Dominica Quinta post Pascha/Fifth Sunday after Easter: May 26, 2019
Delivered by Most Reverend Roger LaRade, O.F.A.
Beloved Disciple Eucharistic Catholic Church, Toronto
James 1: 22 – 27; John 16, 23 – 30.
Praying and Living God’s Will
During His time with His disciples, Jesus tried to explain to them the relationship between Himself and God the Father. This explanation continues in the Gospel passage for the Fifth Sunday after Easter which we have just heard.
As Jesus speaks to His disciples, we hear Him say to us: “Truly, I assure you, whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you shall receive that your joy may be complete.”
What does it mean for us to hear these words today? What does it mean for us to pray “in Jesus’ name”?
I think that often this is thought of in a magical way, which for many is what the miraculous represents. For many, prayer is often thought of as a reaching out to God in a time of personal suffering. Some pray to God in Jesus’ name for a job, for prosperity, to pass an exam, to be liked by someone. The examples are endless. Can we really believe that this is why Jesus died: To open the floodgates of a ‘Santa Claus’ God? I don’t believe so.
And yet, we hear in today’s Gospel Jesus tell us that as long as we formulate our prayer – a prayer for anything – “in Jesus’ name”, we have a better chance – well, some would say, the assurance – that our prayer will be granted.
Here is what a favourite commentator of mine says about praying in the name of Jesus:
To ask in Christ’s name means nothing else than to ask in Christ, to ask with the power and being he has as the Father’s son, whose petition will always find audience because it is wholly in harmony with the will of the Father; ‘Lord, thy will be done.’
In this is revealed the meaning of Jesus saying that to see Him is to see the Father. And for Jesus, this harmony of wills means nothing other – nothing more – than to ask that the world come to know God’s justice; that is, to live according to God’s justice, to make God’s justice real in our world. Saint Basil the Great, in preaching on prayer, says the following:
Prayer is not made perfect by uttering syllables…but in the purpose of the soul, and in the just actions of a lifetime…in deeds of virtue extending into every action and moment of our life.
So, first and foremost, our prayer is a prayer to do as God wills. Our prayer, for whatever need, and even if made in Jesus’ name, is worthless unless it is made from a spirit and a life of justice. Our commentator offers that our prayer in Christ’s name is this:
To ask in Christ’s name means to ask for faith and love, patience, loyalty, humility, and growing self-devotion.
In these is the hallmark of God’s justice.
To ask in Christ’s name then is to seek the kingdom of God, and to do so is to seek for justice; “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and God’s justice, and all the rest will be given you besides”, as we read in the Gospel of Saint Matthew (6, 33). We can do this because in Christ’s rising from the dead and ascending to Heaven, the Spirit is given to us. This living Spirit has its dwelling place in us, and makes us bold enough to pray in Jesus’ name that God’s will for justice be done.
This prayer, therefore, isn’t a magical prayer; it isn’t a prayer of convenience, a prayer for selfish needs. No. This prayer in Jesus’ name is a prayer that God’s justice may increasingly be realized in our lives, in our world; that Jesus’ will in harmony with God’s will be our will.
As we look forward to the celebration of the Ascension on Thursday of this week, let us remember that it is in this act of rising from the dead and ascending into Heaven, that Jesus’ mission as a human person ends and His eternal mission as the Second Person of the Trinity continues. This mission itself involves our prayer for the coming of God’s reign of justice, a prayer not only of words spoken in Jesus’ name, but also of a life lived day-by-day in the name of Jesus, the Son of Justice; a life lived in harmony to God’s will.
This constitutes the post-Resurrection vision which we have been exploring these past several Sundays: a vision of a new way of being in the world; a new beginning brought about by the sending of the Holy Spirit. Today, we see that this post-Resurrection understanding points to living a life of faith based on God’s will for justice. This realization comes to us through our reception of the Holy Spirit, which opens our minds and our hearts. It is this Grace-filled experience which transforms our vision and our understanding. With this new vision and new understanding, we see our life and our world with the eyes of God, eyes saddened by injustice, eyes seeking out justice.
The Church in this season of Easter, in this time when Resurrection is followed by Christ’s Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, calls us to rejoice and partake in the harmonious will of God the Father and God the Son. Let us pray for one another that our post-Resurrection vision of God’s will for justice may be deepened and become the center of our prayer in Jesus’ name.
Let us also, during this month of May, the month of Mary, pray to Holy Mary, the Mother of God, she who unreservedly accepted God’s Spirit into Her life and heart; let us pray that she may help us to receive, give birth and nurture God’s will for justice in our own hearts and lives. We pray:
Ave, Maria, grátia plena; Dóminus tecum: benedícta tu in muliéribus et benedíctus fructus ventris tui, Jesu. Sancta María, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatóribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen.
 Aemiliana Löhr, The Mass through the Year: Volume Two – Holy Week to the Last Sunday after Pentecost (London: Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd., 1959), p. 132.
 M. F. Toal, D.D., The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers: Volume Two – From the First Sunday in Lent to the Sunday after the Ascension (London: Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd., 1964), p. 383.
 Löhr, op. cit., p. 132.
Dominica Quarta post Pascha [4th Sunday after Easter]: May 19, 2019
Delivered by Most Reverend Roger LaRade, OFA
Beloved Disciple Catholic Church, Toronto
© Roger LaRade 2019
James 1: 17 – 21; John 16: 5 – 14.
The liturgy of the Church constantly calls us to live our lives with a deep belief in Jesus as the Christ, from which flows a deep conviction in the message of Jesus. This message is rooted in what is known as Jesus’ farewell discourse to His Apostles, or Jesus’ instruction of His disciples, part of which we have heard proclaimed in the Gospel reading for today’s Mass. This discourse begins with Jesus washing the feet of His Apostles at the Last Supper (which we commemorated just a few weeks ago in our celebration of Holy Thursday); it ends with Jesus instructing His future disciples to live in unity, a unity modeled on the love of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This is Jesus’ great teaching to His disciples, preparing them for His Passion, Resurrection, Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit. We – just as was their experience – can only make sense of these words of Jesus with a post-Resurrection understanding, one shaped by the leave-taking of Jesus and the reception of the Holy Spirit.
The liturgy of the Church is preparing us for Christ’s Ascension and for the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Apostles, newly rejoicing in the return of Jesus in their midst, are reminded that this new situation is temporary. Jesus will again leave them. They may well have been thinking that the return of Jesus after three days in the realm of the dead was what Jesus had been talking about. The harsh reality is that His leaving is yet to come, and that it is necessary; necessary so that His mission may, in fact, be continued and deepened. For the Apostles, this must have seemed a bit incomprehensible. Their direct experience of Jesus-with-them would have led them to believe that this experience was the end all and be all of their discipleship.
Yet, God’s design is different. It is only in Jesus’ passing into Heaven, only in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity being reunited with the First Person of the Holy Trinity, that His disciples will be empowered to live lives fully convicted in the message of Jesus. In the reunion of the First and Second Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Third Person, the Holy Spirit – the Convictor, if you will – is given to those who believe in Jesus as the Christ.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria, in his homily on this gospel reading, explains the effect and necessity of this. He writes:
All that the Lord had to do on earth was now done; but it was necessary that we should become sharers and partakers of the divine nature (II Pet. i. 4) of the Word…But it was not possible to do this except through the possession and communion of the Holy Spirit. The most fitting and the most appropriate time for the mission of the Holy Spirit, and for His descent upon us, was that which now opportunely arose, namely, after the going from our midst of Christ Our Saviour. For as long as Christ remained bodily with those who believed in Him, He appeared to them, I think, as the Giver of every gift.
I think we can understand this as meaning that as long as Jesus was around, the Apostles would have continued to rely on His physical presence, on Him, to do it all. In this situation, it is likely that their own sense of mission would not have deepened; they themselves would not have been empowered to "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mk. 16: 15).
Saint Francis of Assisi, before passing into Heaven, told his followers that he had done what God had given him to do and now that he was leaving this earthly realm it was their turn to do what God called each one of them to do. And so it is with each one of us. And this we must do on our own. We must come to it of our own choosing. Of course, we are hopefully supported in this by others, but in the end each one of us must come to it and live it with conviction in our own heart.
These fifty days between Easter and Pentecost are indeed meant to form in us a disposition to live out God’s will for us in a post-Resurrection understanding, an understanding which is formed and sustained by the reception and continued gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Church in this season of Easter, in this season when Resurrection is followed by Christ’s Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, calls us to rejoice and partake in the glorious love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for one another that our post-Resurrection understanding of God’s all-encompassing love in Jesus as the Christ may be deepened by our partaking of His Body and Blood.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, v. 2: From the First Sunday in Lent to the Sunday after the Ascension, translated and edited by M.F. Toal, D.D. (Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1964), p. 368.
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