Tag Archives: Year A

25 June 2017: Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Jer 20:10-13 Ps 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35 Rom 5:12-15 Mt 10:26-33

Discipleship: a fearless life

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings invite us to reflect on discipleship’s risks and rewards.

In the first reading Jeremiah laments the fate of all prophets: rejection. The Temple guard put Jeremiah in stocks to keep him from prophesying about the coming Babylonian siege. Jeremiah suffers a crisis of faith (“You seduced me, Lord…” v7) because the people reject him and his prophesy. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because it parallels Jesus’ warnings to disciples in today’s gospel.

In the second reading to the ekklasia at Rome, Paul reflects on Adam’s sin (Gn 3:1-13) in the context of the redemptive mystery of Christ. Paul compares Christ to Adam, not to explain human origins, but to introduce the mystery of human sinfulness. Paul sees sin as a power over someone. This power causes humans to revolt against God, and exalt in their own desires and interests. Sin leads to spiritual death: total aloneness and self-imposed alienation from God. God’s response to human failure is not punishment, but superabundant grace and God’s redemptive gift (Jesus). Paul contrasts Adam’s disobedience with Christ’s complete obedience; Jesus’ life of obedience to the Father, including his “obedience unto death,” is his redemptive act.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus continues to prepare the disciples for their mission to the world. In today’s reading, Jesus gives his disciples three instructions:

  • Proclaim without fear. Disciples should not fear those who oppose them or want to dispute or to condemn Jesus’ good news. Disciples should proclaim Jesus’ message openly, in the light and from the housetops.
  • Expect rejection. Like Jesus, Jeremiah, and all the prophets, disciples should be prepared to be rejected, opposed, persecuted, and even martyred for following the gospel’s words and actions.
  • Remain faithful. Jesus assures the disciples that God knows them personally and values their works. Jesus is joined to (literally “is of one mind with”) every disciple who faithfully witnesses to his message, and Jesus acknowledges those disciples before his heavenly Father.

Jesus’ instructions are as valid to his twenty-first century disciples (us) as they were to his first-century disciples. Proclaiming God’s words and imitating Jesus’ actions will always result in rejection, opposition, and persecution by those who would rather keep their words and actions hidden and secret. However, Jesus assures his disciples that the Father cares for them, and that he himself continues to stand with them during their trials. As a result, disciples should fear no one. Today’s readings ask: Is our discipleship fearless, or have we dialed back the gospel’s words and actions to accommodate our comfortable culture? Will Jesus recognize his message reflected in what we say and do, or will he turn to the Father and shake his head?

—Terence Sherlock

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18 June 2017: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Dt 8:2-3, 14b-16a Ps 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20 1 Cor 10:16-17 Jn 6:51-58

Eucharist: God’s care, community meal, food of eternal life

White_gold_banner_sm On the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Lectionary readings invite us to think about the Eucharist, foreshadowed in the Hebrew scripture as manna and fulfilled in Christian scripture as the bread of life.

In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses recalls God’s great acts, especially God feeding the Israelites with manna in the wilderness. God’s gift of manna expresses God’s care for the chosen people. The gospel compares God’s gift of manna, which sustains human life, with the Father’s gift of Jesus-as-bread, who gives eternal life.

In the second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul recalls the blessing cup and broken bread as both a fellowship meal and remembrance meal. However, he emphasizes the community/communion aspect when he stresses one loaf/one body in which all participate and become one.

In John’s gospel, Jesus tells his synagogue listeners that manna saved their ancestors from starvation in the wilderness, but still the Israelites died. For those who follow Jesus, the bread-of-life that Jesus’ offers is both physical food (bread/wine) as well as spiritual food (himself/abiding).

Like the manna in the wilderness, Jesus is God’s gift that reveals God’s care for disciples. Unlike the manna, Jesus gives himself as communion–union with Jesus and the Father–so disciples will abide with the Father and Son forever. Jesus, the bread-coming-down-from-heaven, gives his disciples a share in eternal life though his living, dying, and resurrection. Although Jesus returns to the Father, Jesus continues to abide with the believing community in the Eucharistic meal. By remembering Jesus and by imitating his sacrificial love, the disciples remain-in-relationship with Jesus and the Father.

On this feast celebrating the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ, the readings reveal the Eucharist as wilderness food, fellowship sign, and life source. In the Eucharistic mystery, we continue to see new meanings of manna, meal, and remaining-in-relationship. In the Eucharistic sacrament, we encounter God as gift, covenant meal, and life. At every Mass, Jesus shares a meal with us, made from the Father’s gifts and our work, which the Spirit returns to us as God’s own self. What is our wilderness? What is our food? What gives us life?

—Terence Sherlock

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11 June 2017: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9 Dn 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56 2 Cor 13:11-13 Jn 3:16-18

The Trinity: known, knowable, unknowable

White_gold_banner_sm On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Lectionary readings reveal God as known, knowable, and unknowable; or as revealed, disclosing, and mysterious. The readings express the believing community’s experience of God’s three-fold relationship with them.

In the first reading, from Exodus, God proclaims God’s own name (YHWH, translated as “the LORD”) to Moses, revealing God’s relationship with the Israelites: “merciful and gracious, slow-to-anger, overflowing in loving-kindness and faithfulness.” Christian readers of Hebrew scripture should not equate YHWH with the First Person of the Trinity (the Father), but should understand YHWH as all three Persons.

In the second reading, Paul closes his second letter to the Corinthian ekklasia with a familiar three-fold blessing. Paul’s blessing encapsulates the believing community’s experience of God’s relationship: Christ’s gift of grace, the Father’s gift of love, and the Spirit’s gift of unity or fellowship. Paul expects his letter to be read just before the community’s Eucharistic meal, which will make God’s grace, love, and unity fully present to the ekklasia.

In the gospel, John concludes Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus with a succinct summary of his gospel: the Father gave his only son so that everyone might experience eternal life. This is how the believing community experiences the Trinity’s relationship: the Father’s love sends the Son to heal/to save our broken relationships with God and each other. (We have broken these relationships through our own selfish choices, or sin.) When the Son heals these relationships, we experience God’s own life (eternal life) in the Spirit–who is the Giver of Life.

Human experiences help us to know God, and to understand that God is knowable. At the same time, God remains unknowable–what human can understand why God acts or why God chooses to break into human time and history? We do know that the Son reveals the Father and continues to disclose the Father’s love for us though the Spirit’s abiding, mysterious sacramental presence.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity reminds us that we can and do know God through revelation and through our own experiences. This feast also encourages us to explore the mystery of God through prayer, liturgy, and reflection to bring us into closer relationship with God’s grace, love, and unity.

—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 ekklasia‘s birth through the Spirit’s coming. Baptism incorporates us into the ekklasia, 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 ekklasia‘s birth at Pentecost.

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

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

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

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

—Terence Sherlock

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21 May 2017: Sixth Sunday of Easter

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Terence Sherlock

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14 May 2017: Fifth Sunday of Easter

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

The way and works of the resurrected life

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Terence Sherlock

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

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

Shepherds: relationships and responsibilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Terence Sherlock

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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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