Light and Life Through Conscious Union with Jesus
Sunday, May 7, 2023, Fifth Sunday of Easter
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for today:
The Entrance Antiphon invites us: “Sing to the Lord” because he has “done marvelous deeds” and “revealed his saving power” (Psalm 97). What “marvelous deeds” of God have I experienced? How do I see his “saving power” revealed in the Church and in the world today?
In the Opening Prayer we profess our belief that the Father is “looking upon us with love” and giving us “true freedom.” This is not just freedom from enslaving attitudes and values, but freedom to make personal choices that “bring us to the inheritance” God has promised. Our free, personal, creative, innovative choices in response to God’s word can be lifegiving and reveal God’s “saving power” because the Spirit is given to us to inspire them. The readings show this happening.
Hear the Spirit:
The Responsorial (Psalm 33) teaches us that the choice to trust in God, expecting to experience his guidance within us, opens the way to his saving graces: “Lord, let your mercy be upon us, as we place our trust in you.”
Acts 6: 1-7 shows the Holy Spirit guiding the community in response to unforeseen challenges that arise in their life as Church. Cultural differences threatened to cause division between the Greek-speaking “Hellenist” Christians and those of Hebrew origin. The Twelve met with all the disciples and made a proposal “acceptable to the whole community.” It was to select seven men “filled with the Spirit and wisdom” (the names show they were all Greek) to deal with the Hellenists’ needs. These men they “presented to the apostles, who prayed and laid hands on them.”
The report ends, “The word of God continued to spread, and the number of disciples increased greatly.” By praying and discerning together as a community, the Church had courage to take decisive action, and experienced that God’s “mercy” was indeed “upon them,” since they “placed their trust in him.”
A Living Structure
1Peter 2: 4-9 invites the disciples to let themselves be formed into a structured community — “be built into a spiritual house” — but one made of “living stones,” with Jesus, also “a living stone,” as its cornerstone. People sometimes speak disparagingly of “organized religion.” But an “unorganized religion” cannot really be a church (an “assembly” with identity). The Church does not exist apart from the “organizational Church,” any more than a body can exist apart from its skeleton. But we don’t reduce the Church to its organizational structure, any more than we reduce the body to its bones. For the Church to be authentic, the stones of its structure must be alive.
Jesus, the “living stone” must be the “cornerstone.” The Church is alive through her connection to the living person of Jesus. The Church is alive because her members have “become Christ” by Baptism, dying to their isolated, individual human lives and rising “in Christ” to live as parts in a whole, members of the body of Christ, and to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together... as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love” (Ephesians 4: 15-16). The “organizational Church” is, in reality, a living, growing, mutually supportive, organized community continuing to carry out the mission of Jesus Prophet, Priest and King. We are consecrated to “proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.” For this, we need to keep ourselves always aware of Christ, refer every experience to him, and base all our decisions solidly on him, the cornerstone.
Way, Truth and Life
John 14: 1-12 gives us a basis for praying, “Lord, let your mercy be upon us, as we place our trust in you.” Jesus himself said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” Jesus is not just a teacher from the past, to use like a reference book and imitate as best we can. He did not just teach us some truths and point out some directions. Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life.” He is Truth enlightening our minds now from within. He himself is the Way. To follow his way is to live in him. The way is not something he points out; it is something we find through deep, conscious, personal union with him as his body on earth. We know the way only by knowing Jesus. We follow the way only by being Jesus.
The fact is, Jesus is the Way and the Truth for us by being our Life. Because he lives in us and shares his life with us, we see truth by his light and walk by his strength. This explains his shocking statement: “Whoever believes in me will do the works I do and greater ones than these.” He said, “the Father who dwells in me is doing his works.” And it is Jesus dwelling in us who, in each one of us, can do things he could not do in or through any other human body, including the one he received from Mary. He is our Life; we are his body. In combination, we are the mystery of the risen Jesus living and acting on earth.
Insight: When have I seen Christ’s “saving power” revealed in my actions? In the life of the Church? What can I do that is “greater than” what Jesus did?
Initiative: Put your trust in Jesus dwelling and have the courage to make decisions based on his truth. Then depend on his strength.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry