Humility and Gratitude
Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B)
“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
What a great little reminder…“Without me you can do nothing.”
At first, hearing this may hurt. It may hurt our pride, and we may react to this idea negatively. Is it really true? Can we really do nothing without God? Obviously the answer to that is “Yes.” Jesus does not lie. We can do nothing without God in our lives.
In fact, if God were to forget us for one moment, we would cease to exist. Even our very existence depends upon God continuing to will that we exist. And as for doing good, making a difference, having a productive life, etc., we can do nothing good without God’s grace.
Though this may be hard to hear at first, we should ponder it regularly. And if we do ponder it and embrace this truth, two things will happen in our souls. First, we will grow in humility. Humility is the most important virtue in which we can grow. It’s been referred to as “the mother of all virtues.” This is because from this virtue, all other virtues flow. Humility means we realize that God is everything and that we need Him with a 100% need. This humble truth will enable us to seek God in all things and to invite Him deeply into every part of our lives.
A second thing that will happen in our souls when we realize that we can do nothing without God is that we will grow in gratitude. As we see that God is everything AND we begin to see that He provides us with constant grace in our lives, our only appropriate response will be “Thank you!” We will be grateful to God for everything because we will realize that everything that is good is a gift from Him.
Reflect, today, upon these truths of humility and gratitude and allow them to sink in. As you do, allow these virtues to grow to greater fruition in your life.
Lord, I do believe that I can do nothing without You. Help me to believe this with an even greater conviction and, as I do, help me to grow in humility and gratitude. Jesus, I trust in You.
Do You Not Know Me?
Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles, May 3
Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” John 14:8–9
Today’s liturgical feast is in honor of two of the Apostles, Philip and James the Lesser. Little is known about James other than that he was chosen by our Lord for the apostolic ministry and that we have one of his letters, which is contained in the New Testament. James eventually went to Jerusalem and led the Church for a few decades until he was stoned to death as a martyr. Philip preached in Greece, Phrygia and Syria. He and Saint Bartholomew were thought to have been crucified upside down. Philip preached upside down from the cross until his death.
In the Gospel for today’s Mass, we are presented with an encounter that Philip had with Jesus. Though this encounter appears to be a rebuke of Philip by Jesus, it’s a rebuke that is quite heartfelt. Jesus says, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?” Jesus did, indeed, spend much time with His disciples. They stayed together, ate together, traveled together and spent much time talking with each other. Therefore, Jesus’ comments to Philip emanated from His real and lived personal relationship with Philip.
Take the first part of that statement to begin with. “Have I been with you so long…” Imagine Jesus saying this to you. Is this something He would be able to say to you? Is it true that you do spend much time with Him? Do you spend time reading the Gospels, speaking to Him from the depths of your heart, conversing with Him, praying to Him, and listening to His gentle voice?
But Jesus goes on: “…and you still do not know me…?” This is a humble truth that is important to admit. It is true that even those who have a very deep and transforming life of prayer do not know our Lord deeply enough. There is no limit to the transformation that can take place in our lives when we know Jesus personally.
Jesus’ statement goes on: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” So the next question is this: “Do you know the Father?” Do you know the Father’s love, His care for you, His perfect will? Though the Father and the Son are united as one God, They are still distinct Persons, and we must, therefore, work to establish a relationship of love with each one of them.
As initially mentioned, the comments from Jesus are a gentle rebuke of love to Philip, and He wants to speak this same gentle rebuke to you. But it’s a rebuke of love meant to encourage you to get to know Him better. It’s an invitation to personalize your relationship with Jesus and the Father in a real and concrete way. Do you know Him? Do you know the Son of God? Do you know the Father in Heaven?
Reflect, today, upon these loving questions of our Lord as if they were spoken to you. Let His words encourage you to get to know Him more deeply. Pray for your relationship to become more personal and transforming. And as you get to know our Lord more intimately, know that it is also the Father in Heaven Whom you are getting to know.
My divine and personal Lord, it is the deepest desire of Your Sacred Heart to know me and to love me. Fill my heart with this same desire so that I will not only know You, dear Lord, but also the Father in Heaven. Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your perfect love and pray that I may open myself to that love more fully each and every day. Saints Philip and James, pray for me. 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, is 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 fulfilment.
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 “cancelled” 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.