The second reading from 1 John 4:7-10 and the Gospel from John 15:9-17 are as blunt and direct as the Bible delivers. In the first and last analysis, everything we proclaim as Christians is measured and evaluated in the light of a single concept:
And on first glance it sounds wonderful! Love evokes many wholesome and beautiful concepts that speak to our hearts; love lifts our spirits and draws us closer together – drawing strength and peace from both God and the people around us.
Yet love is also challenging. Love makes demands upon us to stretch beyond our normal comfort zones – thinking and acting in ways that are modeled on Jesus Christ. Consider…
Forgiving our enemies
Seeking the good in others
Being the first to work at healing & reconciliation
Dedicated to others in times of difficulty and stress
Remaining positive and supportive
Standing up for those who are oppressed
Serving those who are hard to love…and seeing Christ in them
While we strive for these practical applications of love on our good days, Lord knows we need to keep working at love – especially when we are in a bad place. Two keys thoughts can help us:
Stay close to Jesus – the source of all LOVE
When in doubt – act in a loving manner
The first point is simple: we cannot fulfill God’s command to love unless we are closely connected to the Son of God. We hear that “God is love” in the 2nd reading, and we know that our lives draw grace and strength when we unite our hearts to the Lord. Staying close to Jesus helps us to evaluate and fulfill this key commandment.
The second point is immensely practical. Sometimes we don’t feel particularly loving! When that happens we can move ourselves to a better place by acting in a Godly fashion…the feelings will follow eventually. While our emotions are crucial sources of “inside information” to the state of our hearts, we guide our lives by Jesus (and not a momentary feeling) who loves us unconditionally. Thus, when we act in a loving way – love actually grows in our hearts!
The accident at the oil refinery in Superior last week was a stark reminder how we rely on and support one another in times of danger. Where do we find the strength to work together? United in our faith in Jesus Christ we are nourished with God’s grace so that we can offer our lives for one another.
Jesus helps the disciples understand that to see him is to see the Father, and to believe in him leads to doing great works in his name. But note this: these words are meant for us as well! As we see God at work in our lives, may our belief flourish as we do the work that is before us for the glory and honor of Christ.
Trusting in God is one of those phrases that comes quick to the tongue but can be hard to say when confronted with disaster. Yet this is exactly why Jesus came! In the struggles and challenges of this world we look to the one who is the way, the truth and the life – so that we can face what comes before us as we make our way to Heaven.
Who taught you about Jesus? Who strengthened and fostered your faith? This gift we have been received is not just for our own use…it must be passed on. Which begs the obvious question: Who has God placed in your life today, and how can you share your faith?
On this feast of St. Mark we hear the command of the Risen Lord to the Eleven: they are to go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel. May these words inspire us today to share our faith with the people God has placed in our lives.
The Lord gives us eternal life, and as we focus on Heaven we have the opportunity to live for the Lord here on earth. We are pilgrims passing through this world, and all that we say and do is guided by the simple fact that this life is homework to prepare us for the life to come.
The relationship between vine an branches is simple: the branches, connected to the vine, draw their strength and nourishment from it. Cut off, they die.
Raising grapes and making wine were crucial at the time of Jesus (and still important today) and this gardening image provides a powerful insight in two crucial aspects of human life.
Drawing our strength from Christ
Providing strength to others
As branches connected to Christ, we draw the grace we need from the Lord. It’s his death and resurrection that gives us life; his forgiveness that restores our relationships with God and one another; and his power that we call upon when we confront the obstacles and stumbling blocks in the world. Our lives, dependent on Christ, thrive with his life within us – in the Scriptures, the Sacraments, private prayer, and fellowship with one another.
Yet we also serve as sources of support for others, and the strength of our relationship with God directs our ability to recognize and respond to others. We cannot give what we don’t have, and as we support one another we pass on the grace we receive from Christ and share it with those we meet. Who are these key people who look to us? Some examples:
parents and children
Our lives are interconnected! Drawing strength from Christ – the central vine – we thrive; his strength in turn becomes the power which we extend into the hearts of those whose lives touch our own.
Today: draw near to Jesus and allow his love to fill our hearts! May we pour his love into the lives of each and every soul we meet!
The Good Shepherd offers his life for the care and protection of the sheep. The Lord’s example inspires us: God calls us – in spite of our imperfections and weaknesses – to care and protect those entrusted to us. May we call upon the Shepherd for what we need as we continue his service in the world.
The crowds find the teaching of Jesus too hard, and many who followed him now leave and go back to their former ways. Rejection does not stop us from proclaiming the Good News; rather, it reminds us that people have the freedom to choose their path. May we keep inviting them to follow the Lord!