Fifth Sunday of Easter


Campion P. Gavaler, OSB

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 6, 2012

Gospel Summary

In this passage from the Last Supper Discourse (13:31-17:26), Jesus reveals to his disciples and to us that he is the true vine planted and cared for by his Father. We are the branches, depending on Jesus for life just as branches depend on the vine. “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” Separated from Jesus we cannot bear fruit: like a useless branch we are cut off and soon wither.

To be certain that we have some sense of how radical the gift of sharing his life is, Jesus adds two astonishing statements. If we ask for anything, our Father will give it to us because of the communion of life. It is as though his own beloved Jesus were asking. “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me,” Jesus prayed before restoring his friend Lazarus to life (Jn 11:42). Further, if we bear much fruit from the new Christian life that we have been given, the Father will be glorified in us as he was through Jesus.

Life Implications

At our Eucharist today we hear the gospel as the Christians of John’s community at the end of the first century heard it, not with the incomplete knowledge of the disciples before Jesus’ death, resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. We have heard the complete good news beginning with the response of Jesus to the question two disciples asked, “Rabbi, where are you dwelling? Jesus said to them, Come, and you will see” (Jn 1:38-39).

Throughout the Last Supper Discourse, Jesus reveals that he dwells in the Father and the Father dwells in him. And he reveals further that he dwells in us and we dwell in him like a vine and its branches. John’s placement of the “vine and branches” saying in the context of the Last Supper reminds us of what Jesus said after feeding a large crowd with bread and fish: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (Jn 6:56-57).

If we had only the image of the vine and branches, we might draw the conclusion that our finite human life is totally absorbed by infinite divine life. Rather, the good news is that the communion of life in Christ is a communion of love. “As the Father loves me, so I love you. Remain in my love” (Jn 15:9). Life in Christ is a gift freely given, and a gift freely accepted. Tragically, because there is freedom, the life and love of Christ can be rejected.

The fearful possibility of separation from Christ is a consequence of freedom. It is the possibility of seeking an illusory life that the world separated from God offers. The archetypal figure of the disciple Judas, who succumbed to greed in betraying Jesus, is a graphic reminded of that possibility for all of us. We are meant to live in the peace and joy of the Easter gospel, however, not in fear and uncertainty.

“Without me you can do nothing,” Jesus tells us. But with him we can do anything. If we remain in his life and love, we can ask anything of the Father and it will be given. Mindful that Jesus out of love for us, and that his Father might thereby be glorified, did not ask to be saved from his hour of suffering (Jn 12:27). We too will always ask to live in his truth and love. In confident hope that the supreme grace of remaining in Jesus will always be given, we can keep his commandment to love each other as he loved us. Thus, the Father’s goodness will also be revealed in us for his honor and glory. “And the way we know that he [Jesus] remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us” (Second reading, 1 Jn 3:24). In this knowledge of faith and hope is our peace and joy.

Campion P. Gavaler, OSB

A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
May 6, 2012

Bearing Much Fruit
No one was more zealous than Saul. He burned with passion to promote the Law of Moses and the traditions of his ancestors. From Turkey to Palestine to Syria he had relentlessly pursued his quest for the glory of God.

But all his hard work did more harm than good. Oh, his efforts bore fruit all right– the sour grapes of legalism, intolerance, and oppression. No wonder many Christians had second thoughts about accepting him as a brother, even after the Damascus road incident. Given his track record, I’m not sure I would have trusted him either.

Fifth Sunday of Easter: Being with God
The Smithson Family lives in a home like yours in a town like ours. And like every family, there are special times when the whole family gets together. This really means a lot to Kate and Bill Smithson. They are in their 50’s, both working, but their four children have begun their own lives. Two, Frank and Anne, are married and both have children. The other two, Sam and Jean are in the “still looking” faze of life. Bill and Kate just love it when they have their children and now their grandchildren all together for a dinner, or just to chat for awhile.

Boldly in the Name of the Lord
Bottom line: Ask God to help you understand what you really want. And it will be done for you. Ask boldly. And like St. Paul, act boldly in the name of the Lord.

Today’s readings describe the boldness of faith. The first reading tells about a new convert named Saul, who would later become known as Paul. Even as a relatively young Christian he “spoke boldly in the name of the Lord.” St. John tells us that if we keep the commandments and do what pleases God, we will “receive from him whatever we ask.” Jesus says pretty much the same thing in the Gospel: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.”

Prepare to be amazed! The 2nd miracle of St. Gianna Molla
I have posted this before, but it seemed appropriate to repost it today. St. Gianna is one of the saints of our time whom I would very much like to see included in an updated version of the traditional Roman calendar.

This is about the 2nd miracle through the intercession of St. Gianna, which lead to her canonization.A person who cause for canonization has been officially advanced is called a “Servant of God”.If they are determined to have died while living a life of “heroic virtue” they are declared “Venerable”.After that, if a miracle is authenticated by their intercession, they are beatified and called “Blessed”.After another miracle they are canonized and called “Saint”.

VIDEO: What Does “Hallowed Be Thy Name” Mean?
The Lord’s Prayer or “Our Father” is the most popular prayer in the world. Millions of us say it every day, because it was given to us by Jesus himself as the model of Christian prayer.

But do we really understand what we’re saying when we pray it?

How about the words “Hallowed be thy name”?

Many don’t understand this mysterious phrase

The Shroud’s Rosary Connection
One of the most treasured relics in Christendom is the Shroud of Turin. Countless people believe it is the burial cloth of Jesus.

Not many people can travel to the Turin cathedral, where the shroud is kept. Even if pilgrims could go to Italy, the shroud is rarely displayed for the public. The April-May 2010 showing was a result of Pope Benedict XVI’s giving special permission to “move up” the showing originally scheduled for 2025.

Hang Up and Connect
In some ways, it’s an update of the scene from years past, where a wife’s words at breakfast didn’t seem to be making an impression on her husband, who had his nose in the morning paper.

But we see far too many examples today of people with their “noses buried” in their smartphones or iPads when they might normally be expected to be interacting with people right next to them.

Could he be the first Canadian pope?
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 67, is considered both by Vatican observers and cardinals as one of the front runners to succeed Benedict XVI as the next pope. He is ‘papabile’. He could become the first Canadian pope.

Asked about this on Canada’s “Salt and Light TV” Catholic television channel last Sunday night, April 22, the cardinal described Benedict XVI as “a great pope” and dismissed his own possibility of being pope saying “obviously I do not see myself at this level.”

Our Own Worst Enemy
On Saturday, while I was attempting to find a church in Pittsburgh that actually offered morning Mass (as opposed to Confirmation services, healing services, and Communion services), I noticed some women walking through the streets.

At the time, I didn’t pay much attention as, 1) They were few in number and kind of angry looking, and 2) I was getting kind of angry looking myself after trying three separate churches and striking out at each one.

Study: College Age Students Losing Faith
A new study coming out of Georgetown University reports that many in the younger generation known as “millenials” are abandoning orthodoxy at an alarming rate.

The study focusing on 18-to-24-year-old Americans finds many rejecting religious doctrine, according to a joint survey from Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace& World Affairs and the Public Religion Research Institute.

According to the survey, around one quarter of respondents said they don’t identify with any religion. That’s more than twice the 11 percent raised in households without any particular faith, which means that many students are losing their faith during their college years.

Tear Jerker of the Day
Oh boy. This is a tough one to get through.

A 12 year old kid was always a big fan of the Marines. Now, this kid, mind you, is tough. John Wayne tough. (And please don’t comment how the Duke was actually a big wussy please.) This kid fought off leukemia three times before he was twelve.

A group of Marines decided that the kid was the real deal, a true Marine. Go check out what happened next at Weasel Zippers. I could steal the whole story but then I’d feel bad later.

Purity is Power
Last year I visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. The gallery consists of a classical style building where they display paintings, and a vast geometric sprawl of building which houses modern art. I decided to start off exploring the modern collection. Red leatherette drainpipes were stuck on the wall, a plastic box held fruit pies made out of plaster, enormous mobiles hung from the ceiling and the floor was littered with carved shapes like some gigantic baby had left his blocks lying around. The walls displayed huge canvases—all wonderfully colorful, anarchic and meaningless.

The Differing Depths of Prayer
Anyone with a regular prayer life can attest to the great variation from one prayer time to the next.Some days, you’re trudging through Scripture like a knee-high river while other days you are elevated beyond the text and find yourself to be counted among the crowd of Jesus’ first-century disciples.Of course, given the chaos of life, the former is much more familiar than the latter, but it is the deep experience with Christ that causes a desire to return to well up within us.The difference from one prayer time to the next has often baffled me – especially when I ardently try to have a profound experience, but am unable to go beyond simple meditation.

5 Short Stories that Every Catholic should Read
Listers, The genre of the short story is a particularly extraordinary human invention. In a matter of two hours or less, the short story can illustrate some complexities of life without taxing the mind with deep philosophical terms or concepts. As some of us don’t have the proclivity to have intense philosophical and theological discussions on the various nuances of life and faith, the short story provides us with a brief vision on the robust nature of the Christian existence. Many people would suggest that short stories are just for children. However, I would argue that adults need short stories as well. It is one of the few welcome outlets in which adults can hold up a mirror to themselves and observe what they see, warts and all.

21 Reasons To Go To Confession
1. God commanded we confess our sins to one another in the Bible. (James 5:16)

2. It is the ordinary way to have our sins forgiven.

3. We receive grace to resist sin through the Sacrament, as well as forgiveness.

4. We learn humility by having to confess to another person.

5. There is built-in accountability.

7 Church Seasons You May Not Be Aware Of…
It’s finally over! As of this afternoon, my wife is done coordinating the annual Sacramental Reception Season! In a few short weeks, it’ll be summer, and the stress that is mid-Spring in our family will be complete!

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Let me explain.

As Catholics, we’re used to the ins-and-outs of the liturgical calendar, with Advent and Lent as times of preparation, Christmas and Easter celebration, and Ordinary Time devoted to … being … ordinary?

11 BasicQuestions Over the Sacraments
Listers, the following lesson is taken from the Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism was the standard catechism of teaching the faith and catechizing children from 1885 to Vatican II. Its basic question-and-answer approach is the most natural learning style for the human mind and simplifies even the most complex theological questions. For a more philosophical treatment, read SPL’s list: St. Thomas Aquinas – “What is a sacrament?”

Jon Will’s gift
When Jonathan Frederick Will was born 40 years ago — on May 4, 1972, his father’s 31st birthday — the life expectancy for people with Down syndrome was about 20 years. That is understandable.

The day after Jon was born, a doctor told Jon’s parents that the first question for them was whether they intended to take Jon home from the hospital. Nonplussed, they said they thought that is what parents do with newborns. Not doing so was, however, still considered an acceptable choice for parents who might prefer to institutionalize or put up for adoption children thought to have necessarily bleak futures. Whether warehoused or just allowed to languish from lack of stimulation and attention, people with Down syndrome, not given early and continuing interventions, were generally thought to be incapable of living well, and hence usually did not live as long as they could have.

What Difference Does Heaven Make?
If a thing makes no difference, it is a waste of time to think about it. We should begin, then, with the question, What difference does Heaven make to earth, to now, to our lives?

The answer to the question is only the difference between hope and despair in the end, between two totally different visions of life; between “chance or the dance.”

When an Atheist Discovered Sin
I was an atheist. I didn’t believe in God and tried to convince those who did that they were stupid for doing so.

If you had asked me then whether I thought “sin” existed or whether I had ever sinned, I would have laughed. “Sin is a Christian concept intended to induce feelings of guilt for imagined offenses against an imaginary god.” I may have even started singing “Spirit in the Sky” to you for satirical purposes.

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