Thursday, May 19, 2022

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

 (Acts 15:7-21; John 15: 9-11)

 Humans today, as in any age, desire pleasure.  They crave the satisfaction of their senses from sex, food, or drugs.  Pleasure is not necessarily bad, but there is something much better.  Joy brings more beneficial satisfaction.  Pleasure is an agreeable sensation which passes quickly and must be renewed.  Joy, which comes from having done something well, fills the soul for a long time.  Pleasure is opposed to pain; they cannot coexist at the same time.  Joy often has suffering as a byproduct in the quest to do something well.  Parents may take some pleasure in the vacation in Honolulu which their children gave them for their anniversary.  But they will feel joy after raising their children to be loving, faith-filled, and hardworking human beings.  In today’s gospel Jesus teaches his disciples how to find joy.

 He says that joy is the fruit of love.  When the disciples love one another like he has loved them, their spirits will be filled with joy.  When they lend a helping hand in time of need or a shoulder to cry on in distress, they will feel the joy of love.  All of God’s commandments are oriented to bring joy to those who keep them.

 As we grow older, we should come to the realization that joy is what makes life worth living.  Experience teaches that more than eating tasty foods or exploring picturesque beaches, we are truly satisfied when we have given of ourselves in loving others. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

 Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:1-6; John 15:1-8)

A Catholic church had a summer program for its school children.  To keep them coming to mass during the break a priest organized a “Friends of Christ” club.  Children would attend the 8:30 morning mass every Thursday morning.  Afterwards, they circled the date on their membership card.  The priest didn’t give rewards for children who came every week.  He didn’t need to.  The children were satisfied with doing something for Jesus.  They also stayed connected to their classmates.

In today’s gospel Jesus emphasizes the need to stay connected to him.  His followers must become vine-ripened, not just vine-engendered.  Accomplishing this, they will become loving people worthy of eternal life.  Those whom their love touches are also likely to perform deeds that result in eternal joy and peace.

Often children have little responsibility.  They take minimal care of themselves and contribute little to family needs, much less the good of others.  If they continue to grow up in these ways, they may be cut off from Christ and the eternal life he promises.  More than telephones and soccer leagues, children need a familiarity with the love that is Christ.

Tuesday, May17, 2022

 Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 14:19-28; John 14:27-31a)

Paul rises from the ground where he was left half-dead.  It was not the first time that he had been abused for preaching the gospel.   But he refuses to be discouraged.  He will proclaim the Lord in other places.  Today’s gospel supplies his motive.

Jesus tells his disciples that he gives them peace.  His presence is assurance.  The disciples can draw from his strength, his equanimity, and his concern. But the peace that he has in mind is reserved for the night of his resurrection.  There his return from a violent death validates all that he has said about eternal life.  The disciples and eventually Paul do not have to cower before anyone when they stand with him.  They too will rise from the dead.

We may wonder if we stand with Jesus.  We may go to church and never lie or steal.  Yet we are not sure if our good conduct is not just show.  Other creepy thoughts like the reality of eternal life may enter our minds.  At these moments we must rise from the dust like Paul.  We should dismiss our doubts and give thanks for all the love and goodness we have known.  Then we too can tell others about the Lord.

Monday, May 16, 2022

 Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 14:5-18; John 14:21-26)

The reading from Acts today is rather comic.  The people take Paul and Barnabas to be gods.  The apostles have to tear their garments as a sign that they are mortal. The miracle story that provokes their identification as gods deserves our attention as well.

Luke, the author of Acts, writes that Paul saw that the crippled man “had the faith to be healed.”  What kind of faith is this?  How does it differ from other kinds of faith?  One is reminded of the men who lowered a paralytic through the roof so that Jesus might heal him.  The Lucan version of the story also notes how Jesus observes the men’s faith.  Faith in these cases is trust in Jesus.  It does not worry about the future or doubt Jesus’ care.  It knows that Jesus will resolve their problems because he loves them. 

For many, faith is adherence to a tradition of beliefs and customs.  It continually questions and is reluctant to accept all that Jesus teaches.  It does not  allow fervent personal prayer.  We should endeavor to transcend this rational faith in order to nurture trusting faith.  We must put aside anti-religious arguments as well as lesser gratification of desires.  We should also ask Jesus directly and sincerely for assistance.  When we do, we will find our situation improving.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

 THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, May 15, 2022

(Acts 14:21-27; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-33.34-35)

There is a striking proverb that Martin Luther King used. To encourage his companions in the struggle against racism, he told them: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." Is it true? Do we see justice permeating society more and more throughout history? Or is it just optimistic thinking that things are getting better?

Today some historians question the inevitability of justice. They see in the invasion of the Ukraine the same evil that moved Hitler to take possession of half of Europe. They note that in China tyranny is suffocating democracy as in autocratic kingdoms. They are aware of the refusal to acknowledge the humanity of the unborn on the part of many people everywhere. In a time like this, when reality seemed dark and the future looked hopeless, the Apocalypse or the Revelation was written.  Today we heard a passage from the end of this book in the second reading.

The word “apocalypse” comes from a Greek word meaning revelation. The writer of the work removes the veil that covers the future to reveal the end of history. The Book of Revelation was written towards the end of the first century. Christians at the time were experiencing the threat of the heavy hand of the Roman government. They had experienced bitter persecution under the emperor Nero some years earlier. During that bloodshed Saints Peter and Paul had been martyred. Now they were preparing for another wave of persecution, perhaps worse. The author named John, but not the evangelist, had a vision from the Lord.  He foresaw that the coming persecution would not result in the end of Christianity but in its glory. This type of vision is called the apocalyptic.

Both the prophetic and the apocalyptic visions reveal something of the future. But there are distinctions between the two. First of all, the prophetic vision calls the unfaithful to conversion so that the community may overcome with God’s help the evil it faces. Also, in the prophetic vision God acts by common ways such as armed forces and storms. In contrast, the apocalyptic view has God entering history without human assistance. He usually acts in exotic ways like an angel with a sharp sickle. The apocalyptic does not call the unfaithful to reform because it thinks of them as lost. Rather, it calls on the faithful to maintain faith. In this way they will receive the rewards of God, their Savior.

The passage today describes the scene after the victory of the Lamb over the beast. The Lamb is Christ and the beast the forces of the devil. All of God's people, both the dead and the living, know peace. There is no worry about anything anymore because the sea, from which all evil originates, no longer exists. It is a time of pure joy as in a wedding where the music is lively, the food is delicious, and the wine is copious.

In the gospel Jesus teaches his disciples how to maintain faith in him.  They have to love each other. This love is proven by deeds, not just words. We see this love in the catechists who teach our children. They work week after week without compensation. They are motivated by love not only for the children but also for Christ.

The Apocalypse is the last book in the Bible. It has one thing in common with Genesis, the first book. Many people confuse the accounts in the two books with historical events. Revelation no more describes exactly how the world will end than Genesis describes exactly how it began. However, both books correctly assure us of one truth. God is in control of history. We want to maintain faith in Him. For he is in control of everything.