From pastor’s desk on the 5th Sunday of Easter, year B
We live in a society that places much importance on personal success. If you are not successful in a career or an activity you are considered a failure, or least you are insignificant and dull. The success usually must have some external dimension so that it will be visible to other people. Our society and culture also put strong emphasis on the individual’s skills and effort while working towards success. It is “my success,” not a gift from on high.
It is not so, however, in the spiritual life according to Christian understanding. Very often it is quite the opposite of what the world expects of us. In the Christian spirituality our life must be hidden in Christ rather than exposed and successful in the worldly way. The spiritual “success” is more on the inside and it may be not visible to other people. As the matter of fact the spiritual achievement may be even unknown to the interested party himself or herself as long as he or she lives here on earth. This is the case of numerous saints, e.g. Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Saint Charbel, Saint Faustina, and Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who did not see how much impact they would make on the life of others and the entire Church.
Thus, the spiritual growth cannot be measured with external achievements, but rather with how much we belong to Christ. The more we surrender to Jesus the more “successful” we become. The saints strive for perfect union with Christ and they do not care whether they achieve something or not in the eyes of the world. The only thing they want to do is to be with Jesus and to please Him while loving Him with all their heart, all their mind, and all their strength. They leave nothing for themselves, for in Jesus they find the perfect fulfillment of all their longings.
This Sunday’s gospel passage conveys exactly the message of surrender to Jesus. Our Lord Jesus commands His disciples to remain in Him in order to bear genuine and abundant fruit.
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.
How do I remain in Jesus? I do it through the simple acts of faith and surrender to the Divine Providence. I also cultivate intense prayer, spiritual reading, and frequent reception of the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist. The rest is up to Jesus. I should take Jesus’ words to my heart and literally make it the rule of my life: “without me you can do nothing.”
In the end, I should not worry whether I have achieved spiritual heights or not, but rather trust that our Lord is at work in my life. If the Lord Jesus wants to use me an instrument of His grace I will be happy with that. If Jesus will not give me any noticeable spiritual or pastoral success I should remain even happier, for it is He acting through me according to His Divine will. I know that I belong to Him—remain in Him—and this is enough for me to be content and at peace.
Have a blessed week.
Fr. Janusz Mocarski, pastor