Tag Archives: Eastertime

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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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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30 April 2017: Third Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Acts 2:14, 22-33 Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11 1 Pt 1:17-21 Lk 24:13-35

Resurrection: mystery of continuing presence

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 describe the resurrected Jesus present in words (scripture) and actions.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke recounts Peter’s first kerygmatic speech, given the day of Pentecost. Peter uses Psalm 16 to shows that David (the psalm’s author) foretold Jesus’ resurrection.

In the second reading from Peter’s first letter, the author describes God’s call to the believing community. God has redeemed the people through Christ’s own blood; therefore God calls them to holiness and to mutual love.

In today’s gospel, Luke relates the disciples’ surprise encounter with the resurrected Jesus, who reveals himself in words and actions. Luke uses the journey, the road, or “the way” as a metaphor for discipleship, and teaches disciples how to recognize the resurrected Jesus:

  • In words. Jesus reveals that all of Hebrew scripture explains what he has done as messiah, including his suffering and death. Jesus connects his saving action with the scripture’s suffering ones (Isaiah’s suffering servant, the prophets, the Jewish people).
  • In actions. Jesus reveals himself in the “breaking of bread,” a Jewish ritual performed at every shared meal. In the late first century, Christian communities shared meals together as a continuation of Jesus’ meals in his public life, and possibly in anticipation of the end-time messianic banquet.

By the time Luke wrote his gospel, the Christian liturgy already was taking shape, including readings (from Hebrew scripture and possibly Paul’s letters) and breaking bread together in a shared meal. In a disciple’s ordinary life (the journey), Jesus is always present but often unrecognized. Liturgy reveals Jesus in word and action, reminding disciples that we need to look for Jesus in order to see him.

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. Jesus is always present with us on our journey. When do we hear him speaking? Where do we suddenly see him?

—Terence Sherlock

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23 April 2017: Second Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Acts 2:42-47 Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 1 Pt 1:3-9 Jn 20:19-31

Resurrection: a source of new sight

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 frame resurrection as the source of Christian community and a new way of seeing.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke presents an ideal (and idealized) picture of a Christian community. For Luke, the ideal believing community would live in perfect communion or fellowship, would pray for each other, would break bread to recall the Lord’s death, and would listen to the apostle’s teachings about Jesus and discipleship. Luke’s description shows us how far we still have to go.

In the second reading from Peter’s first letter, the author tells his readers that baptism, sometimes called “the bath of regeneration,” is the source of their inheritance of salvation. Our salvation is Jesus’ gift from his passion, death, and resurrection.

In today’s gospel, John contrasts two ways of seeing. When the disciples first see Jesus, they “recognize” him as the same person as the pre-resurrection Jesus. They tell Thomas what they have seen–their “experience.” Thomas doesn’t accept their “experience;” Thomas needs to see and “recognize” Jesus himself. When Jesus appears again, he invites Thomas to see–“recognize”–him; Thomas sees–“experiences”–the resurrected Jesus in a new and personal way. Jesus tells Thomas and the disciples that they believe because they have seen and “experienced” Jesus, but future disciples will believe without seeing and “recognizing” Jesus as he was before his resurrection.

The resurrection requires that disciples learn a new way of seeing and of coming to faith. Before Jesus’ resurrection, disciples encountered and experienced Jesus in a human way, and their faith rested on Jesus’ physical presence. When the disciples encountered the resurrected Jesus, they didn’t recognize him–he didn’t look like the earthly Jesus of their memory. Instead the disciples recognized Jesus by his words and actions. The disciples’ faith, once based on seeing Jesus’ earthly presence, now changes to seeing Jesus’ presence in his continuing relationship with them, and his continuing words and actions. For Catholics, Jesus remains present with us in scripture (words), in sacraments (words, actions, presence), and within the believing community (actions and presence).

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.

—Terence Sherlock

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8 May 2016: 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 or
Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23
 Lk 24:46-53
7 Sun of Easter:  Acts 7:55-60  Ps 97:1-2, 6-7, 9  Rev 22:12-14, 16-17, 20  Jn 17:20-26

 

Lectionary note
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 Seventh Sunday of Easter readings.

Come, Lord Jesus: the church’s witness to the Father

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

The first reading from Acts recounts the death of Stephen, the believing community’s first martyr. Stephen’s vision of the ascended Jesus, standing at God’s right hand, continues the Ascension Day readings and images. Like Jesus, at his death Stephen asks forgiveness for his executioners and commends his spirit to the Lord. This passage also introduces Saul (Paul), who “stood by giving [his] approval and keeping guard over the cloaks of [Stephen’s] murderers.” Stephen’s death becomes a catalyst for Saul, whom Jesus will call to continue Stephen’s work to build the ekklesia among Greek-speaking Jews and gentiles.

The second reading concludes the book of Revelation. John says “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!'” The Spirit is the Holy Spirit; the bride is the ekklesia (Rev 21:2). John invites the thirsty to “drink living water freely.” This living water is God’s grace, which flows from Christ (Rev 7:17). Finally, John prays “Come, Lord Jesus!” This is the ekklesia‘s ancient thanksgiving prayer, found in the Didache (a Christian writing from mid- to late-first century AD).

Today’s gospel from John concludes Jesus’ testament or farewell discourse with his priestly prayer. In this passage, Jesus prays as intercessor, addressing the Father directly while his disciples listen in. Jesus petitions the Father about his present and future disciples. Jesus asks for these things for his believing community:

  • Unity: Jesus prays for future disciples (that’s us) who come to know Jesus and the Father through the words of his present disciples. Jesus prays for unity of all disciples (“that they may be one”), present and future, with Jesus and the Father as the model of unity.
  •  Glory: As the Father glorified Jesus, so Jesus now glorifies his disciples so that they might be perfect in unity and love. The disciples reveal and glorify the Father and Jesus through the believing community’s unity and love (“love one another as I have loved you”).
  •  Witness: The believing community’s unity and love stands as a prophetic witness to the Father and Jesus (“they know that you sent me”). The ekklesia‘s unity and love invites the unbelieving world to know the Father and Jesus.

Jesus’ resurrection and ascension has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season has given us seven weeks to reflect on this cosmos-changing event; the Lectionary’s readings has presented stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us understand Easter from many viewpoints–lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. We, present members of the believing community, together with the apostles, Stephen, and all the ekklesia who have gone before us, pray the ancient prayer through the Spirit’s indwelling: Come, Lord Jesus! Our community’s unity witnesses Jesus’ and the Father’s glory to the world of our time and into the ages. Are we showing the unbelieving world that we know the Father?

—Terence Sherlock

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1 May 2016: Sixth Sunday of Easter

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

 

Resurrection gifts to the church and disciples

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Terence Sherlock

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17 April 2016: Fourth Sunday of Easter [Good Shepherd Sunday]

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

 

Discipleship: invitations, tents, being shepherded

The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week’s Good Shepherd Sunday readings focus on discipleship with the resurrected Jesus.

The first reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles describes Paul’s first missionary success. The gentiles eagerly accepted Paul’s message, and “all who were destined for eternal life came to believe.” Luke’s divine passive (“came to believe”) reminds us that God, not Paul, makes disciples. Luke contrasts the synagogue leaders’ attitude (“filled with jealousy”) with the disciples’ attitude (“filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”)

The second reading from John of Patmos’ book of Revelation describes how God, “the one who sits on the throne,” cares for God’s people: John uses the word σκηνόω (skay-NO-oh), which means “to pitch a tent over.” John may be thinking of the Hebrew people’s Tent of Meeting where God was present with them, protecting the Israelites during their desert journey. In the Promised Land, this tent became the Jerusalem Temple. In Revelation, the heavenly Jerusalem has no Temple because God is always present among the people. God’s presence brings peace, perfectly described as “no hunger or thirst, no burning heat.” In the same way, the Lamb leads (literally “shepherds”) his people to springs of living water.

The gospel from John the Evangelist echoes Jesus’ Good Shepherd discourse (Jn 10: 1-18). Just before today’s reading (Jn 10:22-26), Jesus and the temple authorities clash about faith and unbelief. Jesus sums up the faith of discipleship:

  • What is discipleship? Jesus’ disciples follow him because he “knows them:” Jesus remains in a personal relationship with his disciples.
  • The Lamb who shepherds: Jesus leads his disciples to the pastures of “eternal life” (literally “unceasing life”). They shall never perish spiritually or, ultimately, in any other way. (See the second reading.)
  • Jesus and the Father: Jesus can bless and protect his disciples because of his relationship with the Father, who is “greater than all.” The Father and Jesus “are one” in their position and their action toward their disciples. The Father and Jesus act with the same oneness because, with the Spirit, they share one divine nature. The good shepherd leads his disciples to the pastures of God’s Trinitarian life.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season gives us six weeks to reflect on this one cosmos-changing event; the Lectionary’s readings present stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us understand Easter from many viewpoints–lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. The believing community exists because God invites each of us into a joy-filled relationship. God is divinely and humanly present with us; God leads us and supports us. God knows us and wants us to know and to live God’s deep Trinitarian life. Do we accept God’s unwarranted and unexpected invitation? Can we give up self enough to be shepherded? Will we allow ourselves to know the resurrected life?

—Terence Sherlock

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