“Now this is eternal life”

We give glory to God by giving ourselves up to Him, as we learn in John 17:1-11.

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said,
“Father, the hour has come.
Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you,
just as you gave him authority over all people,
so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.
Now this is eternal life,
that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
I glorified you on earth
by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.
Now glorify me, Father, with you,
with the glory that I had with you before the world began.

“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.
They belonged to you, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
because the words you gave to me I have given to them,
and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you,
and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me,
because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours
and everything of yours is mine,
and I have been glorified in them.
And now I will no longer be in the world,
but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”

“Now this is eternal life,” says Jesus, “that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” He is speaking to the Father, who is to raise Jesus to the heavenly kingdom. Then He goes on to explain how He got to this point in His journey on earth and then asks the Father to bring Him home to heaven.

Heaven is our true home. We haven’t been there before, but it is where we belong, the home that the Father has prepared for us and the Son has made way for us. The Father chose us to be with Him in heaven, sent His Son to prepare us to be with Him, and then when His Son’s work was done on earth, called Him home to heaven, creating our path to being in the presence of God.

It’s no mistake nor some happenstance that we are chosen. God wants us with Him. He loves us. He gave us birth. He gave us life. He gave us faith. And He will give us death that we may make the journey to heaven. We shouldn’t fear death – natural death – we should welcome it as our way into God’s kingdom. Just as we embrace life.

What is the meaning of life? The meaning of life is to encounter Jesus in our hearts, listen to and act on his teachings, love God and love one another, and make our journey to heaven. Giving ourselves to God is giving glory to God. This is eternal life.

“I am with you always”

In these troubling times, we need some assurance. We find it in Matthew 28:16-20.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

We live in troubling times. Whatever side of the political divide in which you reside, there seems to be no good news. Terrorism still pervades the world. Crime, chaos, bigotry, hatred seem to be everywhere. Even in social circles there seem to be great divides and acrimony. Religion is in turmoil, and fewer and fewer people, especially among the young, are gravitating to some form of faith. The world “is going to hell in a hand basket,” as the saying goes. It is easy to become caught up in the mire of despair that is present in our world.

But remember, it has always been so. As today’s reading reminds us, Jesus’ disciples gathered at His ascension doubting. And Jesus reassured them, “I am with you always.”

The Father has always been. He has no beginning and no end. He brought forth His Son, gave Him to us as our Savior, then after Jesus’ death and resurrection, took Him up into Heaven to sit at His right hand. And there the Son of God rules us. He is there for us always. So when things seem dim and discordant and extreme without end, know that Jesus is there for us — without end. And Jesus tells us many times in the Gospels, ask in His name and He will provide for us.

Do not despair. As Jesus has told us elsewhere in the Gospels, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus is with us. Pray. Ask in His name. The Father and the Son are listening. If God is for us, who can be against us? Amen?

 

“Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit”

We give glory to the Father when we are steadfast in our faith, Jesus tells us in John 15:1-8.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

This reads like a warning to Jesus’ disciples: Stray from me and my teachings, and you will no longer be my disciples. But in truth, it is a message for us all. And it isn’t just about teachings and being disciples. It is about living a truly righteous life and reaching the Kingdom of Heaven. It is also about access to the gifts faith in Jesus gives.

And what does Jesus teach? He certainly teaches us to observe the commandments. But he also teaches us to serve one another, all our neighbors. He also teaches us to put others first. And Jesus teaches us love God and to love one another as the greatest commandments. He often teaches us to trust God and to know that whatever we need, God will provide, if we but ask for it in Jesus’ name. And finally, Jesus asks us to believe that because he died on the cross for us, our sins will be forgiven and because he rose from the dead, we too can rise from the dead and be resurrected into eternal life in heaven. All this – all this – is in the glory of the Father, who loves us.

That’s Jesus final point in this passage, one we often forget in our me-centered culture: All happens to give glory to the Father. We may sing “Glory to God in the highest” during Mass or other services, but is it much more than a formality? “This is my Father glorified,” says Jesus, “that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” You become His disciples by remaining in Him and Him in you. Stay steadfast in your faith and steadfast to Jesus’ teachings. Be His hands and walk His journey, speak His words and do His works. Give glory to God the Father in your faith. In this way, you will bear much fruit.

“There are some of you who do not believe”

We live in seemingly darker times. In John 6:60-69, we learn the source of our salvation.

Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer walked with him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

I was asked by a friend and reader of these pages to address our darker times. While reflecting on her theme, I came across this passage, which was the reading for Mass on Saturday, which was certainly timely. Perhaps God was speaking to her directly through daily scripture.

First, there have been many dark times. Humanity has risen anew from them. Think of the Inquisition. Think of World War I and World War II. Think of the Dark Ages. These are just a few examples. In all these times, our faith has sustained us.

Second, while organized religion has been the source of some of the darker times, Jesus teaches us that God does not inflict us with difficulty or pain to punish us. He provides us with relief in His glory. Some would have you believe that if we are ill or disabled or experiencing problems, it is because God is punishing up. Jesus says no. The Father loves us too much to do that. The Father provides for us. The God who would forgive us our sins, who would forgive us for crucifying Him, surely would not inflict us with maladies instead. Rather, at our prayers He would answer us with relief, even if He might seem to take His time.

Third, since the source of these darker times is not God but man, who can win this battle? Who is more powerful than God? Did God not create heaven and earth? Did God not create all living things, including man? Then it is God who will bring light to the world. Man cannot stand against Him.

Today’s passage says, “There are some of you who do not believe. Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe.” And it says, “Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him.” Is this not the trouble with our world today? Many say they believe in God or perhaps once believed and stopped believing, or even perhaps believed but have been led astray, but now do not believe. Or they believe in a Jesus and a Father and a Holy Spirit who is not as presented to us in the Gospels.

But it also says there were still a group of core believers. “Do you also want to go?” Jesus asked them. Simon Peter asked, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” They still believed and would not abandon their faith and Jesus’ teachings.

We will arise out of these darker times because we still have faith. And if we have faith, we have hope. And if we have hope, we have future. We can share that faith and hope and future with others to help all emerge from this darkness. We are the lamp that cannot be hidden. We are the lamp that must shine, must give light to the world, the light of Christ.

What is the light of Christ? It is not to hate but to love. It is not to be intolerant but to be inclusive. It is not to ignore the needs of others but to give aid. It is not hoard but to share. It is not to seek vengeance but to forgive. It is not to judge and condemn but to seek to understand and seek repentance. It is not to seek self glory but to glorify God. It is not to seek riches and wealth but to seek the kingdom of God.  These are all things that Jesus taught us in the Gospels.

The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are not a God of punishment and pain. They are a God of love. They are not a God of darkness. Go now and share the light of God’s love and dispel the darkness of those who do not believe.

We will arise out of these darker times. Through the grace of God. Because we believe.

“Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do”

If we believe in someone, don’t we emulate their behavior? In John 14:6-14, Jesus tells us to follow His lead.

Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.
And whatever you ask in my name, I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”

This passage is full of important messages. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. If you know Jesus, you know the Father – if you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father. Jesus’ works are the Father’s. Whatever you ask in Jesus’ name, He will do it. And, finally, whoever believes in Jesus will do the works that He does.

This passage is a uniting of the Father and the Son, in purpose, in voice, and in deed. And it is calling on us to do the good works that Jesus did, which really are the works the Father did through Jesus. So we are being commanded to love God, love one another, assist one another, and save one another by the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ and in His name.

I hear a lot of preaching to fear God, to condemn sinners, and to ignore the needs of others because they are afflicted through their sins. But if you read the Gospels, there are no such messages. If you believe in Jesus, don’t follow this preaching but follow His preaching, which is to love God not fear Him, which is to love your neighbor not condemn him as a sinner, which is to care for him in his need not ignore him. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for you to hate or oppress others but for you to love and embrace others — to follow in His footsteps, that you might also follow Him in resurrection after death.

Whoever believes in Jesus will do the works that he did (and continues to do now). He healed. He provided. He embraced. He loved. He especially healed, provided for, embraced, and loved the downtrodden, the poor, the disabled, and, yes, the sinner. Your job isn’t to condemn and ignore but to embrace others. That is what Jesus would do.