5th Week of Easter
1st Reading: Acts 15:7-21
After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to the Apostles and the presbyters, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.” The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them. After they had fallen silent, James responded, “My brothers, listen to me. Symeon has described how God first concerned himself with acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name. The words of the prophets agree with this, as is written: After this I shall return and rebuild the fallen hut of David; from its ruins I shall rebuild it and raise it up again, so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord, even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked. Thus says the Lord who accomplishes these things, known from of old. It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood. For Moses, for generations now, has had those who proclaim him in every town, as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath.”
Gospel: Jn 15:9-11
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”
THAT YOUR JOY MIGHT BE COMPLETE: Modern psychology makes a distinction between enjoyment and gratification. Enjoyment is related to pleasure, it is drawn from stimuli to our senses, and therefore, it is external and short-lived. Though some aspects of enjoyment are needed, tendency for immediate gratification and pleasure might make us victims of addiction. And running after enjoyment will make us shallow. On the other hand, gratification is related to happiness and wellbeing, it is internal and persistent over time. Gratification is not the absence of suffering, but sometimes it entails endurance of suffering and pain (as in a mother giving birth). It could lead us to deeper gratification that no one can take it away. Often, gratification is a result of spirituality and altruism. This is the joy that the Risen Christ promises us.
Prayer: Lord, grant that I remain in your love so that I may experience that joy!
GOD’S GRACE: In the time of Jesus, the Jews were bound to follow over six hundred commandments of the law in order to remain faithful to the covenant and achieve salvation. There is a risk in this. We can think that it is by our own power and capacity that we are saved. In this way, we can become slaves of the law and, at the same time, we can also enslave others under the weight of laws. In this context, Peter affirms “we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus”. It is by God´s love and mercy manifested in Jesus that we are saved. The law, prescriptions and rituals do not save; otherwise, we may fall in the temptation of thinking that we can achieve salvation by ourselves. He wants us to be friends, not slaves, therefore He saves us freely even before we have followed any of the commandments of the law. In response to his free love of the friend, we answer him with love. Hence, we offer him our prayers and homage as an expression of our love to him.
COMPLETE JOY IN LOVE: Jesus’ words: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:23). Saint Maximillian Kolbe, a Catholic priest who gave his life for a stranger in the concentration Camp of Auschwitz lived these words of Jesus. He stated “I am an old man; no one will miss me. He has a wife and family, take me instead.” Jesus tells his disciples to love one another. He adds to this commandment a few words which are very important: “…as I have loved you.” He loved us to the full, laying down his life for us. Many ways can lead one to a joyful life but only one way leads to complete joy: Self-giving. Being a person for others is the surest way to live in happiness.