Gospel Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Gospel Reflection for  Sunday the  2nd of May 2021

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5th Sunday of Easter

John 15:1-8


There seems to be a real emerging interest in Catholic blogging and media circles about the life and work of Fr. Walter Ciszek SJ. He was an American-Polish Jesuit who risked his life to evangelise communist Russia. For 23 years, because of his witness to the Gospel, he was in prisons and slave labour camps and finally internal exile before returning to New York in 1963. He is the author of the well-known books: With God in Russia and He leadeth Me. Fr. Ciszek understood that during the torments, the darkness and the evil surrounding him, was the mysterious presence of God. He saw that God was faithful to him despite the evil of others. Most amazingly, he perceived that in the suffering events of his life, God was inviting him to find true life. In fact, it was precisely in those trials that Fr. Ciszek had the opportunity to grow in grace as he grew into a deeper faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ. The suffering made him have an intense union with Jesus, his complete refuge and strength. In the Gospel this weekend Jesus says to His disciples that the fruitfulness of their lives depends on their union with Himself: “whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” It is the most amazing truth of our Christian faith that in baptism Jesus supernaturally united us to Himself. This union is so real and true that we can really be called members of the body of Christ. It means that Jesus shares His actual divine life with us. We are now living in Him and He in us. So close is the union between us and Jesus that He describes it in this way: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” When we go to the sacrament of confession, this union is repaired if it is damaged. At confirmation we received special graces and a deepening of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to strengthen Jesus’ life in us. When we consume the Eucharist, Jesus the Bread of Life, transforms us into a deeper union with Himself and His life in us deepens and grows. We grow more and more into the life of God. Along with these sacraments Fr. Ciszek witnesses to the truth that our ability to grow in union with Jesus also depends on our ability to respond to God’s will in our lives. When we do God’s will, our lives are made very fruitful. Firstly, the Church teaches us that we know that God’s will is discerned according to the duties of whatever state of life we are in, for example, whether we are children, students, workers, spouses, a religious sister,  a priest etc. It is also true that we encounter the will of God in the events of our lives that we find ourselves in. Sometimes we find ourselves in intense situations of sufferings and hardships. This can be the ‘pruning’ that Jesus speaks about in the Gospel. Trials in life are pruning events that helps us grow closer to Jesus which makes our lives more fruitful. In his writings, Fr. Ciszek teaches us that with the eyes of faith, these pruning moments are precious moments to grow closer to Jesus. They form the will of God which, along with the sacraments, is our food for holiness. How we respond to these moments affects our union with Jesus and our personal fruitfulness. For Fr. Ciszek, we need to form an attitude of abandoning ourselves to the Lord in these moments. With trustful confidence we ought to accept peacefully the Cross of suffering in the present moment. While we do this, we also must do everything in our power to overcome the evil that faces us. In this acceptance and struggle against evil, we will grow in the life of Jesus. Without his trials and even the evil against him, Fr. Ciszek could not have come to the deep union with Jesus that he came to enjoy. A union which has given rise to untold fruit and has inspired and affected the lives of millions of people. Do not see the sufferings of your lives as a hopeless situation. Instead see it as an opportunity to be open to God’s action of grace to bring you closer to Himself.

-Fr Jesse Maingot OP