Sunday, May 6, is the Fifth Sunday of Easter.
Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 22:26-30, 31-32; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
Today’s readings are all about how to “remain in” Jesus. An even better verb for them is “abide.” After all, we don’t just refrain from leaving Christ: We make our home with him, we accept him, live with him and identify with him.
And our abiding with him has the same effect on us as abiding with a spouse. If you abide with Christ, you stay strong in your Christian life; if you stop abiding with him, you “go bachelor” right away, like he is away.
“Whoever abides in me and I in him will bear much fruit,” says Jesus, “because without me you can do nothing.”
So, how do we abide with Christ? The same way we do with a spouse: through communication and time, expressions of love and forgiveness.
When we wake up, we say, “Hi” to him in morning meditation. We go to Mass as often as we can to receive his very life into our body. We pray the Rosary to share memories with him. And when we go to bed and reflect on the day, we think of any ways we need to apologize to him. We reconnect with him and make sure we are aware of his presence in our lives.
Today’s readings give three more lessons in “abiding.”
First: God, not guilt. Don’t think of God as a policeman, says the second reading. And don’t mistake his commandments for moralism. God calls us to a life of love, not a life of cringing in front of a demanding deity. “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God,” writes St. John.
Second: Keep the commandments. While we shouldn’t live in guilt, says the second reading, we need to realize that a life ignoring God is not friendship. Pope Benedict XVI defined friendship with Jesus as “same likes, same dislikes.” Only by following his commandments can we be a true friend of Jesus. “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,” writes St. John.
Third: Suffer with him. Paul converted and became a friend of Jesus. But as the first reading recounts, the early Christians — who had seen him cooperating in the martyrdom of St. Stephen — didn’t believe Paul. They feared him and avoided him — until they saw him provoke the same people he had once cooperated with to the point that they tried to kill him, too, just like Stephen. When they saw him suffer with Christ, they knew that Paul was really Jesus’ friend.
So spend time this week getting to know how to abide with Jesus. Risk something for him. Only by abiding with him can we transform our lives to become the best people we can be.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.