Saturday, April 30, 2016

Reflection: John 15:18-21

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter — John 15:18-21

This Gospel’s opening words are a bit startling. Jesus once again is talking with his disciples about the world. He tells them: “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me first.” In this passage, Jesus is using the word “world” to describe the people who reject Him and who will persecute Jesus and his followers.

Jesus also tells the disciples that they do not belong to the world. Most likely, the world will hate them because they do not belong to the world of the Pharisees. Rather, Jesus has chosen them out of the world to follow him and his example. The path of following Jesus is a difficult one. Are we truly ready to truly follow him? This is more than simply giving lip service to his teachings. If we consciously choose to follow Jesus, we may have to make difficult choices and in that process, we may alienate some of the people in our lives.

Following Jesus sounds very romantic and holy. However, following Jesus may be a difficult journey at times. If we choose to wholeheartedly follow Jesus, most likely we also will experience rejection or perhaps even hatred. Jesus clearly was countercultural in his society. Are we willing to follow Jesus rather than the crowd? Are we prepared to be countercultural in our beliefs and choices? Are we willing to deal with anger, rejection, or alienation if we make choices to do what is truly loving and kind? Do we trust Jesus to walk with us, strengthen and grace us?

The world is not an easy place to live. Each day we have the opportunity to make a variety of choices. Today will we choose to follow the crowd and simply do what is expected of us? Or will we choose to follow Jesus and act as Jesus would? Only we can choose. What will we do?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Reflection: John 15:12-17

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter — John 15:12-17

Today Jesus tells us to love one another as He loved us. Wow! That is quite a mandate! Is Jesus telling us to “give our all” as He did? Jesus loved us so deeply that He was willing to die for us. What a tremendous gift He gave us. The question for us is: are we willing to “die” for one another?

Jesus asks us to die for one another. Jesus does not literally mean we are to die. Yet, when we give fully and freely of ourselves to the people in our lives, in a sense, we are dying to ourselves. We are putting others first, rather than ourselves. We freely give of our time, attention, care, and love. Is there a better gift we can give to the people we love and cherish? What better gift can we give to our world?

Take a moment and ask yourself: who are the people who die for you? What are the gifts you receive from them: love, attention, care, a phone call, interest, or help when you need it? Could there be any better gifts to receive? We often take these seemingly small gifts for granted. I invite you to take a few moments this evening and consciously remember the gifts you received today and remember the people who gifted you. Give thanks to God (and perhaps to them) for their presence in your life!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Reflection: John 15:9-11

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter - John 15:9-11

This Gospel is very brief: only 3 verses. Yet it is a powerful and loving reading. Jesus tells us that He loves us as deeply as His Father loves Him. Think about that for moment. Who are the people you love most deeply: your spouse, your children, your parents, or a very good friend?

Now choose one person you care deeply about and ask yourself: What does that person mean to me? What are the gifts he or she shares with me? Truly, love is the greatest gift on the face of this earth. If we are not loved or if we believe that we are not loved, we truly are lost and alone. How horrific that must be!

Love is something that we often take for granted. How sad that is. Jesus said: “The greatest gifts are faith, hope and love.” If we do not have these gifts in our lives to some degree, we truly are lost and alone. Can you imagine your life without love? What a horrendous life that would be, having no one in your life who loves you and cares about you!

We human beings were created with a great capacity to love and a need to be loved. The gift is that there are many kinds of love: love of a husband and wife for each other, love of parents for their children, love for our parents, siblings, family members, and neighbors, friendship and spiritual friendship.

Jesus not only loves us with all his heart, He desires that we also love others deeply. We were created for love and love sustains us. Today I invite you to sit down and think about the people you love and who love you. What are the gifts they give you? What is the joy they bring into your life? Do they know how much you love and appreciate them and their presence in your life? Today may be a good time to let them know how much they mean to you. They are a gift! You are blessed!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Reflection: John 15:1-8-11

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter - John 15:1-8-11

Today we hear the familiar passage of the vine and the branches. Jesus tells us that He is the true vine and God, His Father, is the vine grower. Jesus says that God cuts off every branch that does not bear fruit. As for the branches that are bearing fruit, God prunes them so they will produce even more fruit.

Being pruned is not a comfortable process for human beings; however, we all have been pruned at times in our lives. It may have been through a difficult time in your family, a serious illness or the loss of a job, financial problems or the loss of status. Pruning in and of itself is painful and difficult. In the process of being pruned, we may lose parts of ourselves that we don’t want to let go of. Yet the purpose of pruning is to enable new life to grow. We all know this is true. However, we most often do not like the pain or loss that is an intrinsic part of the process of being pruned.

Take a moment and remember a time in your life when you experienced being pruned. It may have been the loss of a job, an illness in your family, the loss of someone you loved, either to death or divorce or separation, or the loss of esteem. How have you been pruned? Take a moment and remember that time.

How did this experience of being pruned affect you? Did it make you examine your life, your faith, your trust in others, or perhaps even your trust in God? How did you react to the pruning: with trust, anger, disillusionment, or hope? Did you remain close to God during this time or did you distance yourself from God? Did you blame God for allowing this to happen to you?

Pruning can be extremely painful. However, do we trust that new life and growth will emerge with time? God does not deliberately prune us. Life prunes us. We have a choice: we can blame God and distance ourselves from God or we can strive to trust that God is with us. However, this is not easy when life is “hell.” However, if we do not stay connected to God or Jesus, we truly will be lost!

As always, we have a choice: to trust that God is with us and believe that in time, there will be “good” that will emerge from this pruning. Are we willing to trust God? Today may we pray for one another to trust and believe that God is at work in us, even if we don’t feel it or see any of its fruits. Wondrous gifts can come from the most horrible times in our lives if we are open to receiving them!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Reflection: John 14:27-31a

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter - John 14:27-31a

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Today we hear eleven short words from Jesus. Yet in those few words, we receive a powerful message and a loving gift from Jesus. Peace is a short and simple word, yet the gift of peace is a great treasure.

Take a moment and remember one of the most peaceful times in your life. It may have been after your wedding or the birth of a baby. Perhaps it simply was a time in your life when all was well. Even when life is difficult, we still are able to experience moments of peace. It may be sitting quietly or when you are playing with your children or grandchildren. It might be moments in nature when you are surrounded by the beauty and emerging life of spring.

Peace is not something we can manufacture for ourselves. However, we can make choices that help bring us peace. It may be the practice of prayer or talking with a spouse, friend or a counselor. It simply may be enjoying nature, being with your family, listening to music, rocking in a rocking chair, or praying and being quiet.

Peace is a gift from Jesus. As with any gift, we can choose to accept the gift, neglect the gift, or refuse the gift. Jesus longs to gift us with peace! Today will we accept His gift? Will we open our minds and our hearts to this great gift? Jesus is waiting for us!