SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Ordinarily we human beings try to make some provisions for those we will leave behind when we die; Jesus, who became fully human and fully immersed in all that we are and do, was no exception.
Some of us are concerned with anticipating and attending to the economic needs of loved ones and, to that end, we pass on to them whatever monetary wealth we’ve accumulated through the years. Sensitive to the emotional well-being of our dear ones, we may leave behind assuring and loving messages not only a last testament but a note, a letter or even a personal journal or a videotape. Admittedly, none of these efforts, can negate the stark reality of death, but all can, in some small way, diminish its pain.
Before he departed from his disciples in death, Jesus also attempted to ease the burden of those whom he would leave behind, not by providing for their economic, emotional or psychological needs but by seeing to their spiritual well-being. Indeed, Jesus left behind his very self so that his presence would continue to embrace, enable and empower his followers. Three weeks ago on Easter’s Third Sunday, the risen Jesus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, explained that his abiding presence could be known and experienced in the breaking of the bread of the scriptural word and in the breaking of the bread of the Eucharist. Upon realizing his presence among them, the disciples burned with love and affection in their hearts.
Six weeks ago, on Easter’s second Sunday, the risen Jesus as recorded in the gospel of John breathed upon his own and indicated that from then on they would be inspired and impelled by his abiding presence to bring peace and forgiveness to a needy world.
In today’s gospel, John tells us that the abiding Spirit of Jesus within every believer sets him/her at odds with the world. It is a Spirit of truth whom the world does not recognize or accept. Nevertheless, and despite all odds, that Spirit has been promised us; that the Spirit will remain with us as Jesus’ living legacy until he returns. Jesus will not leave us orphans!
That Spirit was described by Jesus as another Advocate. Thus, the Holy Spirit as our advocate is one who represents our interests, like a defense attorney who is sincerely concerned with our well-being. As our Advocates, the Son and the Spirit will support us in all our efforts, strengthen us against every adversary, and sustain us through every trial. It is the Holy Spirit who will assure the permanence and the power of the community’s faith in the risen Jesus. For Jesus solemnly promises that he will not leave us orphans.
From the 1850’s through the 1920’s, “Orphan Trains” carried almost 400,000 children from New York City to adoptive families in the Midwest. These children, often given up by newly arrived and desperate immigrants or found living in the streets, were resettled with families who could feed and clothe them and who welcomed their presence on the still underpopulated frontier of a growing nation. The pathos of the trains’ departures was repeated at stops along the way, when children would be taken off and displayed for prospective adoptive parents.
Jesus promised his disciples that he would not leave them orphans. We have been chosen. And like an older brother, Jesus is going ahead to prepare a home for us. And an unbelievable gift is about to be given us. What Christ has by nature, we are granted as gift—a share in the divine life – in the interior life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Their love surrounds, supports us, nourishes us and sustains us. When the Father sees us, hears our prayers, God sees and hears the divine Son. We are not orphans; we are God’s beloved children, and our train is bound for glory. Pentecost is in two weeks.
Jesus, we’re moving to the close of our Easter season now.
We feel the excitement in the air ~ and some sadness too.
You spoke these words to your disciples at the Last Supper;
they wouldn’t have understood at the time what you were saying or what you meant.
You also said,
“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him (14:21).”
Help us to observe your commandments, Jesus. They are simple: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
And allow us to know you and the Father.
To you and the Father and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate be all honor and glory, now and forever.
And now before you go, here’s a fun music video for you, Ride that Glory Train. Click here.
Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. And here’s the link for today’s Mass readings. Click here.
THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Jesus is so cool in the images he uses to communicate.
In the gospel passage a few weeks ago (John 15:1-8), Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
Look at the picture above. It’s not a vine, but every little portion of that bush, every flower, receives its life from being connected to the source of its life.
So, too, with us. I have some readers who are not professed Christians. But if you think about it, the message is the same: If we stay connected to the Source of life, whatever that is for you, then our lives will flourish and bear fruit.
But some of us are like withered branches. We have cut ourselves off from the source of life and we do not bring fruitfulness into our lives.
Consider the fruitfulness of your relationships. Are the people in our lives growing because they know us and are in our lives? Or are they withering up?
We want to be connected to the Internet, on Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and other social media.
What about your connection with God and his desire that the whole church, indeed the whole world be connected in love.
Jesus, you use simple images to help us understand
what life for us can be like when we stay connected to You.
Wonderful life-surging energy flows through You as the Vine.
Let that same life-surging energy which is Your Holy Spirit
surge through us as well
and renew the face of the earth!
To You be glory now and forever!
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 everyone that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in Me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. 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. Anyone who does not remain in Me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples.” (John 15:1-8)
Now, before you go, here’s an Easter hymn for your listening pleasure. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
The Fourth Sunday of Easter has my favorite story of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Its my also my favorite image of Jesus. It’s the perfect image for us today. (See Scripture below for your reflection.)
It took me a long time to realize that shepherds walked down the road ahead of their flock. And the sheep simply followed. They just responded to his voice.
What a wonderful model for leadership of any kind. Not coercing. Not goading. Not threatening. Not saying “If you don’t follow, you’re going to hell.”
Jesus just wants to lead the way. He wants to BE the way because he walked the path ahead of us. He knows what human life is about.
And more than that, he says “I know mine and mine know me.”
He’s talking about knowing us personally for who we are inside, who we really are. He delights in those under his care. He rejoices in us. He wants to be very close to us.
And he wants us to know him personally and intimately, too. That’s all.
That’s enough. For those of us who know, who realize, that God loves us, lifts us up, supports us, wants us to be who we are, that is just enough.
This is the Jesus I know and love. Jesus has invited me into a personal relationship with him and that makes all the difference in the way I live and love.
I, too, want to shepherd like that. To be an example to others. To lead and to know and care for those in my life.
This gospel says theirs a difference between a Good Shepherd and a hired hand who abandons the flock when things get rough. The Good Shepherd will leave the flock and search for the lost sheep and bring them home.
I love this image of Jesus. He’s my model of what a priest should be like — or a parent or a teacher or a coach. I just hope that I can continue to be a good shepherd.
Pope Francis has challenged his priests and bishops to go out among their flocks and know the people they serve like “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep”.
many of us have the role of shepherding others.
May we rejoice in that sacred honor and privilege
and do it well, not for profit but for love.
May we never betray that trust.
May we always delight in also being cared for by You.
To You be honor and glory and praise!
Now before you go, enjoy this version of Psalm 23. Be sure to enter full screen. Click here. And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.
Have a great day as we continue to celebrate our joyous Easter season.
THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
I would like to offer a reflection on my favorite resurrection story. I will reflect on the story, the fruit of my own imagination; but you need to engage your own. I recommend first reading the Scripture itself (Luke 24:13-35. Click here for all of today’s Mass readings). The reading of the actual words of Scripture is a powerful source of grace.
(Please note: When I use the actual words from Scripture, they appear in bold type; the narrative appears in regular type and when I offer comments about the story, these appear in italics.)
“That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples, one by the name of Cleopas, were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus.”
They were sad and downcast, as they were discussing the events in Jerusalem over the previous three days.
Think about how all of Jesus’ disciples must have felt during the interim between Good Friday afternoon and whenever they were able to fully grasp that Jesus had risen. Think of a time when you felt distraught and discouraged.)
Then Jesus invited himself along and they began to converse with him as they walked. Note that they were walking side by side, so they were not looking at him directly.
They do not recognize him, and began telling Jesus about Jesus. “. . . a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.”
(Why don’t they recognize him? Are they just ruminating over depressing events?) They told him, “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”
(Feel the depth of their disappointment and anguish ~ and fear; they must have been heartsick; the brother whom they loved had died. What kept them from a sense of hope?)
They knew that women in their company had gone to the tomb early that morning and found the tomb empty, but had seen a “vision of angels who announced that he was alive.”
Then Jesus interjected, “Oh how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”
(What did he tell them that enabled them to see and act differently? What change was taking place in them?)
When they reached their village, they pressed him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
(How do you think the disciples were feeling at this point? Had a change or transformation occurred in them?)
“So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was at table. . .”
. . .Now they could see him directly, not along side of them, but across from them. . .
“. . .He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and THEY RECOGNIZED HIM, but he vanished from their sight.
A veil had covered their eyes, but now their eyes were opened and they recognized him—in the breaking of bread.”
And then they returned to the Eleven in the Upper Room and “recounted what had taken place along the way and how [Jesus] was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”
There was victory in their hearts!
Now for a couple of concluding observations ~ especially for those of you who are Catholics or who appreciate the Holy Eucharist . . . .
Love of the holy Eucharist: Down through the centuries the church has recognized the Lord—has recognized itself—in the breaking of bread. This prompts a deep and abiding love for participating in the holy Eucharist.
(What kinds of varied feelings do you have when you celebrate the Eucharist? What could deepen your love of the gathering, listening, sharing, singing that is the holy Eucharist?
(Eucharist is a verb and a noun!)
And then this: The disciples realized “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Cleopas and his friend came very, very close to Jesus in their conversation on the way. It was an intimate moment they would always remember.
I can remember a good number of holy (that is, open and honest) conversations that changed my life and have given me the nourishment to grow and move on.
(Who are the people in your life who nourish and encourage you in conversation.
Whom do you so nourish?)
we praise you and thank you for sharing with us
in every place and for all time
the gift of your sacred body and blood.
May we always cherish such a wonderful gift
and never take it for granted.
To You be all glory and honor
with the Father and the Spirit,
now and forever. Amen. Alleluia!
And now to complete your experience for today, here’s the song One Bread, One Body together with a moving video. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.