Our Gospel for this week stresses the priority of love in every kind of situation. What is love? Love is called agape in the Greek of the New Testament. It is the unconditional, unlimited, undeserved love given by God as a sheer gift. Though John 15:13 refers to human love, it also describes the kind of love God has for us: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Jesus does not present his love as a model to be imitated but as life that must continue in his disciples. We realize that Jesus has given us an example, a very good example, and that we must try to repeat what he has done. But the baptism that we have received has placed us in a different state: it has united us to his person and has turned us into members of his body. He is the one, not us, who continues to live and act in us; he loves, he cures, he comforts, he helps the poor, he wipes away the tears of the widow and the orphan. By observing what kind of lives we lead, others must be able to recognize the Risen Lord still present among them. We will find happiness and peace not in selfishness and pleasure but in love, in self-giving, in the search for what is good for others and of what brings joy to others. Jesus does not speak of universal love that embraces all, friends and enemies. Jesus talks directly to the members of the Christian communities and recommends unity among them and love for each other. It is a limitation, but it contains a very important lesson: before speaking of love for and peace with others, it is necessary to practice love and peace in oneself. How can a community whose members do not experience a deep feeling of mutual acceptance and service spread love to others?
God owns the vineyard--Jesus is the vine--we are the branches. All three are necessary if there is to be fruit. Vineyards don't just grow on their own. Someone has to plant them. Someone has to tend the vines. That person is the vine grower. Jesus says that the Father--meaning God--is the vine grower. The vine is the plant itself. Without any vines, there would obviously be no vineyard--no wine. Jesus says that he is the vine. But then Jesus tells his disciples--and we are his disciples--"You are the branches." The branches grow from the vine and, are where the grapes grow. Jesus says to us, "You are the branches." Without branches, there would be no fruit. But it is also true that, without the vine grower (God), there would be no fruit. And without the vine (Jesus) there would be no fruit. The Father, the Son, and the Son's disciples work hand in hand to make a fruitful vineyard. Jesus positions himself in the middle--between us and God. He says, "Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me." In other words, if we as Christians are to live spiritually productive lives, we must maintain a spiritual connection to Jesus. Without that connection, we will never produce any spiritual fruit. Without that connection, our lives will come and go without ever meaning anything significant.
PAST- Through our participation in Holy Communion, we are offered a living spiritual union with the Saints Triumphant, especially our loved ones, in heaven. The Blessed Sacrament simultaneously connects us to the forgiveness of the Cross and to the mystic sweet communion beyond the grave. The primary way we are united with our sainted loved ones at Holy Communion is through a spiritual experience of accompaniment. Our Lord gives us an opportunity at Holy Communion to be with and experience the company of our loved ones who have gone before us and are now with the heavenly hosts. “When we share Sacramental food with this eternal Communion, a closer relationship cannot be conceived” (Luther).
PRESENT- Jesus instituted Holy Communion to provide a practical and effective way to bring healing and unity to our broken relationships with family and friends. It is important for us to bring our broken relationships to Holy Communion for the Lord to heal them. In this way, the Lord can forgive us any sinful action we may have committed. Or which contributed in any way to one of our relationships being broken. The forgiveness of Holy Communion empowers us with Christ’s own gifts of love and peace so that we no longer want to get even or ignore our friend with whom we were fighting. When we receive the healing love of Christ through Holy Communion we soon begin to realize that Christ’s own love transforms our revenge into a desire to wish the other well. Holy Communion brings the opportunity for reconciliation to our broken relationships.
FUTURE- Holy Communion reminds us that we are holy because God’s loving grace has made us holy and gifted us with Christ’s own righteousness. In the end, we will be totally dependent upon the righteousness of Christ to enter eternal life. We first received this righteousness of Christ when we were baptized, and it is through the forgiveness we receive in Holy Communion that this gift of righteousness is renewed. Through Holy Communion, we receive a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come and a renewed confidence in our heavenly inheritance.
The fourth Sunday of Easter is called "Good Shepherd Sunday" because all three years of the Liturgical cycle offer us readings from Chapter 10 of the gospel of John, where the Good Shepherd is described. When we think of Jesus "the Good Shepherd," we always link this image to his meek and sympathetic behavior towards those who went wrong in life. But the "Good Shepherd" of today's gospel is completely different. For the evangelist John, the shepherd is not one who caresses tenderly the wounded sheep, but the fierce protector, the fighter who, at the risk of his own life, stands up to anybody who threatens his flock. The passage begins with Jesus saying: "The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep" (11). "Good" does not stand here for sentimental, sweet, tender, not hurting anybody. It stands for "the true shepherd," "the authentic one." Jesus is the true shepherd not because he cuddles and caresses his sheep, but because he loves them so much that he is ready to lay down his life for them. Count how many times the expression "lay down his life" is used in the text. To bring out even better the image of the true shepherd, the text goes on to contrast it with the figure of the "hired man," the "mercenary" (12-13). The mercenary is hired for money. A hired man's contract did not demand that he should lay down his life for the sheep. He was allowed to run away, since, after all, he was not concerned with the flock but with the money, his salary. All Christians should be good shepherds. Whoever wants to be a disciple of Christ must portray the generosity of his master. He should not start measuring how far or much he can love his brother or sister. He must be led entirely by love. If a Christian is satisfied with obeying a law, or doing the minimum, he or she has not understood what true love is. If we love our brothers and sisters or serve our communities in the hope of getting some advantage here in the form of gratitude and prestige or even a reward in heaven, we do not really follow Christ's way. The expression "to lay down one's life" is found five times in the text.
Almost every minute of every day we are engaged with our own internal self-talk phrase. This self-talk phrase, for better or worse, interprets the events of our daily lives.
Mental health research has discovered: ×Events alone do not create good or bad emotions = Self-talk of events creates good or bad emotions
We all have negative self-talk statements running through our minds at all times. Our internal monologue is a never-silent stream of self-talk statements, which create either good or bad emotions. The following ten destructive thought patterns are the most common negative self-talk statements:
1.All or Nothing. This destructive self-talk states that something is perceived as all good or all bad: If I don’t get an A in math, it’s the same as failing.
2.Overgeneralization. Making rules and drawing conclusions to apply to every situation: Mary didn’t want to go to the movies; nobody wants to go on a date with me.
3.Ignoring the Positive. Only paying attention to problems and weaknesses: My friends tell me I am a good golfer, but they are only trying to make me feel better.
4.Inferring. Thinking another person has negative motives: The only reason Bobby gave me a hug is because he wants to use my car.
5.Mind Reading. Thinking you know the thoughts and desires of another person: She told me she’s going to visit grandpa but she’s really going to visit grandma.
6.Magnification. The pattern of convincing yourself that it’s the little things that really upset us. It was not an innocent mistake, she refused to look directly at me.
7.Minimization. When you ignore positive things as being insignificant. Well, I got a raise but it’s not even close to what I need.
8.Infallibility. The belief that your feelings represent reality. Ross, nobody thinks Tom insulted you, except you.
9.Labeling. The practice of name-calling with the use of derogatory labels for others. Mary is the absolute biggest klutz; she breaks everything.
10.Fortune Telling. The false understanding that you are capable of predicting the future. It won’t do me any good to talk to Jane, she just doesn't listen.
By recognizing and replacing a negative and destructive self-talk phrase with a positive and constructive self-talk phrase, it can give us the capacity to feel good and act great. Destructive Self-Talk Constructive Self-Talk Something always goes wrong The Spirit is my daily guide I worry about everything The Father is my provider He makes my blood boil Christ empowers me to love I am usually right Jesus Christ is my Lord
In the Gospel of Luke the Easter story tells us how the women discover the empty tomb and receive a message from two angels. However, the apostles refused to believe their story (Lk 24:1-12). Two other disciples also experience Jesus on their way to Emmaus as they listen to him explaining the Scriptures and finally recognize him in the breaking of bread (Lk 24:13-35). After his resurrection, Jesus rarely showed himself to individuals. He usually made himself known to them when his disciples were gathered together as a community. One thing the disciples did when they gathered together after the death of Jesus was to read the Scriptures again and to try to understand the meaning of what had happened to Jesus and how they should go on when Jesus was no longer with them. The disciples on their way to Emmaus discovered Jesus as a stranger who helped them understand the Scriptures and, later on as he broke bread (Lk 24:25-32). It was through the Scriptures and the celebration of the Eucharist that "their eyes were opened" (Lk 24:31). Again in this week's Gospel, Jesus first eats with them and then explains the Scriptures to them. He opens their minds to understand that all that had happened to him was part of God's plan. Through this new understanding of what had happened to Jesus, they begin to understand that he is now present among them in a different way. The disciples experienced Jesus as the one who helped them understand the Scriptures. We too can experience the risen Jesus when we share the Scriptures and celebrate the Sacraments. That is why bible-sharing is at the heart of our Christian communities. When we invite Jesus to open our minds, he is truly present among us.
When we are baptized into the Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are baptized into the mission of the Trinity in the world (Matt 28:18-20). The mission of the Trinity in our world is most often referred to as Christ’s mission—Christ’s mission of reconciliation. Through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ we become full participants in his mission. Through our baptism into Christ’s ongoing mission of reconciliation, our broken relationships with God, others, and the world are in the process of being made whole…reconciled.Through our baptism into the life of Christ and his mission of reconciliation, God promises us that we will be reconciled (united) with the family of the Trinity, the human family, and the world into eternity. To reconcile is to have a relationship free of conflicts, differences, or divisions; one united in harmony. In the New Testament two terms are used to describe our reconciliation with God: adoption and access.
AdoptionThe Father sent his Son on a mission in which the Holy Spirit adopted us into the family of the Trinity. John tells us that we become the adopted children of the Trinity through baptism. Paul tells us that through baptism we have become children of the Father and heirs (inheritors) of God (Gal 4:5). Jesus, who regularly addressed God as Father, invites us to do the same. We are to approach our heavenly Father affectionately, as we would our own earthly father (Abba/Daddy).
Access St. Paul tells us that we have access through our baptism into the fellowship of the Trinity. We have access to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:17-18), to effect Christ’s mission of reconciliation in our world.Since we have access to the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart (Heb 10:19-21). Through Christ’s death on the cross, he has united us with God into a new and reconciled relationship which transcends death and offers eternal life to all in his family. Christ’s gift of reconciliation has both a vertical relationship to God, as well as a horizontal relationship to people. Paul teaches that Christ has removed the barriers that divide us (Eph 2:14). And, the power of his reconciliation extends throughout the Church, society, creation, and even the entire universe (Col 1:15-20). Are you familiar with what the Bible teaches about the Trinity?
The best way for us to listen to God's voice through Bible reading, is to recognize God's two most important themes in the Bible: God's law and God's gospel.God’s law voice is about what God wants us to do, but what we are unable to do. God’s gospel voice is about what God does for us by freely offering us salvation through his appointed Savior. God’s law reveals the sin-filled self-centeredness we inherited from our first parents. Whereas, the transforming power of the gospel speaks to our souls to give us a new relationship with God and others. God's law always demands something from us, while God's gospel always offers us something. The following chart can help us to compare and contrast God's law voice with God's gospel voice in the Bible:
The Gospel for this Sunday tells of two experiences of the risen Christ. The first is to the disciples without Thomas present (20:19-23) and the second to Thomas and the other disciples (20:24-29). The risen Christ came to the disciples amid their fear of the hostility directed toward them and Jesus. He immediately offered them “peace” (20:19). Then, after showing them evidence that he was their crucified Lord, he announced their mission (20:21). They were sent forth with the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive and retain sins (20:22-23). Thomas found the report of the others unbelievable and so the risen Christ appeared a second time, now in the midst of an experience of doubt. He offered Thomas the evidence he demanded (20:25,27) and urged him to believe. Thomas’ confession is the climax of John’s entire gospel: “My Lord and my God” (20:28). The Gospel closes with the purpose of the entire book of John—that the readers may believe and receive the gift of eternal life. Once again, we are reminded that our faith is not based on “proof,” but on listening to the Word of the Risen One, who speaks to us.