During the weeks after Easter the gospels have been about Jesus’
resurrection appearances to his disciples. But last Sunday and today
one detects a shift. Now we are hearing words from Jesus’ farewell
discourses at the Last Supper. Though we are still in Easter time,
the words proclaimed to us are from the night before the
crucifixion. Why? Possibly because Jesus’ discourse is about
farewell, assurances, last instructions and promises – though the
disciples were going to lose him in one way, the church and world
would have him in another. In our liturgical celebrations these
recent Sundays we are preparing to celebrate the Ascension, Jesus’
return to the right hand of God and Pentecost, the sending of his
Spirit upon the church. We can take heart that Jesus, like a
departing parent, has seen to the welfare of his disciples who are
to remain in the world to carry on his work.
One thing is clear in the final discourses and in today’s
section: Jesus promises to stay in relationship to his church. He
did not come just for a period of time to get things started, go
away and then return someday to see how we did. To put it in another
way: he didn’t come to live a model human life for us to imitate and
then leave us on our own to live up to his example. He isn’t up
ahead at the "pearly gates" waiting for us to arrive and check out
how we measured up to his splendid example. Will he let us in, or
tell us that we failed to do as he told us?
We don’t just need a model of ideal behavior upon whom to fashion
our lives. We need a savior who, once having lived and died for us,
will stay with us to guide and enable us to imitate his own living
and dying. Today, as last Sunday, we hear the importance of
"remaining" or "abiding" in Jesus. This staying in Jesus will be the
way we can live his commandment of love. One thing is very clear in
this discourse; we can live Jesus’ life because he graces us to do
so. Without our relationship with him, we would be left on our own
to do our best to follow his life and live his commands. And the
truth is, on our own, we wouldn’t be able to live such a life.
Without Jesus’ abiding, grace-giving presence, neither we
individuals, nor our church, can live the life he calls us to today:
"Love one another as I have loved you." His love is the kind that
lays down his life for another.
Some people think the church has gone soft since Vatican II. Now,
they complain, all we hear is talk about love. They would prefer the
stricter black and white commands they remember from their
childhood. But we are not children. The teaching about love goes
back to our Founder; it is not a recent innovation, or a new-age
trend. Jesus does lay down a commandment for us today, but he does
so, he says, not as a master talking to servants, but as a friend to
other friends. Servants follow rules, their lives are dictated by
the one who holds authority over them. Jesus’ religion isn’t based
on such a model. Instead, love is the foundation of our faith. We
are assured we already have God’s love, it is not something we must
earn by minute adherence to a code of proper behavior. Jesus is
asking us to live out of the realization of that love. We are his
friends, he tells us, so now go out and live like friends with one
another. "Friends," in this context, means "beloved ones." We need
to live out of that description for we are the beloved disciples.
We apply various titles to ourselves as Jesus’ followers: we may,
at different times or under unique circumstances, call ourselves his
ambassadors, apostles, messengers, servants, etc. These terms
certainly apply and are used elsewhere in the scriptures. But at
this moment, before his departure, he wants to make sure his
disciples know they are his beloved, so loved by him that he will
give his life for them. Farewell speeches are important moments in a
great person’s life. They are often written down by devoted
disciples eager to remember what a great teacher considered
important enough to leave behind. Jesus knows the world will be
rough on those who follow him and his teachings. He wants them to
know that, no matter how difficult things get, they are beloved.
Their "success" in the world won’t be by the ordinary standards of
achievement, stature, property acquired, popularity, etc. They won’t
have the usual measurable signs which people normally associate with
a successful life or project. Instead, what they and we have are his
words, "As the Father loves me, I also love you...remain in my
I am sure we have preached this before, but it might bear
repeating. People generally imagine the love Jesus speaks of is the
love we feel for our closest friends, sweethearts and family
members. But his word here for love is "agape" and that means
something else. It has nothing to do with instinctual feeling that
is stirred up by something attractive in another person, or because
that person is a family member. It doesn’t even necessarily mean
liking another person. Rather, it means being willing to go out of
the way for others; acting for their good and well being; coming to
their aid when they need help – even at our own personal expense.
Jesus showed how far agape can take someone when he gave up his life
for us. God’s love for the world has nothing to do with our being
intrinsically loveable in the ordinary sense of the world – or even
likeable! Jesus’ death on the cross is a perfect reflection of how
God feels about us. God loved us, was willing to go out of the way
to show us that love, and acted for our well being.
Another aspect of this "remaining," or "abiding" with Jesus, is
that in this relationship we will "bear fruit that will remain." The
advantage of using metaphors is that they have so many applications.
"Bearing fruit" is one of those multivalent terms that can be
applied in innumerable ways. In John’s gospel bearing fruit refers
to preaching and giving witness to Jesus by the love we show to the
world. Though Jesus is leaving, his disciples have an on-going
relationship with him, we "remain" with him and he with us.
What are the characteristics of this relationship with Jesus?
Like any relationship, it is maintained by communication; Jesus
continues to pour out his Spirit upon us and we both receive and
respond to the Spirit’s presence. The response Jesus mentions in
this passage is one of complete joy. We may be in a world that
confuses us and at times, seems to want to swallow us up; but
remaining with Christ gives us the assurance of his presence and
this produces joy, even in situations we would not describe as
"happy" or "easy." Just as the world did not conquer him, our
abiding in him assures us we will be able to navigate life’s waters,
even in stormy and difficult times.
here for a link to this Sunday's readings:
ONE GOOD BOOK FOR THE
John J. Markey, OP, Creating Communion: The Theology of the
Constitutions of the Church. New York: New City Press, 2003.
Paper, 192 pages. ISBN 1-56548-179-8.
Starts with a review of Catholic theology of the Church prior to
Vatican II, and then presents a contemporary ecclesiology, with
emphasis on communion and community. This is a very good
introduction to ecclesiology and accessible to the educated lay
reader. The author holds great hope for the future of the church and
the book could be used as a study for parish religious education
Whenever we as human family or local church gather
either in small or large groups, to celebrate or to make
plans for the future, or to search for God’s truth for
our selves and our world, we need likewise to look
around and to ask, "Who’s missing? Who’s not here who
should be here?"
-----Mary O’Driscoll, O.P.
Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, "In truth,
I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever
fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him." Acts 10:34-35
I cannot read this scripture passage without understanding that
the color of a person’s skin has nothing to do with what God
considers important. In the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ 1979 Pastoral
Letter on Racism, "Brothers and Sisters to Us," racism is clearly
"Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out
the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates
the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the
same Father. Racism is the sin that says some human beings are
inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of
races. It is the sin that makes racial characteristics the
determining factor for the exercise of human rights. It mocks the
words of Jesus: "Treat others the way you would have them treat
you." (4) Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of
Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human
being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation."
It is important to always put yourself in the other person’s
shoes in order to understand the damage racism causes. Martin Luther
King Jr. gives us this view during his life:
"Being a Negro in America is not a comfortable existence. It
means being part of the company of the bruised, the battered, the
scarred, and the defeated. Being a Negro in America means trying to
smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical
life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your
children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies.
It means having your legs cut off, and then being condemned for
being a cripple. It means seeing your mother and father spiritually
murdered by the slings and arrows of daily exploitation, and then
being hated for being an orphan. Being a Negro in America. . .means
being harried by day and haunted by night by a nagging sense of
nobodiness and constantly fighting to be saved from the poison of
bitterness. It means the ache and anguish of living in so many
situations where hopes unborn have died."
Racism is not of God.
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
[Jesus said to his disciples]
is not you who chose me, but I who chose you
appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain..."
Jesus assures us that we already have God’s love; it is not
something we must earn by minute adherence to a code of proper
behavior. Jesus is asking us to live out of the realization of that
love. We are his "friends," he tells us, so now go out and live like
friends with one another – bear fruit.
So we ask ourselves:
- In my daily life, what "fruits" do I bear in Jesus’ name?
- What needs to be pruned so that I can be more fruitful for
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
"One has to strongly affirm that
condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that
humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Timothy Richardson #0492102 (On death row since 6/1/95)
- Richard Cagle #0061528 (6/16/95)
- William Herring #0180479 (7/22/95)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the
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