Gospel Reflection – Greater Days Ahead
Greater days ahead
Our Gospel today, John 15:9-17, is a continuation of the statement of Jesus, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” The context is the discourse of Jesus with the disciples at the Last Supper. He has been telling them that his days among them in a physical presence are numbered. However, he offers great consolation, assuring them that there are greater days ahead. While his physical presence among them was wonderful, a spiritual relationship would be greater. The explanation of this would be the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Our celebration is just two weeks away, so it is a good time to start preparing for Pentecost.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love.” The Second Reading at today’s Mass is from the First Letter of John (4:7-10), written by the evangelist to expand on some of the themes of his Gospel. He develops three stages in the development of love in the light of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. Love begins in the Father, is shown to us in the life of Jesus Christ, and is poured into us by the Holy Spirit. “Let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” Two classical theologians offer us beautiful answers to the question of why did God create us. St Thomas Aquinas suggests that love did not permit God to remain alone. Creation is the brimming over of God’s love. The Franciscan, Duns Scotus, suggests that God wished to have co-lovers. The Big Bang was an explosion of love.
The greatest revelation of love is in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life in him.”
The third stage is the coming of the Holy Spirit empowering us to pass on the love of Jesus. “This is the proof that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us a share in his Spirit” (1 John 4:13). This is how St Paul expressed it: “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). Love begins in the Father, is revealed to us in the Son and poured into us by the Holy Spirit.
Interpersonal Relationship with God
Returning now to the Gospel of the day. It reveals the astounding intimacy between Jesus and his followers. A modern school of philosophy expands on the idea that it is through interpersonal relationships that we come to know our identity. The Jewish writer, Martin Buber, summed it up thus: “Through the thou, man becomes I”. If you want to know the identity of a Christian, ponder on these gems of I-You relationship.
I have loved you as the Father loves me.
May my own joy be in you and your joy complete.
I lay down my life for you.
I do not call you call servant anymore; I call you friends.
I have made known to you everything I learnt from my Father
You did not choose me but I chose you.
I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit.
Our Christian dignity
Christian, know your dignity. Continue pondering on these expressions of the interpersonal relationship that Jesus wants to share with us. No wonder that Pope Francis calls it the joy of the Gospel. He uses simple language that anybody can understand in telling us to say “no” to doom and gloom religion, to defeatism and disillusioned pessimism, not to be going around as if we were coming from a funeral, and not to be ‘sourpusses’.
“I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit”. Pope Francis tells us that Jesus wants evangelisers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence. In his down-to-earth vocabulary he told a group of newly ordained priests that priests are like aeroplanes because they only make news when they crash. The media might highlight the sins of the Church but it is up to all of us to show the beauty of Christianity by the way that we live in the joy of the gospel. In the early Church people remarked how these Christians love one another.
Rooted in the Sacraments
Where can we draw the inspiration to produce the fruit of the Good News? By remaining in Christ as the branches remain attached to the tree. The roots of the tree are what are called the Sacraments of Initiation, namely Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The sap or energy coming up from these roots is enriched through prayerfulness and constant pondering on the inspired word of Scripture.
Better day ahead
The churches in the Republic of Ireland will be opened for celebration of the Eucharist from tomorrow, Monday, the ninth of May. Did you avail of Mass being streamed from a church of your choice? Did you miss receiving Holy Communion? Perhaps one good result of being deprived of the Blessed Eucharist will be a greater appreciation of the astounding privilege of receiving the Risen Lord as the Bread of Life. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Lord Jesus, you are the vine and we are the branches. Apart from you we can do nothing. Grant us the grace to persevere, to remain in you, to be true to your word, and to experience the fullness of your joy. To be your servant is a great honour, but to hear you calling us your friends is beyond anything we might merit. You have called us and commissioned us to go out and bear fruit. As we welcome you in the Blessed Eucharist, nourish us with the grace to go from Mass on a mission of love.
Br Silvester OFM Cap.