Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Fifth Week of Easter

John 14:21-26 - World English Bible

Jesus said to his disciples:

21 "One who has my commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him."

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, what has happened that you are about to reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?"

23 Jesus answered him, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him. 24 He who doesn't love me doesn't keep my words. The word which you hear isn't mine, but the Father's who sent me. 25 I have said these things to you, while still living with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you."

In John 14, Jesus spoke of divine intimacy, the result of a relationship. On the one hand, the disciple who kept the Lord's word (commandments in the context of the Christian community) showed his devotion. On the other hand, the Father loved the devoted disciple and, in tandem, the Son loved the follower to the extent that he would reveal himself to the devotee. What was this revelation? It was a life in the Spirit and a life in the community, a feeling God was close (at times) and an intimacy with fellow Christians at worship and in everyday interactions. In brief, Jesus revealed himself in a life built upon charity. Such Christian love even pointed to an indwelling of the Trinity (14:23, 26).

Why did Jesus reveal himself only to his followers and not the world? The world didn't acknowledge the Lord, so it could not offer any measure of devotion to him. The Spirit, however, would strengthen those who followed and grew closer to the Lord; the Spirit would remind the community of Jesus' words and guide it into the future.

How has your devotion to Jesus changed you life? How has the Spirit strengthen that devotion?

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Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Easter

John 14:27-31a - World English Bible

Jesus said to his followers:

27 "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don't let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. 28 You heard how I told you, 'I go away, and I come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I said 'I am going to my Father;' for the Father is greater than I. 29 Now I have told you before it happens so that, when it happens, you may believe. 30 I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of the world comes, and he has nothing in me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father commanded me, even so I do."

Jesus ended John 14 with a farewell. He gave them his peace ("Shalom" in Hebrew, the typical phrase for greeting and good-bye), for he was returning to his Father. In the greater scheme of things, the followers should rejoice, for his ascent home meant he realized his union with the Father and, implicitly, his followers would realize their union with God. Despite the activity of the Evil One (prince of this world), Jesus would reveal his love for the Father and his mission on behalf of the Father to the world, by dying on the cross.

When you look upon a crucifix, do you see Jesus fulfilling God's will? Do you see his unity with the Father?

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Wednesday in the Fifth Sunday in Easter

John 15:1-8 - World English Bible

Jesus said to his disciples:

1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. 2 Every branch in me that doesn't bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already pruned clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I in you. As the branch can't bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man doesn't remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you.

8 "In this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so you will be my disciples."

Jesus told the parable of the vine and the branches to express spiritual and communal unity. On the one hand, the analogy spoke of the weakness that a distant or errant disciple had; the "back-slider" would feel empty simply without a devotion to the Lord he constantly fed. On the other hand, either through excommunication or willing departure, a former believer would face uncertainty in a hostile world outside the community. The audience of the Gospel writer faced persecution; solidarity with other Christians did provide a measure of reinforcement and courage in tough times. Either way, the sinner or the loner could not evangelize as effectively as the member in good standing. Indeed, with the Risen Christ at its center, the Church spread the Good News even more effectively than the believer, since it had a common message ("if you (plural) remain in me and my words remain in you") and a common prayer ("you (plural) will ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you."). The fruit of the community (neophytes in the Church) glorify the Father.

How can you join with others to glorify the Father?

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Thursday in the Fifth Week of Easter

John 15:9-11 - World English Bible

Jesus said to his followers:

9 "Even as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and remain in his love. 11 I have spoken these things to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be made full."

Love has two dimensions: emotion and behavior. We feel an attraction to others so we act on that emotion. Yet, both dimensions can be irrational. The attraction cannot be the sole reason for the activity. After all, lives have changed based upon behaviors in the "heat of the moment."

John 15:9 spoke of activity based upon the will of the Father. The Father loved the Son by sending him into the world in order to reveal himself, a divinity of self-giving. The disciple "remained in my love" when he "kept my commandments" by imitating God's self-giving. In other words, the measure of Christian love was the cross, Jesus giving up his life for the salvation of the world.

Is self-giving irrational? Some would thinks so. But, it is exactly this kind of love that brings true joy into life, simply because the focus of the activity is on the other, not on the self. In this way, it is shared. Christ gave himself to us with an infectious joy. When we do the same, we share in that joy.

How have given to others and shared your joy?

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Friday in the Fifth Sunday in Easter

John 15:12-17 - World English Bible

Jesus told his followers:

12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant doesn't know what his lord does. But I have called you friends, for everything that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you. 16 You didn't choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

17 "I command these things to you, that you may love one another."

In these verses from John 15, Jesus revealed the true measure of love, to give up one's life for others. In fact, this was his commandment. If the disciple was willing to deny the self for the good of others, he was no longer a servant, but a friend of the Lord. This friendship not only had a cost of lost life but a benefit, an intimacy with God, a position where the Father revealed himself to his beloved. Indeed, the Christian Way, a lifestyle of intense devotion and self-giving, evangelized others ("bore fruit"). And the prayer of the one focused on others was more effective, because it, too, evangelized.

How have prayed for the good of others? What was the result?

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Saturday in the Fifth Week of Easter

John 15:18-21 - World English Bible

Jesus said to his followers:

18 "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his lord.'? If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do to you for my name's sake, because they don't know him who sent me."

Why were early Christians persecuted? There were many reasons. In a culture that honored tradition, it distrusted a new movement like the Church. Such a culture hated self-appointed leaders (like the Lord) and their followers. But, most of all, it held differences in disdain, especially values and activities that marked it as unique. Christianity was a new movement devoted to a charismatic leader who died a shameful death; it claimed their leader rose from the dead and celebrated that event with strange rites (eating the Body of its leader in Communion) and activities (gifts of the Spirit like speaking in tongues); it lived out its message in a lifestyle of charity, a concern for others when common culture had a hard, self-centered edge. Pagans and Jews held the followers of Jesus at arms length, not only because they were new and different, but because they were strange and even subversive.

Jesus spoke of persecution in blunter terms. People would hate the disciples because they hated the Master. They hated because the didn't understand where the Lord came from. If they did understand, they would have kept the Lord's word, just as his followers did.

One of the unintended consequences of persecution was an increase in conversions. Why would a "hater" become a Christian? On one level, the strangeness of the movement had a certain allude, the notion of an afterlife and the way the followers treated each other, with love. But, if a neophyte was asked why he or she converted, the answer might be, "Because the Lord chose me."

Do you feel Jesus chose you to be a follower? How has that "election" changed your life? How has it helped you face an indifferent, even hostile world?

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