Monday, April 27, 2015

5th Sunday of Easter - May 3, 2015

First Reading Commentary
Like most conversion stories, there’s usually a level of skepticism on the part of many who hear it.  In this Reading, Saint Paul is on the receiving end of this skepticism from the disciples.  As faithful followers of Jesus, we know that we must take up our cross.  Paul experiences this immediately.  He has had a life-changing conversion experience and those which he would now consider his brothers in the faith are rejecting him. 

If we are open to the will of God, we will surely be called upon to be used as God’s instrument.  In this Reading, Barnabas is that instrument who took charge of Paul and brought him to the apostles.  Paul finds out early on that the Christian walk is not an easy one as the Hellenists, who were Greeks, tried to kill him.

“And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus.”  From this verse we can see that Christianity is not a me, myself, and I type of faith.  It is a faith that reaches out to others in need. 

“The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.”  If we trust the Lord always and let the Holy Spirit move in our lives, we can always have peace regardless of how many conflicts are going on around us; and when conflicts are happening around us, it is then that we are called upon to be instruments of peace.

Second Reading Commentary
Let us love in deed and truth by keeping God’s commandments and doing what pleases Him.  Notice that Scripture exhorts us to love in deed and do what pleases God; not simply read about what pleases God or proclaim what pleases God.  A level of action is required.  But the will to do what pleases God should be effortless if we have surrendered our lives for the glory of God.  The human will, God help us, may be effortless but we must prepare ourselves because the road to heaven is a bumpy one because there are obstacles that get in our way when trying to do the work of the Lord; but that can be a cause for rejoicing because by taking on those obstacles we are following in the Footsteps of Christ by carrying our cross which leads to patient endurance. 

“Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from Him whatever we ask, because we keep His Commandments and do what pleases Him.”  God knows our hearts better than we do.  He created those hearts.  Our hearts have the freedom to choose whatever path we wish.  Our words and speeches will eventually surrender to our hearts.  If we proclaim our love for Jesus but at the same time our hearts are not really in it, eventually our deeds or lack of them will show where our heart stands regardless of what we say which is why the Lord judges by the heart. 

“We should believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as He commanded us” by doing what pleases Him so that we may remain in Him and He in us, “and the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He gave us.”

Gospel Commentary
Saint Augustine explains that Jesus is speaking of Himself as Man when He compares Himself to a vine, His disciples are the branches and the Father is the vine grower.  Jesus as God is also the vine grower. 

“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.”  What Jesus is saying in this verse, which He also states clearly, is that without Him we can do nothing. 

“He takes away every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit” which means that all of us are in need of Him.  And so we must ask ourselves: if we can do nothing without Him and if every one of us is in need of Him, what stops us from giving ourselves completely to Him?  Our good deeds and the results of those deeds are not possible without His love, help, and support. 

“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.”  Saint Augustine translates this verse with these words: “If we abide in Christ, by a lively faith, and His words abide in us by a lively, ardent charity, which can make us produce the fruits of good works, all that we ask, will be granted us.”  We must understand, however, that what we ask must be profitable to us as we cannot expect our God, Who loves us beyond comprehension, to ever grant us anything that would be harmful to us.  We may not know that we’re asking for something harmful, but certainly God knows. 

“By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples.”  It is for the glory of God when we are filled with His love and perform good works and charitable deeds, which, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, could lead to the conversion of others.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes the conversion.  We are His vessels. 

A deep immersion into prayer is intimated here when Jesus says: “Remain in Me, as I remain in you.”  Jesus resides in us, in the deep recesses of our soul; there He waits for us in the interior silence of contemplation.  He waits for us there that we may rest our head on His Breast, on His Most Sacred Heart.  There, we cannot wither; there, we cannot be burned.