Tag Archives: Year B

17 June 2018: Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Ez 17:22-24   Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16   2 Cor 5:6-10   Mk 4:26-34

God’s kingdom: secret seeds, bushes, and birds

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary readings present stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week’s readings invite RCIA participants and the believing community to consider the mystery of God’s kingdom.

The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel describes God’s promises to restore the exiles and to reestablish David’s line. God will plant a cutting from a mighty cedar tree in the heights of Israel. The tree stands for Israel (the restored Davidic dynasty). The birds who come to roost in the branches are the returning exiles (the captives in Babylon). Eventually all nations (“birds of every kind”) will come to recognize the God of Israel. Christians hear Ezekiel’s words fulfilled in Jesus; Jesus is David’s descendant, and Jesus inaugurates God’s messianic kingdom, which is open to all nations. The gospel’s mustard seed parable echoes this theme of including all nations in God’s kingdom.

The second reading continues Paul’s second letter to the ekklesia at Corinth. The overarching theme of 2 Cor is Paul’s defense against false teachers who created confusion in the community. In today’s reading, Paul contrasts “home/away” and “seen/ unseen” to explain how we live between the already and the not yet. Now we all live (“are at home”) in physical bodies, and so we are separated from the risen Christ. Now we know the risen Christ only by faith, since we can no longer see him. Our faith tells us that when we die (“leave our bodies”) we will be with the resurrected Christ. Now we should live as Jesus lived (“aspire to please him”) so that when we meet him (“appear before the judgement seat”), Jesus will recognize us as his disciples (“receive recompense”).

Mark’s gospel is from Jesus’ “day of parables” (Mk 4). We hear two parables and Mark’s summary:

  • Parable of the seed growing quietly (v 26-29). This parable is unique to Mark. Jesus reminds his hearers that seeds grow without human intervention. Jesus’ hearers would be surprised that God’s kingdom would come unnoticed, without cataclysmic signs. The kingdom of God develops quietly yet powerfully until God fully establishes the kingdom at the final judgment (Mk 4:29; Rev 14:15).

The parable encourages disciples in Mark’s community who feel their efforts are fruitless, and warns those who think they can bring the kingdom through their own projects and plans.

  • Parable of the mustard seed (v 30-32). This parable also appears in Matthew and Luke. Jesus’ hearers would be surprised that God’s kingdom would be present but be unseen. Jesus probably told this parable in response to his opponents’ criticism: if the kingdom of God is here, why can’t we see it? The biblical image of a tree housing many birds symbolizes an empire that grants protection to people of many races and languages (see the first reading). With comic irony Jesus portrays the kingdom not as a lofty cedar tree (first reading), but as a weedy bush.

The parable encourages Mark’s community, which is facing failure and persecution (Mk 13:9-13). Jesus continues to grow the believing community even when they lack faith.

  • Mark’s summary (v 33-34). Mark concludes with two important ideas about discipleship:

First, Jesus speaks to the crowd as they are able to hear. The Greek verb ἀκούω means “to hear,” “to listen,” “to understand,” or “to obey.” Mark wants his community to remember that the kingdom grows as a disciple reflects on the parables and embraces their implications, enlarging his or her ability “to hear.”

Second, Jesus explains everything to the disciples privately. The Greek verb ἐπιλύω means “to explain” and is often translated as “to interpret religious or oracular statements.” Mark wants his community to hear Jesus address the needs in their ekklesia: proper moral conduct (Mk 7:17-21), divorce (Mk 10:10-12), and the danger of wealth (Mk 10:23-30).

The readings challenge RCIA candidates and the believing community to consider the mystery of God’s kingdom, and our response as disciples. Jesus describes God’s kingdom as a seed that grows by its own power, and as a tiny seed that grows into a shrub that is home to many birds. The kingdom comes according to God’s plan, not ours. The kingdom comes for everyone, not just for us and our friends. As disciples, we should cooperate with God’s plan. As disciples we should seek to grow the kingdom. Are we promoting God’s agenda, or our own? Do we have faith that the community will grow as God wills, or do we believe we know better?

—Terence Sherlock

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B

10 June 2018: Tenth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Gn 3:9-15   Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8   2 Cor 4:13-5:1   Mk 3:20-35

Conflicts: Who is Jesus? Who is our family?

Green_banner_smDuring Ordinary time the Lectionary readings ask us to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week’s readings challenge every RCIA participant and each one of the believing community to examine his or her commitment to discipleship.

The first reading from the book of Genesis explores the consequences of humanity’s disobedience and rejection of God. A theological tension exists between God’s “good” creation and the created world’s own intransigence (for example, disobedience and violence). The Torah becomes a story of recalcitrance (on creation’s part) and rescue (on God’s part). Later Jewish and Christian interpreters identify the serpent with Satan. The Lectionary editors pair this reading with today’s gospel because the gospel reading refers to Satan.

The second reading continues Paul’s second letter to the Corinth ekklesia. Paul describes his faith in God who raised Jesus from the dead, a faith that also includes a hope that God will raise Paul and his converts. God is already renewing the believing community’s “inner nature” in preparation for the final resurrection. Believers do not yet have the fullness of the resurrected life, but something starting in the inner person that will be clothed by the resurrection body.

The gospel uses what scholars call the “Marcan sandwich” technique to tell two conflict stories at once: a conflict with religious authorities and a conflict within a family. The actions are as follows:

  • The family conflict (part 1). Jesus is in his new home in Capernaum, teaching and healing. He is so successful, he doesn’t have time to eat. Back in Nazareth, his family hears what’s going on and are worried; they think he is crazy. Jesus has attracted the attention of the “scribes from Jerusalem;” his family may be genuinely worried that the authorities will execute Jesus for his words and actions. If the family declares Jesus insane, they can legally protect him from execution.


    Because Jesus’ family needs time to travel from Nazareth to Capernaum, Mark cuts to the related religious controversy story.
  • Conflict with religious authorities. The scribes from Jerusalem want to shame and discredit Jesus. They make two charges against him. First, that Jesus is possessed. Second (and more serious), that Jesus is an agent of the “ruler of demons.” Using the ruler of demons’ power/authority to cast out lower demons is the same as practicing magic, actions forbidden in Jewish law (Dt 18:10-12).
     

    Jesus refutes their charges first by pointing out that a kingdom or house divided against itself cannot stand. Jesus then attacks their statement that Jesus’ power/authority comes from the devil. Using a parable about a strong one (Satan), Jesus shows that he is the stronger one (or “mightier one”) who binds Satan, as foretold by the Baptist (Mk 1:7). Finally, Jesus shames the scribes by saying they have insulted God (blasphemed). Because the scribes interpret the goodness of Jesus’ actions as evil, they have closed themselves to the actions of God’s holy Spirit. This “unforgivable sin” is similar to Hebrew scripture’s phrase “hardness of heart.”
     

    With the religious authorities’ conflict settled, Mark turns back to the family conflict story.

  • The family conflict (part 2). The crowd informs Jesus that his family is outside, seeking him. Jesus contrasts his misunderstanding family gathered outside with the attentive listeners gathered inside the house. Jesus’ work is to establish a new family: a family of God united by love, familiarity, and loyalty, stronger than blood relationships. Discipleship in God’s kingdom is more important than family and tribal ties. Jesus is not rejecting his earthly family, but resetting his family’s claim on him.

The readings confront RCIA candidates and the believing community with the reality of who Jesus is and his call to discipleship. Do we see Jesus and the more powerful one who binds Satan to heal and save us, or are we distracted from the actions of God’s Spirit? Do we choose discipleship’s attentive listening, or are our human relationships so comfortable we can’t hear Jesus’ message?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B

3 June 2018: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

 

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Ex 24:3-8   Ps 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18   Heb 9:11-15   Mk 14:12-16, 22-26

Covenant: rights and duties

White_gold_banner_sm The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ or Corpus Christi asks RCIA participants and believing community to recall God’s covenant with each of us and to examine our covenantal responsibilities.

In the first reading from Exodus, Moses seals the covenant between God and the Israelites with the blood from sacrificed bulls. In the ancient world, parties ratified a covenant by sacrificing and eating an animal as part of a shared meal. Moses collects the bulls’ blood (the life force) and splashes half the blood on the altar (representing God) and sprinkles the remaining blood over the people. This sacrificial blood seals the covenant between God and the Israelites. In the gospel Jesus explains to his disciples how his broken body and poured-out blood will renew the covenant.

In the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, the author compares the actions of the Jewish high priest to the actions of Christ as a new high priest. Annually on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) the human high priest entered the human-built Temple’s Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice for human transgressions. Christ, the perfect high priest, entered God’s sanctuary in the heavens, and offered his own blood once, granting eternal redemption to all people for all time. The Hebrews’ author connects Christ’s blood to the ratification of the covenant in the first reading, and to the renewal of the covenant in the gospel.

Mark’s gospel focuses on Jesus’ prophecy-in-action. Throughout Mark’s gospel Jesus speaks and acts prophetically. Mark’s Last Supper narrative brings Jesus’ prophetic speech and actions together:

  • This is my blood of the covenant. As he did with the bread (“this is my body”), Jesus interprets the meaning of the cup. By associating “blood” and “covenant,” Jesus prophetically connects this meal with the covenant ratification in Ex 24:1-8 (the first reading). Just as the Mosaic covenant established the people of Israel as God’s people, so also in this meal Jesus’ covenant renews a new people for God.

    Because blood is life, blood (the life of an animal) was the greatest offering that could be made to the gods or God. This is why blood makes atonement for transgressions (Lv 17:11). Jesus’ life-blood is being poured out for all. Jesus understands that his death brings about a covenant community that will benefit all humans.
  • Until that day when I drink it new in God’s kingdom. Jesus’ vow to fast from eating and drinking is a prophetic action pointing to his coming death as well as the coming messianic banquet of God’s kingdom. In this way, Jesus connects this meal with the past (Passover meal and Mosaic covenant), with the present (the renewed covenant), and with the future (Jesus’ coming passion, death, and resurrection and future coming of God’s kingdom).

The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ reminds us that we are in covenant with God. God ratified this covenant not with the blood of animals, but with his own blood. Can we imagine a deeper or more serious bond? The covenant gives us both rights (forgiveness, eternal life) and duties (follow me, love one another). How much time do we spend claiming our rights? How often do we exercise our duties?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B

27 May 2018: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Dt 4:32-34, 39-40   Ps 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22   Rom 8:14-17   Mt 28:16-20

Trinity: revealed, experienced, lived

White_gold_banner_sm On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Lectionary readings trace the human experience of the mystery of God, and how God’s self-revealing words and actions lead us to explore God’s three-fold nature and the mystery of salvation.

In the first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses recounts the mighty acts of God: creation (“God created humans on the earth”), law-giving (God spoke “from the midst of fire” on Sinai, giving commandments to make the people holy), and salvation (what God “did for you in Egypt,” delivering the Israelites from slavery to freedom). In these acts, the chosen people experience God’s three-fold engagement as creator, savior, and caller-to-holiness.

In the second reading from his letter to the Romans, Paul describes how Christians experience God in baptism. We experience God first as an adoptive Father whom we call out to as “Abba.” We experience the Spirit as a witness to our adoption, that as God’s children, we are heirs to God’s kingdom. We experience Christ, our sibling, who shares both his sufferings (death) and glorification (resurrection and eternal life) with us.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus commissions his disciples to baptize all nations “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Scripture scholars believe that when Matthew wrote his gospel in the 80s AD, his community was already using this Trinitarian baptismal formula to initiate new members. Their lived experience led them to know God as a caring Father, Jesus as the Father’s teaching and saving Son, and the Spirit as their community’s binding force.

When somebody mentions “the Trinity,” our eyes can glaze over. Explanations are usually full of technical theological words like “person” or “hypostasis,” or strange math where 3 = 1. But theology (the study of God) came centuries after God’s own self-revelation and humans own lived experience of God.

We know God though the way God acts in history, through the incarnate Word we personally encounter, and through the renewing Spirit that permeates our believing communities. Paul greets his ekklesiais with “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” because he personally experienced the grace, love, and community of the saving God. Matthew’s ekklesia initiates its new members “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” because they personally experienced God in this threefold distinction. Unfortunately, theology’s technical words about the Trinity fail to capture the living God of personal experience.

The Trinity Sunday readings invite us to consider our own personal experience of the Father, Son, and Spirit, a God who reveals an ever-deepening mystery of God-in-relationship. As disciples, do we continue to encounter God by listening to Jesus, by learning from Jesus’ actions how to live, by learning how to pray with the Spirit, and by doing what is pleasing to the Father? Or do we know all we need to about the God who created, saves, and connects us?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B

20 May 2018: Pentecost Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B

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

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

 

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

Ascension: look on earth, not in the sky

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B

6 May 2018: Sixth Sunday of Easter

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

God acts to change everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B