5th Thursday of Easter Week
Acts 15:7-21; John 15:8-11
THE MONASTIC LIFE originated in a world that was deeply troubled. Our Lord Jesus was born in a time of relative quiet that was made possible only by the heavily armed force of Roman power. We do well to remember that the earliest accounts of the monastic way of life inform us of serious conflict between monastic founders such as St. Basil and St. Anthony of Egypt, and the ruling powers. Subsequent Church history is replete with instances of such conflict through the ages. St. Bernard spent a good deal of time in open conflict on behalf of the Pope. Our Lord himself was the victim of political powers as were Saints Peter and Paul both of whom were out to death for the faith they professed.
Today’s first reading recounts another kind of conflict that arose in the early Church. It is but one of many such altercations that occurred in the lives of the early Christians. Peter himself was charged with violating Church tradition when he baptized a Roman officer and his pagan family. How greatly Peter had been transformed after his encounter with the Risen Christ who forgave his sins. He ably gives a full account of his reception into the Church of the Roman officer Cornelius and his whole family. In doing so he leaves an example for the Popes who were to follow in his office as head of the Ecclesia founded by Christ. Current conflict in Rome between a group of eminent Cardinals and Pope Francis makes us keenly aware that the Church always is subject to serious tension. Even St. Paul and St. Barnabas who had labored so successfully together to spread the faith, went separate ways due to a disagreement over Mark’s ministry.
The words of Jesus cited in the Gospel we have just heard invite us to serious reflection. When our Lord invites his faithful to abide in him he is making a life-changing offer. We know by experience how much we have changed because we abide in this community, and our guests have learned what it means to live in their personal home with the various relations that implies. What is it to abide in Christ? The few verses of today’s words of Saint John’s text are our Lord’s explanation of the implications of abiding in Him. In fact they are an invitation for each of us to make Him and His Father the basis and central concern of our life on earth. It is our chief concern in life to discover by our ardent desire what it means that God Himself lives within us. He is more intimately present to us than we know our own inner self.
May He always preserve us in this loving knowledge that is the source of our happiness.