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This Sunday's Programme

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6th Sunday Easter B

Sunday 5th May 2024

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Jn 15: 9-17

 

As the Father has loved me, just so I love you. Remain, abide in my love!

If you are keeping my commandments, you will be remaining in my love even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and am remaining in his love.

I have said these words to you so that my joy should remain in you and your joy be complete.

This is my commandment: that you love one another even as I have loved you.

No-one has greater love than to lay down their life for their friend.

You are my friends if you do what I command you.

No longer will I call you ‘servants’, as a servant doesn’t know what the master is about.

I declare that you are ‘friends’ because everything I heard from the Father I have revealed to you.

No, you did not choose me, no I chose you and I have appointed you: Go out and bear fruit, fruit that will remain so that anything you ask of the Father in my name will be given to you.

This I have commanded you:  love one another.

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 97: 1-4

Sing to God a new song,
marvellous things he has done.
His power and holiness
have brought about salvation.

In the eyes of all nations
God has revealed salvation and justice.
God has remembered his kindness and faithfulness
towards the people of Israel.

The furthest ends of the earth
have seen God’s salvation.
Raise a shout to the God, all the earth!
Sing with jubilation.

 

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving Father, in the life death and resurrection of Jesus, you draw us into the life and love of your community of love.  Give us the wisdom of your Spirit to enter into the dignity of friendship you offer to us.  Give us the humility to bask in, delight in but, about all, remain in your love.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

This Sunday’s Gospel picks up from last Sunday’s so we should remember that the context for these words is the image of Jesus as the vine and we as the branches receiving our life from him. In that context there are two startling ideas to which I want to draw notice. Firstly, the way in which Jesus introduces the notion of commandments. After telling his disciples of the profundity of his love and exhorting them to abide in that love, he then says to keep his commandments. Too easily people, often good religious people, see keeping the commandments and rules of religion as a stepping stone towards experiencing the love of God. ‘If I am good enough, then I will know God’s love.’ What Jesus teaches is the opposite: it is when we have known the love of God and abide in it that we can keep his commandments. Then we realise even more the love of God in our lives.

Secondly, Jesus calls his disciples, and by implication us, ‘friends’. We have heard this so often we fail to realise what a startling shift in religious consciousness it is. John was writing in the Greco-Roman world and Aristotle, the influential Greek philosopher, had stated that God could never be friends with human beings as friendship was a relationship that took place between equals and we can never be the equal of God. Here we see one of the profound implications of the Incarnation. In Jesus, God became human and not only saved us from our sin but actually made possible the capacity to be friends with God. The way for that to happen is to abide in God’s love and to keep the commandment to love as we have been loved.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

Few of us are like Bear Grylls, very few. Even he isn’t as independent in the wild as he appears: he learnt his skills from others and obviously desires to share with others what he is doing – otherwise the film crew wouldn’t be there.

It is of our nature to be dependent on others and have others dependent on us. It is also the way Nature is created. In fact, all reality is that way because it is created by a God who is a community.

So what are we to make of our desire for autonomy and independence? We see it first strongly in the toddler and it emerges in differing ways as a sign of healthy maturity as we make our way to adulthood. It looks like God has created within us a desire that goes against the way of nature.

Unless there was something more that God wanted from this desire? If the goal of that desire is not merely to be independent but to give oneself freely in love then independence is a stage on the journey to Love: a love that is not dependent on what is given in return, not manipulated out of us, not coming from our own neediness. No, a love that is given like the love of God: free, bounteous, life-giving. The fully graced mature person loves as he or she has experienced love from God. ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you…Love one another.’ The true goal of independence is free, generous love.

 

 

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

Soaking up being loved by God isn’t easy. We want to justify our existence therefore, before God, we focus on our concerns in a myriad of ways. We want to be busy about our own anxieties, even if they are our own sins, or worse the sins of others.

But over and over, Jesus commands us, even pleads with us: ‘Remain, abide in my love!’ Yes, all our concerns do need to be dealt with but if we think we can do them by ourselves or with even a little help from God, we are crazy. We have to ask ourselves whether our ways of praying and doing aren’t paying lip service to the reality of our utter dependence upon God’s love.

The true way to love ourselves and each other is to abide, remain in God. It is a good practice to begin each day, resting, abiding, remaining in the love of God for just a few minutes. The radio can wait, as can the TV and internet. The troubles of the world will still be there. But resting in the love of God for those few moments can be a source of the richest grace to live and love throughout the coming day.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

Jesus saying Farewell to his eleven remaining Disciples by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308–1311.

The Exhortation to the Apostles by James Tissot

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

Over the coming week, mull on how dependent you are on others in the various ways you are served:  with the provision of things we take for granted, water, traffic lights, garbage collection.  Recognise how people’s compliance with rules and regulations makes for the largely smooth running of our society.  Notice also what you do to offer service and make life easier for others.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

When you are at rest, consider the free gift of love that God has towards you. Count the ways that you experience love and goodness in your life. St Augustine says that God loves each of us as though we are the only one. Allow yourself to bask in that love.

Consider the past events that have brought you to this day. Thank God for the events that clearly seem good. Ask for the wisdom to bring good out of the events that have been painful and difficult and which you find difficult to understand.

Rest in the love of your God.