the Holy Spirit to come upon them to open their minds. We too need the Holy Spirit if the veil is to be lifted and we are to comprehend this most powerful message of God’s infinite love.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus’ burning desire to lift the veil of His teaching and to reveal to you, clearly, the depth of the Father’s love for you. Allow the Holy Spirit to open your mind to this revelation as it is given through the Crucifixion. Pray for that gift. Listen to Jesus tell you He desires to give you this understanding and then await the grace you need to see and understand the very heart of the Father and His divine love for you.
My precious Jesus, Your hour of glory upon the Cross is the clearest and fullest revelation of the Father’s love. On the Cross, You show us all how deeply we are loved by You and Your Father in Heaven. Please do open my mind, dear Lord, to all You wish to reveal to me, so that as I come to know You, I will also come to know Your Father in Heaven. Jesus, I trust in You.
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