Tag Archives: Eastertime

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

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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

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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

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29 April 2018: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 9:26-31   Ps 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32   1 Jn 3:18-24   Jn 15:1-8

Disciples, connected or kindling

White_gold_banner_sm The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings focus on a disciple’s role in continuing Jesus’ mission.

The first reading is from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. For the last few weeks, we’ve been hearing about Peter and his role in the believing community. In today’s reading, we begin to hear about the ekklesia‘s other hero, Paul. Luke introduces Paul at Stephen’s stoning (Acts 7:58). Paul persecutes the believing community in Jerusalem, and plans to expand his persecution into Damascus. While traveling to Damascus, Paul encounters the risen Jesus and becomes a disciple. Preaching about Jesus in Damascus, he is nearly killed by angry synagogue members. Paul escapes to Jerusalem, where he meets with Jesus’ disciples for the first time. Paul himself describes this journey to discipleship in Gal 1:13-24.

The second reading continues from John the Elder’s letter. John the Elder sums up how to live a Christian life: If we believe in Jesus’ name (have faith) and we love one another (show works), we remain-in-relationship (abide) with God, and God remains-in-relationship (abides) with us. Today’s gospel gives us Jesus’ own teaching about abiding with him.

In John’s gospel, Jesus reveals himself as the true vine. Jesus repeats twice that he is the vine. Each time, he describes different and unique aspects of his relationship to disciples:

  • The metaphor of the vine and branches (vv 1-5a). Jesus reveals that he is the Father’s true or authentic vine. Hebrew scripture identifies God as the vineyard owner and the people as God’s plantings (Is 27: 2-6, Jer 2:21; Ps 80; Ex 19:10-14). Jesus extends the metaphor, telling us that he (vine) and his disciples (branches) replace the people of Israel as God’s authentic vine. God carefully tends the branches, cutting away what’s dead and pruning what remains to increase its yield (fruit). Jesus tells his disciples that, because they have listened to his word (which reveals the Father), they have been pruned and are bearing fruit.
  • What happens to branches and to disciples (vv 5b-8). Jesus extends the metaphor again to include the relationship between the vine and its branches. The Greek verb μένω (MEHN-oh) emphasizes a relationship: “remaining in relationship” or “continuing in association.” Only by remaining continuously connected to the vine can a branch live and produce fruit. A disciple who breaks his or her relationship with Jesus and leaves the community stops producing spiritual fruit and becomes spiritually dead. A disciple who remains-in-relationship with Jesus (has faith) bears fruit (works). The disciple’s works (words and actions) show that he or she remains-in-relationship (abides) with Jesus.

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 examine our discipleship. A true disciple remains continuously connected to Jesus, the true vine. A true disciple bears fruit. In this continuing relationship, Jesus and the disciple continue Jesus’ saving mission: to reveal the Father’s love through continuing acts of love. How is our relationship with Jesus? Are we alive, fruitful, and loving? Or are we deadwood and kindling for the fireplace?

—Terence Sherlock

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22 April 2018: Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 4:8-12   Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29   1 Jn 3:1-2   Jn 10:11-18

Shepherds, true and false

White_gold_banner_sm The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings focus on authority and relationships.

The first reading is from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. Continuing from last week’s reading, Peter heals a crippled beggar. The Temple authorities arrest Peter and John for the healing and for teaching about Jesus, and demand to know by whose authority they act. Peter answers that they act in Jesus’ name–the only name that grants salvation. Peter implicitly questions the Sanhedrin’s own authority: the Sanhedrin rejected Jesus, yet God raised Jesus from the dead. How is the Sanhedrin’s authority greater than God’s? Jesus addresses the question of leadership in today’s gospel.

The second reading continues from John the Elder’s letter. For John, the Father’s gift of the Son is the greatest sign of God’s love. Baptism makes believers true children of God. This relationship is both a present reality (we are adopted children of God; therefore, we are all siblings) and also part of the life to come (only at Jesus’ return will we gain true knowledge of God). Jesus addresses these relationships in today’s gospel.

In John’s gospel, Jesus reveals himself as the Good Shepherd. Jesus continues the teachings he started in Jn 9, criticizing the Jewish leaders who do not act on their God-given responsibilities to care for God’s people. Jesus repeats twice that he is the good shepherd. Each time, he describes different and unique aspects of his shepherding:

  • The good shepherd contrasted with the hireling (Jn 10:11-13). Jesus contrasts the Good Shepherd’s actions with the hired hand’s behavior. The Greek verb μέλω (MEHL-oh) means “to care (for)” or “to be concerned about,” and denotes a relationship between two people. The good shepherd’s concern for the sheep means that he will give his life for them; the hired worker worries only about himself and preserving his own life.
  • The good shepherd’s relationship with the sheep and the Father (Jn 10: 14-18). Jesus now shifts from others’ relationship with the sheep to his own relationship with the sheep, a relationship rooted in knowing each sheep. The Greek verb γινώσκω (gih-NOH-skoh) means “to know,” “to recognize,” and “to comprehend,” suggesting an intimate, personal relationship. The relationship between the shepherd and sheep is a further expression of the preexisting relationship between the Father and the Son. The knowledge and oneness that the Father and Son share leads logically to the shepherd laying down his life for the sheep.

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 consider relationships and authority. Some believe that authority alone makes them leaders. Jesus tells us that relationship must precede leadership. Authority without relationship allows leaders to save themselves without concern for the people they lead. The true or good shepherd has a relationship first, based on knowing what each person needs, connected to the Father’s love. Are we happy with unconcerned leaders? Or do we want the care and concern only the authentic shepherd offers? Can we hear the true shepherd’s voice calling us by name?

—Terence Sherlock

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15 April 2018: Third Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 3:13-15, 17-19   Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9   1 Jn 2:1-5a   Lk 24:35-48

Being present to Jesus’ presence

White_gold_banner_sm The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings focus on Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s plan and his continuing presence with his disciples.

The first reading is from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. In the Temple, Peter and John encounter a crippled beggar, whom Peter heals. A crowd gathers. Peter preaches to the crowd, describing and interpreting Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection: Jesus was the fulfillment of Hebrew scriptures; he suffered, died, and was raised (“glorified”); his death resulted in forgiveness of sin; believing in Jesus’ name leads to forgiveness of personal sin.

The second reading is from John the Elder’s first letter. Reacting to false teachings in the Johannine community, the author reiterates apostolic teachings about Jesus: Jesus is the “righteous one” who acts as our “intercessor” with the Father and who has “expiated” the sins of the whole world. God’s love is perfected in those who truly know God by keeping God’s commands.

Luke’s gospel describes the disciples’ encounter with the risen Jesus. The disciples recognize Jesus, but know that he is different. Jesus explains how he is now present to them, and how he will continue to remain present with them:

  • Jesus is now physically present to his disciples. As he does in John’s gospel (Jn 20:27), Jesus invites his disciples to touch him to prove his physical reality (“he is not a spirit”). Jesus confirms he is a physical being with flesh and bones. The Hebrew idiom “flesh and bones” (see Gn 2:23) suggest not only humanity, but shared humanity (as with kin relations). Jesus shows his disciples he is physically the same person they knew. Yet, still the disciples do not believe Jesus is with them. Luke suggests that facts alone or experience alone cannot bring people to faith; people also require the interpretive word.
  • After his ascension, Jesus will be present to his disciples in a new way. Jesus explains to his disciples all his prophecies about his passion, death, and resurrection, and how his words are now fulfilled. Jesus also shows how God’s plan, foretold in Hebrew scripture from the beginning (Law), by the prophets and though the writings (psalms), has been brought to fulfillment in him. Through Jesus’ interpretive words, Luke explains how Jesus remains present to his disciples in a new way. When disciples speak Jesus’ words or hear Jesus’ words spoken, Jesus is present with them. When disciples act as Jesus acted or remember what Jesus did, Jesus is present with them. Recalling and repeating Jesus’ words and actions within the framework of his fulfilled prophecies become the basis for Jesus’ sacramental presence with us.

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. Jesus remains present to the believing community both physically and in a new reality. Jesus is physically present to us in his words and in the signs of shared experiences, such as meals (eucharist), incorporation (baptism), healing (reconciliation, anointing the sick), and so on. Jesus is also present in a new way in the words and actions of the Spirit-led community itself, when the community recalls Jesus words together and remembers and reenacts his service to one another. Jesus is present to us; are we present to him in his words and in his believing community?

—Terence Sherlock

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8 April 2018: Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Acts 4:32-35   Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24   1 Jn 5:1-6   Jn 20:19-31

I believe because…

White_gold_banner_sm The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings focus on the resurrection’s meaning to individuals, to the disciples, and to the believing community.

The first reading is from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. Throughout the Easter season, a reading from Acts replaces the usual Hebrew scripture reading. Today’s selection gives an idealized picture of the Jerusalem community, describing the apostles’ power in witnessing to the resurrection and how the community shared and distributed its material resources. Luke places the apostles at the center of the ekklesia‘s life, both preaching the resurrection and caring for the believing community. That there are no needy among them is a sign of God’s favor bestowed to the ekklesia.

The second reading is from the first letter from John the Elder. The reading’s themes include baptism and baptismal rebirth. John circles around the idea of those begotten by God. Those who believe in Jesus, who believe he is God’s Son, and believe he reveals the Father are begotten by God. Their faith leads to baptism, which is a commitment to metanoia–changing one’s mind and heart. Believing in Jesus, then, leads to victory over the world. Jesus, who passed through water (baptism) and blood (death), makes our victory (eternal life, a share in his resurrection) possible.

John’s gospel presents two post-resurrection appearances: the first without Thomas, and the second that includes Thomas. John’s appearance stories describe different journeys to faith:

  • The disciples come to faith in Jesus. Although Mary, Peter, and the beloved disciple tell the other disciples about seeing the empty tomb, the disciples do not believe and remain fearful (“the doors were locked.”) Jesus appears to them, but they hesitate. They recognize him and rejoice only after they see his marks of crucifixion (“showed them his hands and side.”) When the disciples come to believe, Jesus commissions them (“I send you”) to spread his teaching. As he promised, he sends the Paraclete (“breathed on them”) to guide and to teach them.
  • Thomas comes to faith in Jesus. Although all the other disciples tell Thomas about seeing the resurrected Jesus (“we have seen the Lord!”), their testimony fails to bring Thomas to faith. Thomas places his own conditions on faith (“to see and touch.”) When Jesus appears eight days later, he grants Thomas’ conditions “to see and touch,” but Jesus also asks Thomas to go beyond his unbelieving to believing. Without touching Jesus, Thomas moves to believing (“my Lord and my God.”) John concludes this appearance story with Jesus’ blessing future disciples (us) who believe even without seeing.

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 Lectionary presents stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us understand Easter from many viewpoints–lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. Jesus reveals himself in the actions of the believing community, in the witness of his disciples, in the liturgy, in the sacraments, and in our own personal encounters with the one who has been raised. Is our believing complete or conditional? What will it take for us to believe without seeing?

—Terence Sherlock

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4 June 2017: 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 2:1-1 Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 Jn 20:19-23
Lectionary note
The Lectionary presents three sets of readings for Pentecost: the Vigil of Pentecost, the Extended Vigil of Pentecost, and Pentecost Sunday.
This commentary uses the readings for Pentecost Sunday.

Pentecost: bringing Easter to everyone

Red_banner_smPentecost marks the end of the Easter season and the readings that examine the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection. Today’s final Easter readings give three different views on how the Spirit remains-in-relationship with the believing community and empowers us to continue Jesus’ work.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear Luke’s version of the Spirit’s coming to the believing community on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover. Luke reinterprets the Jewish Pentecost feast as God renewing the covenant with a new people. Using wind and fire images, Luke connects God’s presence at Sinai with the Spirit’s presence at Pentecost. Through the Spirit’s action, everyone is able to hear the disciples’ message “in his own language.” The Spirit reverses Babel’s confusion of language (Gen 11), enabling the disciples to invite everyone into God’s kingdom.

In the second reading, Paul describes the Spirit’s actions in the believing community as spiritual gifts, functions, or workings. Some Corinthians thought that a spiritual gift indicated the recipient’s importance. Paul tells them that a gift benefits the whole believing community. All share the same body and Spirit through baptism; baptism removes all cultural and social distinctions. All share in one Body of Christ and the kingdom.

The gospel gives John’s account of the Spirit’s coming, which he places on the evening of Jesus’ resurrection. John highlights Jesus’ three actions:

  • Blessing. Jesus’ blessing (“Peace be with you”) brings the disciples into communion with the Father and drives out the disciples’ fear.
  • Sending. Jesus commissions his disciples to continue his mission (“As the Father sent me, I send you”). Jesus incorporates the disciples into his own saving mission: to free humans from sin’s slavery (Jn 8:34-36).
  • Receiving the Spirit. Just as God breathes life into the first human (Gen 2:7), Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into his disciples, giving them his power over sin. The Spirit unites the disciples to the risen Jesus, and the Spirit’s remaining-in-relationship with the disciples gives them a share in the Father’s kingdom. Through the Spirit, Jesus gives the disciples authority to take away sin. Through the Spirit’s power, the believing community administers God’s mercy, continuing Jesus’ mission to the world.

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 see Easter from many viewpoints-lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. This week we celebrate the ekklesia‘s birth through the Spirit’s coming. Baptism incorporates us into the ekklesia, and we promise to complete Jesus’ mission. Confirmation’s coming of the Spirit strengthens us and gives us needed gifts to bring Jesus’ saving message of forgiveness to the world. The Spirit’s coming completed Jesus’ mission. How are we meeting our baptismal promise to continue Jesus’ work? How are we using the Spirit’s gifts to announce Jesus’ Easter message of God’s mercy?

—Terence Sherlock

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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 ekklesia‘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 ekklesia 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 ekklesia.

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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