Monthly Archives: May 2017

28 May 2017: Seventh Sunday of Easter

Celebration Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Ascension: Acts 1:1-11 Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 Eph 1:17-23 Mt 28:16-20
7 Sunday of Easter: Acts 1:12-14 Ps 27:1, 4, 7-8 1 Pt 4:13-16 Jn 17:1-11a

 

Lectionary note
 The Lectionary presents two sets of readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Dioceses that celebrate the Ascension on Ascension Thursday use the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Dioceses that celebrate the Ascension on the Seventh Sunday of Easter use the Ascension readings. This reflection uses the Seventh Sunday of Easter readings.

The resurrected life: Jesus’ prayer for disciples

White_gold_banner_sm Throughout the Easter season, the Sunday readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings invite us to consider how prayer shapes us and our believing community.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus tells the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes. They return to the upper room and pray. Luke provides a roll-call of the believing community: the eleven (witnesses to Jesus’ public ministry), “some women” (witnesses to Jesus’ burial and empty tomb), Mary (witness to Jesus’ birth and youth), and Jesus’ brothers. Through prayer, these few prepare to witness the ekklasia‘s birth at Pentecost.

In the second reading from Peter’s first letter, the author continues last week’s theme of patience in the face of unjust harassment. “Rejoice,” he tells his readers when you are mistreated “because you proclaim Christ’s name.” You are blessed because the Father’s glory (eternal life) rests on you.

In John’s gospel, Jesus concludes his final discourse at the Last Supper. John uses a circular or spiral narrative form that allows Jesus to introduce and connect several ideas. Jesus’ ideas include the glory shared by the Father and the son, the son’s glory of eternal life to believers, the son’s completed work (salvation), the disciples’ knowing and believing in Jesus and the Father, Jesus’ prayer for present and future disciples, and the disciples glorifying the son. This reflection examines glory and Jesus’ prayer:

  • Glory. The Greek word δοξάζω (docks-AHd-zoh) means “to honor” or “to glorify.” Glory is John’s word for Jesus’ transforming death and resurrection. The Father glorified the son by bringing about the signs or work that the son performed in the Father’s name. The son glorified the Father by completing the work (salvation) the Father gave him. Having brought the disciples to faith and eternal life, Jesus is glorified by the disciples.
  • Jesus’ prayer. This is the climax of Jesus’ last discourse. Jesus speaks as intercessor, addressing the Father directly, while the disciples listen in. In his prayer of petition, Jesus prays first for the mutual glorification of Father and son (Jn 17:1-8); then, for his present disciples in their mission to the world (Jn 17:9-19); and finally, for all disciples to remain united with one another and with God (Jn 17:20-26).

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The church’s Easter season gives us six weeks to reflect on this one cosmos-changing event. Jesus reveals himself in the witness of his disciples, in the liturgy, in the sacraments, and in our own personal encounters with the Lord. The readings remind us that prayer is the foundation of our remaining-in-relationship with God. Prayer–both words and actions–unites us to God and each other. Do we ask God to know God’s work for us, or do we tell God the work we want to do? Do our prayerful words and actions reflect God’s glory, or our own?

—Terence Sherlock

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21 May 2017: Sixth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 Acts 8:5-8, 14-17  Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20  1 Pt 3:15-18  Jn 14:15-21

 

The resurrected life: remaining-in-relationship through the Spirit

White_gold_banner_sm Throughout the Easter season, the Sunday readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings invite us to consider how the Spirit helps us to love one another and to remain-in-relationship.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes Philip’s mission to the Samaritans. Philip reports to the Jerusalem ekklasia that Samaria had accepted the Word, but Luke explains that the Samaritans had not yet received the Spirit. Only when Peter and John come to the Samaritans does the Spirit enliven the Samaritan community. The story teaches that the gentile missions and their believing communities must remain in fellowship (or koinónia) with the Jerusalem ekklasia.

In the second reading from Peter’s first letter, the author notes that Christians must show patience, even when being harassed unjustly. In the late first century, Christians suffered from social alienation more than from persecution. Christian beliefs did not permit disciples to join in Roman social, religious, or civic activities. Christians’ non-participation engender suspicion and resentment in their non-Christian neighbors, resulting in suffering.

In John’s gospel, Jesus continues his final discourse with his disciples at the Last Supper. John uses a circular or spiral narrative form that allows Jesus to introduce and connect several ideas, including obedience as love, the coming of another paraclete, remaining-in-relationship (abiding), the world’s blindness, love of Jesus and the Father, and eternal life. This reflection examines two of Jesus’ ideas:

  • Love. John uses the Greek word ἀγαπάω (ag-ah-PAH-oh) to describe Jesus’ love or personal engagement with his disciples. True love shows itself in words and actions. ἀγαπάω is not an abstract idea, but an action that means “to express or practice care or interest in and for another.” Jesus’ command to love isn’t a greeting card sentiment or a soft-focus Instagram of puppies. Jesus’ law of love is a high-resolution, action movie about seeing and healing the physically and mentally ill, advocating and protecting the defenseless, washing others’ dirty feet, and dying on a cross. Jesus calls disciples to a higher standard of love: “I give you a new commandment: love [ἀγαπάω] one another (Jn 13:34).”
  • The Paraclete. The Greek word παράκλητος (pah-rah-KLAY-tos), translated as “paraclete,” “advocate,” “intercessor,” or “supporter,” means “someone called to another’s side.” In Greek and Roman courts, a παράκλητος assisted a person during a trial–giving counsel, pleading that person’s cause, or interceding with the judge. The “other paraclete” continues Jesus’ mission to reveal God’s love to the world. God’s own Spirit helps a disciple remain-in-relationship with Jesus and the Father. Filled with the Spirit, each disciple embodies God’s love and, in obedience to Jesus’ law of love, reveals God’s love in his or her own words and actions.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The church’s Easter season gives us six weeks to reflect on this one cosmos-changing event. Jesus reveals himself in the witness of his disciples, in the liturgy, in the sacraments, and in our own personal encounters with the Lord. The readings remind us that we are part of a believing community, with responsibilities to the larger world. How seriously do we take Jesus’ command to love one another? Do we just “think nice thoughts” about people, or do we speak out for the voiceless and act with love to bring justice?

—Terence Sherlock

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14 May 2017: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 Acts 6:1-7  Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19  1 Pt 2:4-9  Jn 14:1-12

The way and works of the resurrected life

White_gold_banner_sm Throughout the Easter season, the Sunday readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings invite us to think about the resurrected Jesus continually made visible through his disciples’ words and actions.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes how the community’s growth created administrative problems. The Greek-speaking Christians believed their widows were not sharing equally in the community or fellowship–a hallmark of the believing community (Acts 2:42)–during the distribution of the common goods and food. The apostles and community chose seven men to “serve at table”–to minister to community needs.

In the second reading from Peter’s first letter, the author describes Jesus, the cornerstone rejected by the builders, as the foundation of God’s new temple. Each member of the believing community is a living stone in the new temple, God’s new spiritual house. Jesus is a “stone of stumbling” for those who fail to recognize him.

In John’s gospel, Jesus engages in a final discourse with his disciples at the Last Supper. John uses a circular or spiral narrative form to allow Jesus to touch on and connect several ideas, including believing (faith), going and returning (death and resurrection), following the way, seeing/knowing the Father, and doing works and greater works. This reflection examines two of Jesus’ ideas:

  • The way. The Greek word ὁδός (hoh-DOHS) ranges in meaning from the physical road on which people travel, to the trip itself, to a philosophical way of life. The gospel writers use “the Way” to describe the path of discipleship. In Jesus’ time, the disciples’ path began by traveling with Jesus, crisscrossing the highways through Judea, Samaria, the Galilees, and the Decapolis. Walking the road together Jesus taught them his way of life and his relationship to the Father. In Jesus’ words and actions the disciples saw a different path forward. They personally experienced Jesus’ mission and meaning journeying to Jerusalem. After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return to the Father, the disciples continued to follow his way in their relationships with each other and with the Father. Today, Christian scripture provides disciples (including us) a roadmap to follow Jesus’ Way.
  • Works. The Father is the source of all the signs or works that Jesus does. Jesus’ and the Father’s abiding or remaining-in-relationship allows them to be in total union in thought and actions. Jesus promises his disciples (including us) that, by believing and by remaining-in-relationship with him, they will do greater works. Through our abiding relationship with the risen Jesus, the Spirit empowers us to continue God’s divine actions in the human world. Faith enables us to bring God’s kingdom to a broken world desperate for signs of God’s care.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The church’s Easter season gives us six weeks to reflect on this one cosmos-changing event. Jesus reveals himself in the witness of his disciples, in the liturgy, in the sacraments, and in our own personal encounters with the Lord. The readings remind us that we must find a way to make the risen Jesus visible to the world. Do we reveal the risen Lord in the communities we build? Do we show others the way we believe by the way we live? Do our works align with and express our continuing relationship with God?

—Terence Sherlock

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7 May 2017: Fourth Sunday of Easter / Good Shepherd Sunday

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 Acts 2:14a, 36-41  Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b4, 5, 6  1 Pt 2:20b-25  Jn 10:1-10

Shepherds: relationships and responsibilities

White_gold_banner_sm Throughout the Easter season, the Sunday readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings invite us to think about the resurrected Jesus as our caretaker and leader.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke recounts the results of Peter’s Pentecost speech (see last week’s first reading). The listeners ask Peter, “What should we do?” He tells them, “Metanoia (change your minds/hearts) and be baptized!”–the expected response to Jesus’ message. In Peter’s message, the listeners hear Jesus’ voice and respond to his invitation.

In the second reading from Peter’s first letter, the author advises the newly-baptized on how to live in an unbelieving world. Through baptism, the neophytes (new Christians) have returned to God, who, through Jesus, shepherds and guards them.

In John’s gospel, Jesus gives a powerful image of his care for God’s people: I AM the good shepherd. After Jesus’ rejection by the Pharisees in the previous chapter (Jn 9:1-41), he restates his identity (“I AM”) and his mission. Jesus’ shepherd image describes both a relationship and a responsibility:

  • Relationship. Jesus defines his relationship with God’s people. God, the gatekeeper, sends Jesus to shepherd God’s people. Jesus calls each person by name to discipleship so that everyone may have “life beyond measure.” That is, Jesus’ mission is to bring God’s messianic kingdom, in which all disciples will have eternal life. Jesus calls those who try to stop his mission (like the Pharisees in Jn 9:1-31) “thieves and robbers” because they keep God’s superabundant kingdom from appearing.
  • Responsibility. Jesus also defines a leader’s relationship and responsibilities to God’s people. God appoints human leaders to care for God’s people. Leaders are stewards and caretakers, not owners. Leaders who overstep their stewardship are “thieves and robbers” because they abuse God’s people and block God’s kingdom from coming. When God’s people hear Jesus’ voice (his words and actions) in a leader, they follow; if they do not hear Jesus’ voice in a leader, they run away.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The church’s Easter season gives us six weeks to reflect on this one cosmos-changing event. Jesus reveals himself in the witness of his disciples, in the liturgy, in the sacraments, and in our own personal encounters with the Lord. We are God’s people, the flock he guides–not as mindless sheep, but as attentive disciples who listen for the shepherd’s voice. Can we hear Jesus call us by name? Are we helping to bring God’s kingdom, or are we blocking its arrival? Do we lead with Jesus’ service and care, or do we lead with human power and authority?

—Terence Sherlock

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