· Vatican City ·

Gospel Reflection Fifth Sunday of Easter

Life on the vine

  Life on the vine  ING-017
26 April 2024

“Ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you” (Jn 15:7), says Jesus. At first glance, this promise appears to be too good to be true; it’s like a blank check. However, a similar statement seems to affirm this promise in the second reading, “We have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask” (1 Jn 3:22). If we search, we find that Jesus had made a comparable teaching in another passage, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7). How are we to understand this promise of Jesus?

Firstly, concerning the promise of Jesus, we should “not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he is the truth, he cannot lie” (St. Cyril in ccc 1381). When Jesus encouraged us to ask, seek and knock, he also gave the reason for our need to persist in prayer: because the Father is a loving Father. Jesus noted that no father would give his son a stone if he asked for a loaf of bread and ended the teaching with a declaration, “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him” (Mt 7:11). God is a loving Father.

When John revealed that we ought to have confidence in God to receive whatever we ask, he placed two conditions on this confidence: “if our hearts do not condemn us” and “because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him” (1 Jn 3:21-22). These conditions describe a well-formed conscience which “is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” ( gs 16). If these conditions are met, then our confidence is built on a solid foundation. James simply states, “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (Jas 5:16).

Lastly, when Jesus declared that we would receive whatever we desired, He also placed a condition: “if you remain in me and my words remain in you” (Jn 15:7). If we are connected to Jesus as a branch is connected to the vine, then whatever is desired has already been formed by this connection. And if we are united to Jesus, then we are united to the Father because Jesus declared, “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30). This divine union explains why Jesus said, “The Father who dwells in me is doing his works” (Jn 14:10).

Our reflection demonstrates that Jesus’ promise is true if we possess a deep conviction of the Father’s love, a well-formed conscience, and communion with Jesus. These differing qualities are all connected to each other as is the nature of virtues, says Augustine: “The virtues that reside in the human mind are quite inseparable from one another” (De Trin. vi, 4). Possess these virtues and then ask whatever you want. You will receive it.

*  Abbot of St. Martin Abbey
Lacey, Washington

By Fr Marion Nguyen, osb *