Tag Archives: Eastertime

9 June 2019: Pentecost Sunday

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 2:1-11   Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34   1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 or
Rom 8:8-17
RCL: Rom 8:14-17 (alt)
  Jn 20:19-23 or
Jn 14:15-16, 23b-26
RCL: Jn 14:15-16, 23b-26 or
Jn 14:8-17 (25-27) or
Jn 15:26-27; 16:4b-16

Lectionary note: Reading options based on celebration
The Lectionary presents two sets of readings for Pentecost: the Vigil/Extended Vigil of Pentecost or Pentecost Sunday. This commentary uses the readings for Pentecost Sunday.

Commissioned to continue Jesus’ mission

Red_banner_sm Pentecost marks the end of the Easter season and readings that examine the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection. The final Easter season readings present three differing views on how the Spirit lives in and enlivens the believing community to continue Jesus’ work.

The first reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles tells of the Spirit’s coming to the disciples fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection. Scripture scholars agree that Luke’s timeline is theological. The Jewish Pentecost feast recalled God giving the Law at Sinai. Luke repurposes Pentecost as God giving the new Law, mediated by the Spirit. As at Sinai, “fire” and “a great sound” announce God’s presence. The disciples’ glossolalia (speaking in different languages) reveals the Spirit’s power. This miracle reverses the Tower of Babel’s confusion of languages, allowing the disciples to proclaim God’s “mighty works” and to invite all their listeners to salvation.

The second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinth ekklesia is part of the section on the Spirit’s gifts. First-century people saw the world as filled with spirits, both good and bad. Only a good spirit (the Holy Spirit) could urge someone to confess that “Jesus is Lord.” This acclamation may derive from the early ekklesia‘s baptismal liturgy; Paul connects the Spirit’s coming and the Spirit’s gifts with baptism. Baptism incorporates all members into one body; the Spirit’s gifts are to be used for the entire body’s benefit, not for just one or a few members. The Spirit calls all to unity and binds all believers into a community.

John’s gospel recounts Jesus’ gift of the Spirit to the disciples on the night of his resurrection. Scripture scholars agree that John’s timeline is probably closer to the actual Easter events. Immediately after Jesus returns to the Father (see Jn 20:17), he appears to the disciples in the locked room, granting them peace, a mission, and the Spirit.

  • Peace to you. Jesus declares that Peace is already among the disciples. This shalom is the eschatological reconciliation between God and humans. Jesus’ blessing brings the disciples into communion with the Father and drives out the disciples’ fear.
  • I send you. Following the Father’s example of commissioning him, Jesus formally commissions his disciples (“I send you”), seals them with the gift of the Spirit (“Receive the Spirit”), and charges them to continue Jesus’ work (preaching metanoia and forgiving sin). In John, sin is a failure to believe in Jesus as the One sent by the Father. Jesus commissions his disciples to bring new members into the believing community through proclaiming the good news and through baptism.
  • Receive the holy Spirit. Jesus’ breathing on the disciples recalls God’s creative “breath hovering over the waters” (Gn 1:2) and God blowing into Adam’s nostrils “the breath of life” (Gn 2:7). John understands the gift of the Spirit as a new creation, in which God is again united with the world and humans. The Spirit empowers disciples to make present the absent Jesus and to continue his mission of metanoia and forgiveness.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season has allowed us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. The Lectionary has used stories, poems, songs, and visions to show the Easter event though lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, and theology. At Pentecost we celebrate God’s giving of the Spirit, the completion of Jesus’ work, and the beginning of the ekklesia. The Spirit empowers us to continue Jesus’ mission. Are we bringing God’s peace? Are we proclaiming the good news by our lives? Are we forgiving?

—Terence Sherlock

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Year C

2 June 2019: Seventh Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 7:55-60
RCL: Acts 16:16-34
  Ps 97:1-2, 6-7, 9   Rev 22:12-14, 16-17, 20
RCL: Rev 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
  Jn 17:20-26

 

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

That all may be one

White_gold_banner_sm As the Easter season closes, the readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week’s readings explore Easter themes of transition, anticipation, and oneness.

The first reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles tells the story of Stephen’s stoning. This passage describes the death of Stephen, the believing community’s first martyr. Stephen, a Greek-speaking Jew from outside Palestine, opened the ekklesia‘s mission to the Greek-speaking world. In Stephen’s story, Luke warns the ekklesia to stay alert to the Spirit’s promptings and to adapt to the needs of a new age. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because it continues the Ascension’s images and themes.

The second reading from Revelation is the conclusion of John the Seer’s vision. The believing community understands that the Easter experience has more to come: Jesus’ kingship (“standing at God’s right”), inaugurated but hidden, must finally triumph universally (“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!'”). In the Eucharist, the ascended Jesus comes in anticipation of his final coming at the parousia. The ancient liturgy’s refrain “Come, Lord Jesus!” reminds us that the Eucharist itself points toward Jesus’ return. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to close the Easter season and to look forward to Advent, the season that anticipates Jesus’ coming.

John’s gospel is from Jesus’ farewell discourse at the Last Supper. Scripture scholars call this part of the farewell discourse Jesus’ “priestly prayer;” he prays to the Father on behalf of his disciples, present and future. Jesus’ final prayer has two parts:

  • A prayer for oneness that makes God known (v 20-23). Three times in three verses Jesus prays “that they may be one.” He asks the Father that his disciples’ oneness, revealed through the disciples’ words and actions, will make God known to the world. Jesus prays for disciples present with him at the table, and for other believers not present. Through the generations, disciples rightly hear themselves remembered in Jesus’ words “for those who believe in me through their word.” We are part of the continuing presence of those believers who were present at the table, continuing to make God known through our oneness.
  • A wish that all disciples see Jesus’ glory (v 24-26). Jesus desires that his disciples see his glory, revealed through the unity (love) of the Father and Son, which will also make the Father known to the world. The Father’s gift of glory to Jesus, which Jesus gives to his disciples, reaches beyond the ekklesia‘s boundaries into the world to make God known. Jesus loves and glorifies his disciples to lead them into his mission of making God known.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season  allows us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. This week’s readings ask us to think about the unity of all disciples. The ekklesia is more than just a group of like-minded people; the ekklesia is a family headed by God. Keeping a family together requires work: honest conversation, attentive listening, compromise, patience, love. When in conflict, a family may look to a parent or an earlier generation for direction, but continuing family oneness comes only through the current members’ unconditional love for one another. Do our words and action in our community make the Father known? Does Jesus’ gift of glory invite the world to see the Father in our believing community? Do we act on the Spirit’s call to oneness even when it makes us uncomfortable?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year C

26 May 2019: Sixth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
RCL: Acts 16:9-15
  Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8   Rev 21:10-14, 22-23
RCL: Rev 21:10, 22-22:5
  Jn 14:23-29
RCL: Jn 5:1-9 (alt)

The Spirit in promise and action

White_gold_banner_sm The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week’s readings explore the gift and action of the Paraclete (the Spirit) in the believing community.

The first reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles tells about a pivotal meeting in Jerusalem in 49AD. At this difficult and contentious gathering, apostles, elders, and the believing community decided together that the predominantly Jewish followers of Jesus would allow gentiles into the new ekklesia without requiring gentiles to follow all Jewish laws, including circumcision. The letter to the Jewish and gentile communities acknowledges the Holy Spirit’s role in the decision. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to connect the Spirit’s promised work in the gospel with the Spirit’s active role in Acts.

The second reading from Revelation describes God’s creating a new Jerusalem, a symbol of the ekklesia or believing community. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to show the end of history, when God will dwell directly within the believing community. In contrast, God is present in our time in a particular place, in a particular sacrament, and under a particular physical form (bread and wine). Supported by the Spirit, our words and actions make God’s presence visible in the secular city.

John’s gospel is from Jesus’ farewell discourse at the Last Supper. Jesus’ central concern is the disciples’ life after his resurrection and ascension. Jesus promises those who love him and keep his word two gifts: the Paraclete (John’s name for the Spirit) and a peace the world cannot give.

  • The gift of the Paraclete. The Greek word παράκλητος (pah-rah-KLAY-tohs) literally means “one who is called to another’s side,” and so it is usually translated as “advocate” or “intercessor” or “helper.” In Greek and Roman courts, a paraclete assisted the accused, giving counsel, pleading a person’s cause, or interceding with the judge. In John’s gospel, the Paraclete replaces Jesus’ physical presence in the world after Jesus returns to the Father. Jesus tells the disciples the Paraclete will “teach them all things and recall for them everything” Jesus has said. The Paraclete completes Jesus’ revelation by inspiring the ekklesia to understand and to interpret Jesus’ teaching.
  • The gift of peace. Jesus’ peace is not like the world’s fleeting peace, but is the biblical promise of shalom, a Hebrew word that means “peace” and “well-being” and “everything-is-right.” Jesus’ peace flows from his oneness with the Father. His gift of peace is intimately connected to his gift of the Paraclete, who will be Jesus’ ongoing presence. This peace, inspired and enlightened by the Spirit of Truth, allows the believing community to perform “greater works” than Jesus himself, by continuing to reveal the Father and the Son.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season lasts six weeks, allowing us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. This week’s readings ask us to think about the active presence of the Paraclete. Even in the ekklesia‘s most difficult times, the Spirit inspires believing community members to unity and fellowship. Can we see in the needs of others a new way to understand our traditions? Can we allow the Spirit to help us discern the truth of others in disagreements, dissent, and debates? Can we accept Spirit-driven change and remain in peaceful fellowship with all?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year C

19 May 2019: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 14:21-27
RCL: Acts 11:1-18
  Ps 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13   Rev 21:1-5a
RCL: Rev 21:1-6
  Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35
RCL: Jn 13:31-35

Our place in history: honor, glory, love

White_gold_banner_sm The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week’s readings explore how we, as disciples, act in honor and with love in the present time.

The first reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles recounts the first mission of Barnabas, John Mark, and Paul to cities in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Returning to Antioch, Paul and Barnabas report to the believing community who commissioned them that their mission to the gentiles was a success. God, always the main character in Luke’s writings, acts through prophetic representatives, such as Barnabas and Paul. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to show how the post-resurrection believing community continued to grow.

The second reading from Revelation describes God’s creating a new heaven and a new earth to replace the world destroyed during the great battle between Christ and the satanic beasts (Rev 19: 11–22: 5). God also creates a new Jerusalem, a symbol of the ekklesia or believing community. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to emphasize Christ’s ultimate victory and the end of history. Jesus’ resurrection began God’s “new things” and our life in the ekklesia anticipates the future new Jerusalem. In our time, God dwells with us in veiled form, in Word and sacraments.

John’s gospel is from Jesus’ farewell discourse at the Last Supper. Jesus’ central concern is the disciples’ life after his resurrection and ascension. Jesus invites his disciples to honor (“glory”) and to love one another:

  • Jesus’ glorification. In Middle East cultures, honor (or “glory”) is a person’s public claim to worth and a public acknowledgement of a person’s claim. Jesus’ claim to worth is his honorable and glorifying life of service and obedience to God’s saving plan, including his transformative death. God publicly acknowledges Jesus’ claim by raising Jesus from the dead. God honors and glorifies Jesus by enthroning Jesus with God and will further honor and glorify Jesus at his parousia (Jesus’ second coming or “return in glory”). Honor reveals who Jesus and God are. In western cultures, and especially the United States, personal power is more important than honor; dishonored and dishonorable people can restore honor through money or litigation.
  • Love one another as I have loved you. Jesus gives his disciples both an example (a sign) of love and a command to love. Jesus’ example is washing his disciples’ feet (Jn 13:5-15), which they must do as Jesus did for them. In his new commandment, Jesus makes the example explicit: that they love one another as Jesus loved them. Jesus’ unique, unconditional love also identifies Jesus’ followers. In Jesus’ absence the disciples are to repeat Jesus’ unconditional love, making Jesus present by their actions. In western cultures, and especially the United States, love is conditional: we decide who is worthy of love, such as the “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor.”

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season lasts six weeks, allowing us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. This week’s readings ask us to think about our place and role in God’s unfolding of history. The first reading tells the beginning of the ekklesia‘s history; the second reading tells the end of history. The gospel gives us Jesus’ teaching for how we live in the in-between times. In a culture that doesn’t value honor, how do we live honorably? How do we glorify God? In a culture that rations love, how do we love as Jesus loves?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year C

12 May 2019: Fourth Sunday of Easter [Good Shepherd Sunday]

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 13:14, 43-52
RCL: Acts 9:36-43
  Ps 100:1-2, 3, 5   Rev 7:9, 14b-17
RCL: Rev 7:9-17
  Jn 10:27-30
RCL: Jn 10:22-30

Shepherding the sheep

White_gold_banner_sm The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week’s readings talk about shepherds, sheep, and our discipleship.

The first reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles recounts the first mission of Barnabas, John Mark, and Paul to Antioch of Pisidia in Asia Minor. Mission stories in Acts follow a repeating pattern: the apostles preach in a synagogue; some number of Jews and God-fearers believe while others reject the message and create opposition; the apostles then announce they will preach to the gentiles. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because Paul’s proclamation fulfills Jesus’ promise that his followers will “hear and know his voice.”

The second reading from Revelation describes the victory of the believing community (“the great multitude … wearing white robes”) over their persecutors. The “time of great distress” or “tribulation” refers to Christian persecution under the emperor Domitian (89-96 AD). The great multitude now worship “the one sitting on the throne” (God) and “the Lamb” (Jesus) perpetually. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to continue the gospel’s shepherding theme: “the Lamb will shepherd them.”

John’s gospel is not from Jesus’ Good Shepherd discourse (Jn 10:1-16), but is a summary Jesus provides later, during the feast of Dedication (Hanukkah). Jesus, speaking to a first-century audience, says some things about sheep and shepherds that twenty-first century hearers might miss:

  • Sheep are honorable. Every culture identifies certain animals as symbols that represent or express its worldview. In the ancient and modern Middle east, people seek and value honor. Middle eastern men protect and maintain their honor, even to the point of death. An honorable man suffers death in silence, without complaint. In the ancient world, people saw that sheep behaved this way: when being shorn or prepared for slaughter, sheep remain silent and do not cry out. Middle eastern people naturally equate manly, honorable behavior with sheep; sheep symbolize honor. (For a scriptural example, see Isaiah’s suffering servant songs). Jesus, calling his disciples “sheep,” recognizes their honorable status.
  • Shepherds are honorable protectors and leaders. In Hebrew scripture, shepherds are noble, honorable figures. Ezekiel referred to kings as shepherds of God’s people (Ez 34), and the psalms describe God as a shepherd (Ps 23). When Jesus calls himself a “good shepherd” or “noble shepherd,” he is aligning himself with kings and with God. Just as an honorable Middle-eastern man looks after his friends and family, and just as an honorable shepherd looks after his sheep, Jesus and the Father look after disciples who hear their voice and follow them.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season lasts six weeks, allowing us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. The readings for Good Shepherd Sunday ask us to reflect on God’s honor and care for disciples. Despite seemingly insurmountable problems or distress, God promises to shepherd disciples and wipe away every tear. Jesus promises that disciples who hear and follow him cannot be snatched out of the Father’s hand. Where and when do we encounter God’s care for us? How can we act as “honorable” disciples?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year C

5 May 2019: Third Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
RCL: Acts 9:1-6 (7-20)
  Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13   Rev 5:11-14   Jn 21:1-19

Do you love me?

White_gold_banner_sm The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week’s readings focus on the believing community’s need for constant turning and returning to God.

The first reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles recounts the disciples’ second appearance before the Sanhedrin. Luke presents another fragment of early Christian kerygmatic teaching (Acts 5:30-32): God raised Jesus from the dead, exalting him as savior; he calls all to metanoia (change of mind/heart) and forgives sins. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to show the continuity between Jesus’ teachings and the disciples’ proclamations. Peter’s metanoia is described in today’s gospel.

The second reading from Revelation describes every creature in the universe praising God and Jesus in the heavenly liturgy. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because Jesus, “the lamb who was slain,” is exalted by God, “the one sitting on the throne.” Scripture scholars believe John the seer’s vision is based on a first-century Christian Easter liturgy fragment.

John’s gospel relates another post-resurrection appearance by Jesus. The gospel, from John’s epilogue, tells two stories: the first, about the disciples and a miraculous catch of fish; and the second, about Peter’s renewed discipleship:

  • The disciples’ story. Back in Galilee, the disciples return to fishing. They fish all night and catch nothing. At daybreak, someone on the shore tells them where to drop their nets. Following his suggestion, they catch an immense number of fish. When they return to shore, Jesus feeds them. They recognize Jesus through his sign (catch of fish) and his liturgical gesture (Eucharistic feeding). This story reminds the disciples (and us) that Jesus is present among us when we see and experience sacramental signs.
  • Peter’s metanoia. Jesus prepares breakfast on a “charcoal fire,” recalling the charcoal fire in the high priest’s courtyard (Jn 18:18) at which Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus now invites Peter to restore this broken relationship by asking three times “Do you love me?” When Peter answers, “Yes,” Jesus charges him with sharing in his work of shepherding. For Peter to feed and to shepherd Jesus’ sheep, he must follow Jesus completely, to the point of laying down his life.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season lasts six weeks, allowing us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. All discipleship begins with metanoia (a turning away from self and a turning toward God). Peter’s example shows that discipleship requires constant metanoia. Peter rejects Jesus and damages his own discipleship, but Jesus invites Peter to turn back, to repair his broken relationship, and to return to discipleship. Jesus asks: Do you love me? Jesus gives Peter the honor and responsibility of discipleship: service to others. How do we respond to Jesus’ question? How do we accept his infinite love and mercy? How do we live out our discipleship of service?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year C

28 April 2019: Second Sunday of Easter [Divine Mercy Sunday]

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 5:12-16
RCL: Acts 5:27-32
  Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-2   Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
RCL: Rev 1:4-8
  Jn 20:19-31

Seeing is not always believing

White_gold_banner_sm The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week’s readings focus on coming to faith in the resurrection.

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles places the apostles in public, in the Temple and in the streets. Luke’s opening words drive home his point: “great signs and wonders were being performed through the apostles.” Jesus’ prophetic spirit is working through his disciples, even more powerfully than during Jesus’ own ministry, because Jesus is now exalted to God’s right hand. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because it describes life in the believing community shortly after the resurrection.

The second reading from Revelation describes the beginning of John the Seer’s vision. The “distress” (sometimes translated “tribulation”) John experiences is the Christian persecution under the emperor Domitian (89-96 AD). Roman provincials used Patmos as a place of banishment. The “son of man” (Jesus) appears to John, dressed in a “long robe” (a sign of priesthood) and “gold sash” (a sign of kingship). “Do not be afraid,” Jesus says, “I am the one who lives.” This identifies the ‘son of man” as the resurrected Jesus, who has power “over death and the netherworld.” John writes to encourage Christians by emphasizing Jesus’ victory over death. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because it emphasizes Jesus’ resurrection as victory over death.

John’s gospel tells two post-resurrection appearance stories. His late first-century believing communities were rapidly losing eyewitnesses to Jesus and his earthly ministry; they were trying to understand and to reinterpret “belief in Jesus” without having physically encountered him. John speaks to struggling disciples:

  • Seeing and believing. In the first story, Jesus appears to the disciples and reveals his wounds. These disciples, eyewitnesses to Jesus’ earthly ministry, don’t know the risen Jesus. They come to faith and rejoice because they recognize continuity between Jesus’ pre-resurrection and post-resurrection words (“Peace to you”) and actions (fulfilling the gift of the Paraclete/Spirit). This story speaks to those in John’s communities who believe because of the testimony of living eyewitnesses.
  • Seeing but not believing. In the second story, the disciples tell Thomas that he should believe because they “have seen the Lord.” Thomas, an eyewitness to Jesus’ earthly ministry, requires more than just the word of others about the resurrection. He wants the risen Jesus to meet his criteria. Jesus invites Thomas to probe his wounds. Thomas comes to faith because he personally encounters a Jesus who knows him. Thomas knows Jesus as Lord (messiah) and God because he recognizes Jesus through his words (“Peace to you”) and actions (inviting Thomas to touch him). This story speaks to those in John’s communities who believe because they experience a deep, personal encounter with the risen Jesus.
  • Not seeing but believing. In the second story, Jesus blesses future disciples who never knew Jesus in his earthly ministry or in his resurrection appearances. This story speaks to the many in John’s communities (and to us) who come to faith because they (and we) encounter the risen Jesus in the believing community though his remembered and written words (scripture), in his remembered actions (sacraments), and in the community’s living witness.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season lasts six weeks, allowing us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. For Thomas, seeing is not believing. Only a personal encounter with a Jesus who knows Thomas allows Thomas to see and know the resurrected Jesus. We encounter the resurrected Jesus present in his words (scripture) and actions (sacraments) as well as through the witness of other disciples (historical and living). What are our criteria for belief? Where and how does Jesus personally encounter us and call us to belief?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year C

20 May 2018: Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Vigil Gn 11:1-9 or
Ex 19:3-8a, 16-20b or
Ez 37:1-14 or
Jl 3:1-5
  Ps 104:1-2, 24 and 35, 27-28, 29-30   Rom 8:22-27   Jn 7:37-39
Extended Vigil [1] Gn 11:1-9
[2] Ex 19:3-8a, 16-20b
[3] Ez 37:1-14
[4] Jl 3:1-5
[1] Ps 33:10-11, 12-13, 14-15
[2] Dan 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56 or Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11
[3] Ps 107:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
[4] Ps 104:1-2, 24 and 35, 27-28, 29-30
  Rom 8:22-27   Jn 7:37-39
Sunday Acts 2:1-11 Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34  1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13   Jn 20:19-23

Lectionary note: Reading options based on celebration
The Lectionary presents two sets of readings for Pentecost: the Vigil/Extended Vigil of Pentecost or Pentecost Sunday. This commentary uses the readings for the Vigil of Pentecost.

Pentecost: the Spirit in prophecy, in liturgical action, and abiding with us

Red_banner_smPentecost marks the end of the Easter season and the readings that examine the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection. The final Easter season readings present different views on how the Spirit’s coming and the new ekklesia fulfill the Hebrew prophets’ vision of a new Israel.

The Lectionary offers a choice of first readings from Hebrew scripture, all of which foreshadow the Pentecost event:

  1. The Tower of Babel (Gn 11:1-9). The Babel story warns us about taking too much credit for our own accomplishments while ignoring God’s role in our achievements. When placed next to Luke’s Pentecost description (Acts 2: 6-11), we see the Spirit reverses Babel’s language confusion so all can hear the Eleven’s message of God’s salvation.
  2. The Mosaic covenant (Ex 19:3-8a, 16-20b). The Jewish feast of Pentecost, or Shavuot, is both a harvest festival and the anniversary of God giving the Torah to Israelites at Sinai. Both Paul and Luke highlight Pentecost’s agricultural and covenantal aspects. Paul describes the gift of the Spirit as the firstfruits of our inheritance (Rom 8:23). Luke’s Pentecost description (Acts 2:1-11) suggests the inauguration of the new covenant, as promised by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:33).
  3. God’s Spirit enlivens dry bones (Ez 37:1-14). The prophet Ezekiel foretells that God will raise a new Israel out of the dry bones of the exiles. Christians understand that the ekklesia, the believing community the Spirit institutes at Pentecost, fulfills God’s promise to raise up a new Israel.
  4. God pours out the Spirit on all (Jl 3:1-5). The prophet Joel promises that on the day of the Lord, God will pour out the Spirit on Jews and gentiles. Christians understand that the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost fulfills Joel’s prophecy.

In the second reading from the letter to the Romans, Paul connects the Spirit’s coming in baptism with the Spirit’s firstfruits in each of us as we await Jesus’ return. The Spirit teaches us how to pray and intercedes for us; all actions visible in the Eleven at the Pentecost event (Acts 2:1-11).

In John’s gospel, Jesus reveals that those who believe in him will find rivers of living water flowing from them. To understand the context of Jesus’ pronouncement, we need to know about the Feast of Booths and its liturgical and eschatological meanings:

  • Water and the Feast of Booths (Sukkot). During this seven-day harvest feast, a Jewish priest would go daily to the Pool of Siloam and fill a gold vessel with water. He and the Levites processed this water to the Temple, where the priest poured the water, along with wine, over the altar as an offering to God. For the Jewish people, water flowing from the Temple was a messianic sign (Ez 47:3-6, Zech 14:8).
  • Jesus and living water. Jesus has spoken of living water earlier (Jn 4:10-15), but here John associates this living water with Jesus’ gift of the Spirit. This living water is eternal life, present in believers because the Father and a disciple abide (remain-in-relationship) with each other. Just as the Jewish priest pouring water over the altar is a liturgical sign of purification and the coming messianic age, pouring water over a person at Christian baptism is a liturgical sign of purification and the coming of the Spirit.
  • Jesus’ glorification and the Spirit. John tells his hearers that the coming of the Spirit must wait for Jesus’ glorification (his transformative death and resurrection). Jesus’ death and resurrection saves all humans and initiates the messianic age. Through liturgical sacramental actions, God abides (remains-in-relationship) with those who believe.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season has given us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. The Lectionary readings have presented stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us understand Easter from many viewpoints: lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. This week we celebrate the ekklesia‘s birth through the Spirit’s coming. The liturgical symbol of water incorporates us into the believing community and its mission to tell everyone the good news. How do we use our living water? How do our lives proclaim the Spirit’s presence? How do we experience the sacraments to abide in God?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B

13 May 2018: Ascension of the Lord /Seventh Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 1:1-11   Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9   Eph 1:17-23 or
Eph 4:1-13
  Mk 16: 15-20

 

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

Ascension: look on earth, not in the sky

White_gold_banner_smThe Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection and ascension. The Ascension invites us to consider how Jesus remains present within the ekklesia.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke summarizes his first book (his gospel) and introduces his second book (Acts). If Luke’s gospel is the story of Jesus’ life and teaching, Luke’s Acts is the story of the Spirit’s teachings and actions in the believing community. In Luke’s tradition, Jesus must ascend in order for the Spirit to be poured out and the ekklesia to be born.

In the second reading from the letter to the Ephesians, the author explains Jesus’ ascension as Jesus’ enthronement at God’s right hand. God makes Jesus Lord, the head of the believing community. The ekklesia is Jesus’ continuing visible presence in the world.

The gospel presents the Ascension account from Mark’s Longer Ending. Most scripture scholars agree that Mark’s gospel ends at Mk 16:8. In the early second century, an unknown copyist added the Longer Ending (Mk 16:9-20), which incorporates traditions from Luke and John. The Ascension traditions are as follows:

  • Matthew and John. In this tradition, the disciples do not witness Jesus’ ascension. In Matthew, Jesus and the eleven meet on a mountain in Galilee, where he gives final instructions to all the disciples, and promises to remain with them always (Mt 28:18-20). In John, Jesus meets seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, where they share a final meal, and Jesus gives special instructions to Peter (Jn 21:15-19).
  • Luke/Acts. In this tradition, the disciples witness Jesus’ ascension. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus appears to the eleven and other disciples, where he shares a meal, gives them final instructions, and leads them to Bethany where they witness Jesus’ ascension (Lk 24:51). In Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, Jesus appears to the apostles for forty days after his resurrection. After they eat together, Jesus gives them final instructions, and, as they watch, he is lifted up and disappears in a cloud (Acts 1:9).
  • Mark. The Longer Ending follows Lucian tradition, where the disciples witness Jesus’ ascension. Jesus shares a meal with the eleven, gives them final instructions, and he is taken up into heaven and seated at God’s right hand (Mk 16:19).

 

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season lasts six weeks to give us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. The Ascension readings invite us to understand the believing community’s central role in continuing Jesus’ mission. The gospel traditions emphasize that the resurrected Jesus reveals himself at meals. He tells his disciples to continue his words and actions, and that he continues to abide with them. The resurrected Jesus continually reveals himself to his ekklesia in the Eucharist and sacraments, in his gospel words, and the service offered by his believing community. Where do we see and hear the risen Jesus? How do we make him present in service to our world?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B

6 May 2018: Sixth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48   Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4   1 Jn 4:7-10   Jn 15:9-17

God acts to change everything

White_gold_banner_sm The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week’s readings focus on how God acts to change everything we think we know.

In the first reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, Peter converts the God-fearing centurion Cornelius. God, not Peter, drives the entire Cornelius story: God sends an angel to tell Cornelius about Peter; God sends Peter a vision about clean and unclean animals; God pours out the Spirit on Cornelius and the gentiles without them being baptized. Luke’s point is that the Spirit drives the sometimes too-timid believing community and its leaders to act. By pouring out the Spirit on the unbaptized gentiles, God signals that God has accepted the gentiles. Playing catch-up to the Spirit, Peter baptizes Cornelius and his household to show that he also accepts the gentiles.

In the second reading, John the Elder continues his case about why we, as true disciples, should love one another. John restates the primacy of love: God’s love for us and our love for one another. Those who love are begotten by God and therefore know God. Those who claim to know God (the gnostics) but who don’t love, don’t really know God at all, because God is love. God revealed God’s love by sending the Son to give life to all. Love, then, is not what we do, but what God has done for us.

In John the Evangelist’s gospel, Jesus continues his description of discipleship:

  • Abiding in love (v9-11). Just as Jesus’ relationship with the Father is continuous and unending, so also is Jesus’ relationship (abiding) with each disciple. Jesus remains-in-relationship with the Father by doing what the Father asks him. In the same way, a disciple remains-in-relationship with Jesus by keeping Jesus’ command.
  • Jesus’ command: Love as I have loved you (v12-14). Jesus’ own life becomes a template for discipleship, Just as Jesus loves each disciple, so each disciple must love others. How far do we need to love one another? As far as Jesus loved: to lay down one’s life in service to the other. This command changes the relationship between Jesus and a disciple, and between a disciple and other humans.
  • The new relationship: friends vs slaves (v15-16). In this new relationship, a disciple is no longer a slave (a command-follower), but a friend–a loving participant in Jesus’ mission from the Father. Jesus loves each disciple, and he explicitly chooses each disciple, and he invites each disciple to complete the Father’s mission by bearing fruit. In this new relationship, a disciple’s love is continuous and life-long (abiding). This new relationship allows a disciple to ask the Father for whatever he needs, and the Father will give it.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season lasts six weeks to give us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. This week’s readings invite us to continue to examine our discipleship. The first reading tells us that the Spirit will push timid disciples and leaders to accomplish God’s plan. John the Elder reminds disciples that it’s not what we do that’s important, but what God has already done for us. Jesus has redefined the love relationship between a disciple and God and a disciple and others. Easter changes everything. How have we changed? Can we feel the Spirit’s push? Can we see what God has done for us? Can we lay down our own lives to serve others?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B