1 May 2016: Sixth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 Acts 15:1-2, 22-29  Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8  Rev 21:10-14, 22-23  Jn 14:23-29


Resurrection gifts to the church and disciples

The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week’s readings focus on the ekklesia–the believing community, or the church.

The first reading from Acts describes the so-called “council of Jerusalem” held in 49 AD. The ekklesia leadership met to resolve a difficult question raised by Paul’s mission to the gentiles: could non-Jews (the uncircumcised) be part of Jesus’ believing community? After some debate, the leaders–under the Spirit’s guidance–decided the ekklesia must include the gentiles without requiring circumcision. Jews and gentiles are equal co-heirs to God’s kingdom and Jesus’ resurrection promises.

The second reading from the book of Revelation presents a vision of God’s kingdom at the end of history. John describes his vision of the new Jerusalem–the ekklesia or believing community. The city doesn’t need the sun or moon to give light; God’s glory or splendor (see last week’s reflection) illuminates it. The Lamb, a lampstand (Jn 8:2) of glory, also lights the believing community. The city/ekklesia is founded on the apostles (the twelve courses of stone) and is the new people of God, but it stands in continuity with Israel (the twelve gates, angels, and tribes).

Today’s gospel from John continues Jesus’ testament or farewell discourse. Jesus promises his disciples and the believing community these gifts:

  • Indwelling: Jesus promises the disciples (the ones who love him and keep his word) that Jesus and the Father will make their dwelling with them. In this promise, Jesus connects his earlier statements that he and the Father are one (Jn 10:30), and that, although he is leaving the disciples (Jn 13:33), he will remain-in-relationship with them.
  • The paraclete (advocate): Jesus also promises the disciples that the Father will send an advocate (or paraclete) to teach and remind them. In Greek and Roman courts, a paraclete (παράκλητος, “someone called to another’s side”) assisted a person during a trial–by giving counsel, pleading that person’s cause, or interceding with the judge. The paraclete’s courtroom context fits nicely with John’s themes of trial and judgement. The Spirit acts as counselor for the disciples, gives them comfort and help when the world persecutes them, leads them to a deeper understanding of Jesus, and enables them to bear witness to the Word.
  • Peace: Jesus blesses his disciples with his peace. This peace is not the world’s fleeting peace, but the biblical promise of shalom–which means “peace, well-being, everything-is-right.” Jesus’ own shalom comes from his relationship with the Father; Jesus now invites and draws his disciples into that same shalom relationship through the Spirit’s indwelling.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season gives us six weeks to reflect on this one cosmos-changing event; the Lectionary’s readings present stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us understand Easter from many viewpoints–lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. We, the believing community, are God’s own creation, heirs to Israel and to the apostles. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we remain-in-relationship with Jesus and the Father, supported by the Spirit, and enjoy a shalom the world doesn’t know. Jesus gives these gifts to his ekklesia and his disciples. Do we acknowledge these gifts? Do we use them?

—Terence Sherlock


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