Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Easter (Cycle A)
Holiness cannot be a life set apart from others; it must be a life totally devoted in the service of others. Holiness is the gentle challenge of God to us to “become Christ“’“ to the world, to be immersed in a persistent mission of self-giving which should not be diminished.
We cannot choose to remain hidden and isolated in our own personal relationships with the divine. We are all and always tempted to a “self-centeredness” in the guise of church service, leading us away from Christian fraternity. Our Holy Father Francis, in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, warns us against the vanities of spiritual worldliness, without the genuine concern for being with the sheep.
We must remember that the encounter with God becomes much more real in the relationships we develop with those who also seek him, especially those who are in near despair and unbearable longing. The encounter with God becomes much more real in the shared experience of crying over our faults and tribulations; the encounter with God becomes much more real in the interaction of forgiving each other’s faults, and of alleviating each other’s tribulations. We are simply being exhorted to follow our Lord’s dying wish on the eve of his crucifixion, to love one another as he has loved us.
In today’s readings, we are presented with a tale about the early Church, concerning the ordination as ministers of Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenus and Nicolaus, also known as the Seven Deacons. We are called like them, to become “living stones, built into a spiritual temple … offering spiritual sacrifices that please God”, through the “chosen and precious cornerstone … rejected by people, but chosen by God, and precious to him”, and to be part of “a people God has made his own, to proclaim his wonders.”
Here then, for the sake of our genuine service, we must carefully note being seriously admonished to remain firmly close and united to the Christ our exemplar, who is the “stone” we dare not reject, lest “we stumble over it.”
But he is also gently consoling us, “Do not be troubled! Trust in God and trust in me!” For is he not after all, “the way, the truth, and the life”, the way to the Spirit, the embodiment of its truth, and the wellspring of the life it gives abundantly? And so, are we not sensibly and rightfully expected to “do the same works he did”?
May this be the prayer of our diakonia:
Father, teach me to be a true and faithful missionary of the Gospel, through a daily encounter with your Son and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Inspire in us in this continuous encounter to detach from our own selves, and to see who we truly are in relation to you, our Abba. May I realize that consumerism, pleasures, success in what we do or aim for, even an interior life focused only on oneself, may lead us from the way of the Master and from the reality of the poor.
May you bring me to a higher level of spiritual consciousness, intent not on self-satisfaction, but on the simple happiness of sharing the joy of the Gospel with others. And may the joy of mission bring fulfillment to our lives as it was meant to be lived. Amen.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.