14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1st Reading – Isaiah 66: 10-14c

This is the last chapter of Isaiah, written by the 3rd Isaiah source and after the exile.  The people were facing the difficulties of the restoration.  There is a mood of disillusionment in the Trito-Isaiah chapters.  2nd Isaiah brimmed with hopeful expectation of the imminent return; Trito-Isaiah lived with the reality of what is.  Things were not as the people hoped.  There was controversy in the Palestinian community.  Those who had returned from exile were eager to get back to their orthodox way of life.  Those who had remained in Israel during the exile had become enculturated with the conquering peoples and were not so eager  (This is similar to the divisions in our own country and the Catholic Church.).  But God comforts God’s people as a nursing mother.  Belief in a future life, a new age, and a new creation sprouts forth (M. Birmingham’s W&W Wkbk for Year C, p. 414-415).  When there are conflicting ideologies, how does God comfort us?  What can we do to recognize that comfort?  How does the image of God as mother resonate with you?     

2nd Reading – Galatians 6: 14-18  (Paul’s closing remarks to this letter)

For Paul, everything rests on the power of the cross.  NT Wright tells us in speaking about Paul, “God has accomplished, and will accomplish, the entire new creation in the Messiah and by the spirit.  When someone believes the gospel and discovers its life-transforming power (As Paul himself did!), that person becomes a small but significant working model of that new creation…the point of being human is to be an image –bearer, to reflect the praises of creation back to God, (Paul, p. 407).  Jesus’ death on the cross makes this possible.  His love overcame evil, and that means everything.

There is a balance between living a life detached and living life fully immersed in love.  Detachment is approaching life freely.  You are okay with however things work out.  This is hard because we want our own way!  And culture encourages decision-making or choosing sides.  It is also hard because we love.  We want things to work out well for those we love and we cling to what we achieve.  But God is here to help us with this balance.  This is why Paul says no one will make trouble for him again, because he bears the marks of Christ.  It is through Christ that we receive consolation.  Can you think of a time when you detached from something, trusted in the Lord and it worked out?    

The Gospel – Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

Only Luke uses this story of Jesus sending out 72 to go ‘ahead of him in pairs.” What do you make of this gospel story as Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem?  Do you think any of the appointed were women?

From William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, 137-138:  When Jesus said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from Heaven,” it is a difficult phrase to understand.   It may mean that he saw evil being overcome by their proclaiming God’s kingdom. But it could also be a warning against pride. The legend was that it was pride that caused Satan to rebel against God; it was Satan’s pride that cast him out of heaven. Jesus may be telling them to be careful of the same pride and overconfidence. They had been given great power, but it was a gift. Our greatest glory is not what we can do, but what God has done for us – ‘your names are written in heaven’ – sinners saved by God’s free gift of grace.

From Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke, 137-142:

Luke’s Jesus sends the disciples out in two’s. By doing so, Luke is telling us that the gospel happens between people – it doesn’t happen in your mind. It is through a sacrificial love – being in right relationship with at least with one other person (the only real ‘test’ of God’s Spirit being present).  Only then do we begin to understand ‘salvation.’ Salvation is not antiseptic, unreal and sterile. “Person-to-person is the way the gospel was originally communicated. Person-in-love-with-person, person-respecting-person, person-forgiving-person, person-crying-with-person, person-hugging-person: that’s where the Spirit is so beautifully present . . . Restraint and passion – that is the paradoxical experience of the Holy.” We grow into our ability “to love another in a way that totally gives” ourselves and entrusts ourselves to another while respecting the other person and standing back in honor of them. Jesus is also trying to console them even as he is ‘toughening them up’ for the job. He warns them not to feel defeated when rejected. If they do not accept your peace, it will return to you.  If they accept you, then let your presence as another Christ bring God’s goodness to them.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

1st Reading – 1 Kings 19: 16b, 19-21

Elijah has just finished a very difficult time, facing down the false prophets of Baal and then running for his life from Queen Jezebel. He is tired and asks the Lord to relieve him of his burdens – even his very life.

Then the Lord agrees to have Elijah pass on his role as prophet to Elisha.  It is interesting to think that God’s call to Elisha comes to him right in the middle of his ordinary life. And – once he understands the call, he responds with profound commitment. This is quite a powerful story!  What do you find thought-provoking in this passage?

From Mary Birmingham, Word & Worship Wrkbk for Yr. C, 409:

A cloak symbolized the personality and rights of the owner, as well as the owner’s protection. The gift of a cloak was a sign of unity and friendship.  It was also a sign of one’s function or charism.  Elisha, though a very wealthy man (most people would own only one oxen) responds wholeheartedly with a grand gesture of total commitment to the cloak and the call.

Here’s another way of using this story as a means to pray and be open to how God might be speaking to you through it  (from Margaret Silf, Inner Compass, p. 13-14):

After reading the passage of 1 Kings 19:19 about Elisha, imagine yourself in a field. The field is being plowed, and you have your own furrow to plow. The field is the field of the world . . . Your hands are on the plow and your feet are heavy with the earth. Perhaps you feel that you are carrying out this gigantic task all alone. But look ahead of you. See the eleven teams of oxen that Elisha saw. You are not alone. You are a part of a long line of life and meaning. But this is not just any line of oxen. It is your own personal line . . .

Who or what is in your line of oxen teams? Think of significant people who have made a difference in your life. Some may have helped provide the pulling power for your plow and its progress. Remember also the important moments, events, decisions or experiences that have formed your furrow. Notice the landscape of your part of the field. Think of how a farmer plows a straight furrow by keeping his gaze on a fixed object ahead. 

How has Jesus been your fixed object? He needs to be at the head of each one of our personal lines of oxen teams. It is his risen life and energy that provide the power for our every moment. Think of how he has been both your beginning and your end – both your starting point and your goal. Talk with Jesus about this. As you finish your prayer time, ask Jesus to help you to know –deeply—that you do not plow alone . . .

2nd Reading – Galatians 5:1, 13-18

What did Paul mean by ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’?  These terms, flesh and spirit, which are often used to translate the Greek sarx and pneuma, have caused tragic misunderstandings of Paul’s theology.  Paul has often been blamed for seeing the body and sex as sinful  — evil.  This is unfortunate for it is far from what Paul has in mind when he uses the word, sarx.  He does not mean the physical, sexual part of a human. Sarx refers to the WHOLE human as he/she is enslaved to weakness and corruption.  (Even when Paul lists sexual ‘sins’ with prominence, he is saying that sexual abuse and misuse are symptoms of the whole person’s disorientation away from God, the true source of life.)  The pneuma, or spirit, on the other hand, is the full human who is open to being influenced by God’s Spirit and charis, saving power.  Our whole being “every cell of our body, every moment of our mind is BOTH flesh and spirit.”  We are enslaved by the power of sin.  Or, we are liberated to grow into the image of God that we are intended to be.  (Paul Tillich, Shaking of the Foundations, 133, and The Eternal Now, 48).  Paul might have seen much of his own theology in this story. 

RH. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” www.liturgy.slu.edu & M Birmingham, W&W YrC, 409-410:

The freedom that Paul talks about is a freedom grounded in love – for others.  We are freed from our small, crippled, self-centered ‘false’ selves – it is false because this is not the way that God has called us to be. The Spirit of Love – which is the Spirit that God freely gives us – provides us with a set of antennae enabling us in each concrete situation to live a life that love requires, without a lot of rules and regulations. Once we are open to God’s Spirit, then – while we may still struggle with the ‘flesh’ (the old, weak, unredeemed self – the self that is resistant to God’s life and freedom)  we will have in the Spirit an indwelling strength and understanding that will help us to live this new life, a life of true love and freedom.

The Gospel – Luke 9: 51-62

Why do you think Luke has this right at the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem?

Here Jesus is emphasizing the primacy of commitment to God’s reign, God’s kingdom. All else is secondary. The imagery used is typically Semitic and strongly worded to drive the idea home. Details should not be pressed. To break the saying down into fractions is to lose their impact. The main point is clear: human considerations are insignificant . . . families ties must be seen in connection to our commitment to Jesus. The Palestinian one-hand plow cannot be easily guided without full attention given to the furrows. So, too, the reign of God calls for undivided attention and commitment . . . Every day of our lives presents new challenges, new problems. There is always the unknown lurking about . . . Yet, in the face of the unknown, Jesus never wavered. We are asked to follow him. We are to walk with the Spirit that gives life, not with the flesh that tires, doubts, and becomes easily discouraged.  (R. Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p.456)

Commentary on the Most Holy Trinity Sunday, cycle C

On Trinity Sunday we celebrate the very essence of God – and how we experience this essence. And so, by this celebration we hope to come to experience this mystery more deeply within our real and everyday lives. This God of love, truth and life is not a puzzle to be solved, but a mystery to be loved, experienced, and lived.

From Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God, “Trinity: The Living God of Love”:  Christians do not believe in three gods but in one. What is particular to this faith is the belief that this one God has graciously reached out to the world in love in the person of Jesus Christ in order to heal, redeem, and liberate… It lifts up God’s gracious ways active in the world through Jesus Christ and the Spirit, and finds there the fundamental revelation about God’s own being as self-giving communion of love . . .  This is about “an encounter with divine Mystery” . . . experiencing the saving God in a threefold way as beyond them, and with them, and within them . . .

Our “God is not two men and a bird” even though artists have often depicted the Trinity this way. This art is a meditation not a photograph. (207-208)

God is love – God lives as this mystery of love. We humans are created in this image. “Knowing God is impossible unless we enter into a life of love and communion with others.” “The church’s identity and mission pivot on this point . . .  Only a community of equal persons related in profound mutuality, pouring out praise of God and care for the world in need, only such a church corresponds to the triune God it purports to serve.”  (223)

“The point is, with the three circling around in a mutual, dynamic movement of love, God is not a static being but a plenitude of self-giving love, a saving mystery that overflows into the world of sin and death to heal, redeem, and liberate.  The whole point of this history of God with the world is to bring the world back into the life of God’s own communion, back into the divine dance of life  (p. 214).

1st Reading – Proverbs 8: 22 – 31

The Book of Proverbs is sort of an ‘Owners manual for the Jewish mind, heart and hands. All the chapters tell the reader about a spirit of right living: a life of discipline, restraint, just judgment, and relational sensitivity. This passage is a poetic presentation of how Wisdom assisted in creation. The goodness of creation and of ourselves is affirmed so that we reverence and use well all of that creation.  Larry Gillick, S.J., http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistr/053010.html

This passage in the Old Testament is considered typology…a foreshadow or hint of what may be understood further in the New Testament.  Trinity is not a concept that was revealed well in OT, but this is a prefigurement:  the idea that the Father had company in creation. 

2nd Reading – Romans 5: 1-5

Paul insists that standing firm in the midst of trials yields to endurance and a firm hope.  For Paul, the assurance that salvation was a free gift for all inclusively was based on his belief in God’s love shown to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  It was Paul’s firm belief in the triune nature of God that would later be the foundation upon which theologians based the doctrine of Trinity.  For Paul it was the Christian anchor:  hope and endurance come through faith in the Triune God’s transcendent power!  (Birmingham, Word & Worship, p. 554)  How has hope and endurance helped you in the midst of trial?

The Gospel – John 16: 12-15

This passage continues the Farewell Discourse of the Last Supper that Jesus has with his disciples.  Note how gentle Jesus is in not wanting to overwhelm them by only feeding them bits of information that they are able to understand  (Think of how we teach our children!).  “Spirit” in this piece of scripture in Greek is “paraclete”…one who stands by us.  We have a God that stands forever with us.  How does this speak to you?

6th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

1st Reading – The Acts of the Apostles 15: 1-2, 22-29

Compare this with Galatians 2: 1-15.  This is Paul’s account of what happened. Remember, Paul is writing about what he himself had experienced, while Luke is writing later about things that happened to others.  

  1. Why Paul attended the Council:  Luke (author of Acts) says he was sent by the community in Antioch, while Paul says he went on his own initiative.
  2. The Discussions at the Council:  Luke implies that the meeting was calm and serene with Peter and James making the decision, while Paul makes the discussions sound more lively and that there was a common agreement.
  3. The Decision:  In Luke, a selection was made from elements of dietary, ritual, and marital law, and this selection was to be imposed on the Gentile congregations.  Paul is very clear that the Gospel is the good news, freely given, and that we are saved without the works of the Law. 

In the end, it was Paul’s view that prevailed.  But at this time of the early church, perhaps it was necessary to have these few rules for Jewish/Gentile Christians  to feel united, (Dwyer, John, Church History, p. 40-43).  What can we learn about the early church in all this?  What do you see of how the Lord’s Spirit works?

2nd Reading – Revelation 21: 10- 14, 22- 23

By the time this was written, Jerusalem and its temple had been destroyed by Rome.   The mention of the twelve tribes suggests that the city represents the gathering of a people, like church.  But there is no temple in this vision…meaning God and God alone who continues the relationship with his people face to face.  God dwells WITH us!  How does this vision speak of the fullness of God’s presence for you?

From William Barclay, The Revelation of John, p. 212:

Consider the dimensions of the heavenly Jerusalem – each side was 1,500 miles long and the total area of the city was 2,250,000 square miles (These verses were omitted.)! A city with that area would stretch from London to New York. Surely we are meant to see that in the holy city there is room for everyone. Then when we come to the wall it is only 266 feet high – not very high by ancient standards (the walls of Babylon were 300 feet high). Certainly, there is no comparison between the walls and the size of this city—here again is symbolism. It is not meant to keep people out – it is perhaps simply a delineation. God is much more eager to bring people in – to let them know they are safe within his peace – than to shut them out . . .

How is God like a light for us?

The Gospel: John 14: 23- 29

The Spirit that filled Jesus of Nazareth throughout his life, death, and resurrection is the same Spirit that is now available to us as a free gift.  Jesus made this Spirit an historical reality for us.  What means the most to you in this reading?  How do you find Jesus’ Word and love and peace connected?

The word, “Advocate,” is sometimes translated “paraclete,” “counselor” or “comforter” – the Greek word used basically means a legal term that is for the “one who stands by the side of a defendant.” From its use in the gospel it seems that it has three functions or activities.

1) It is the continued presence of Jesus on earth after his life/death/resurrection/ascension experience.

2) It is a truth-telling Spirit (14:17; 16:13) assuring us that Jesus is not a shameful failure, but the beloved of God.

3) It reminds them of things that Jesus said (14:26) and reveals things Jesus was unable to convey (16: 12-14).

In other words, this Advocate represents divine presence and guidance.  It is all we need!

There were 2 things happening in the Johannine church that contributed to the understanding of the Paraclete.  Jesus’ return was not as imminent as was once believed.  This caused confusion.  Eyewitnesses to the Jesus event were no longer alove, thus making human authentication next to impossible.  The Paraclete answered both problems.  The Paraclete was the real presence of the risen Christ in the midst of the community.  The community was experiencing realized eschatology. They were living in the reign of God in this realm as they awaited the next.  Through the Paraclete, God’s people would continue to encounter the presence of Christ, (M. Birmingham’s Word and Worship, p. 301).  So are we!

5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

1st Reading: The Acts of the Apostles 14: 21- 27

Paul and Barnabas are here retracing their steps back to the first community in Antioch.  This was brave of them to do.  Remember last week, they were persecuted for preaching to the Gentiles.  They shook the dust off their feet.  Now they are going back.  A church is actually formed now.  Think of how the news has spread so quickly post-resurrection.  What does this mean in your life?  Have there been times when you were told to stop doing something but, because of your belief in it, soldiered on and saw it blossom?  Think of Milton Hershey, who continually made bad candy and went through all of his money before finally resulting in a product that we all love!  Not that he did it alone.  Like the disciples, he had a community of people to help him.  Who is that kind of support for you?

Notice “what God had done with them” vs. what they did themselves.  Everything is because of God.  This is what it is to follow the will of God:  to have a single purpose.  Dag Hammarskjöld, second Secretary-General of the United Nations, said, “I don’t know Who – or what – put the question.  I don’t know when it was put.  I don’t even remember answering.  But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone – or Something – and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”  How does this speak to you?

2nd Reading: Revelation 21: 1-5

 “And the sea was no more” . . .  Wm. Barclay, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2:  The sea was a place of fear and evil. The end of the sea is the end of a force hostile to God and to humans. (198-199) In this passage we also see that God will make his dwelling-place with humans. The word for dwelling-place is skene, which means literally a tent, but also came to mean a tabernacle. This dwelling place contains the shechinah – the glory of God. It is God’s goodness and love shining forth into our lives. This goodness will wipe away all tears and create life anew – with no death or mourning or wailing or pain (p.202).  Has God ever “made all things new” in your life, bringing beginnings out of endings?

Compare this to Isaiah 25:  7 – 8 and Isaiah 43:  18 – 19.  This section of Revelation closes with the vision of a new heaven and earth that replaces the old creation, which has finally passed away.  The author is not interested in the implications of the image of a new creation which he has taken from Isaiah.  The real centerpiece of the new creation is the new Jerusalem.  The holy city will be the true dwelling place of God and also of the bride in the final section of the work.  The throne voice announces that the promises of divine presence are fulfilled in this city.  This city of divine presence and peace forms a striking contrast to the fallen Babylon.  In Isaiah, the Lord tells Israel not to remember the old things, since he is doing ‘a new thing”.  Revelation proclaims that that promise is finally fulfilled.  God is making all things new (Collegeville Bible Commentary, p. 79-80).

The Gospel: John 13: 31-35

This gospel passage comes right after Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and Judas’ leaves to plot his betrayal.   Judas thinks that things end in death when, in reality, the death ends in life.  Death simultaneously reveals Jesus’ glory and the full measure of his love for us:  Jesus is willing to suffer and die not only so that he might live, but so that all of us might share in that same glory and new life (Living Liturgy, p. 124)

 

From “Working with the Word,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:   How is Jesus’ commandment new? Even in the Old Testament the commandment to love was known.  First, the standard and model of love is Jesus himself: “As I have loved you . . .” Jesus himself, in his life, service, and self-giving death, models what it means to love one another. Second. This love means service – the washing of feet – the caring for another – and this kind of service-love is evangelization – a way of life that announces to all people that a new way of life characterized by love is possible.  All of this passage is also in the context of the Eucharistic Last Supper. Our Eucharistic meal is supposed to be the expression of our love for the God we find in Jesus and each other. That does not mean we always ‘like’ each other and even agree with each other.

In one of Father Bob’s homilies, he said that when he places Jesus in our hand, we are being placed in Jesus’ hand.  How does this speak to you in this context?

From Living Liturgy,2004, p. 125, and Celebration, May, 2004:  John’s gospel is often divided into two main parts: The Book of Signs and The Book of Glory. This week’s gospel is the beginning of the Book of Glory. It is ironic that here in the midst of betrayal, denial and approaching suffering and death, there is an announcement of Jesus’ glorification. Jesus’ moment of exaltation will be accomplished in being lifted up in shame and pain to death on the cross as well as in his being lifted up to life and glory and union with God forever. On the cross Jesus is the full revelation of God – the distinctive definition of love.   It is here that we see, once and for all, the glory and love of God made visible.

4th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

1st Reading – Acts of the Apostles 13: 14, 43-52

Paul’s life and energy were focused by Jesus on the words that are quoted from Isaiah 49: 6: “I have made you a light to the Gentiles . . . an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.” What impresses you the most in this reading?  How is the Lord a light for you?


The Jews had a custom of shaking the dust from their feet when returning from pagan lands.  It was a sign that they were purified from the contamination of foreign people and lands.  Paul’s and Barnabus’ similar actions against the Jews was a major affront.  In essence they were calling the Jews pagans!  There was no greater insult to a Jew of Paul’s time (Birmingham, W&W, p. 286).  Think about what YOU would boldly stand up against with YOUR LIFE.    

2nd Reading – Revelation 7: 9, 14b-17

William Barclay says this: “The shout of the triumphant faithful ascribes salvation to God . . . God is the great savior, the great deliverer of his people. And the deliverance which he gives is not the deliverance of escape but the deliverance of conquest.” It is not a deliverance which saves one from trouble but which brings one triumphantly through trouble. “It does not make life easy, but it makes life great.” It is not Christian hope that we be saved from all trouble and distress. It is Christian hope that we can in Christ endure any kind of trouble and distress and remain erect through all of them, coming out with a glorious and eternal life in the end. (The Revelation of John, vol.2, p. 27)

William Barclay also points out that for the Hebrew blood was not primarily about death; it was about life. It was the very life-force of a person or animal. So the blood of Christ stands for his very life-force – all that he did and said and was — both in life, death and resurrection. What does it then mean to you to ‘wash’ your robe white in the blood of this Lamb? We must actively immerse ourselves in the very life of Christ – it is our baptismal promise and life.  (The Revelation of John, vol.2, p. 31)

The Gospel — John 10: 27-30

“No one can take them out of my hand.” Hands are often used as strong symbols.  Hands are a sign of connectedness, reassurance, care, and hope; they represent our basic need for interrelationships: a loving caress, a gentle stroke, a healing massage, a handshake. Hands are used in all of our sacraments. Four sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Sacrament of the Sick, and Holy Orders) actually call for an imposition of hands that involves actual physical touch.  Three sacraments (Eucharist, Reconciliation, and Marriage) use extended hands to ‘call down’ the Holy Spirit in blessing or consecration.    (Living Liturgy, 2004, 121,123)

Imagine the scene.  It is first-century Palestine.  Each day the shepherd would take his flock out into the desert for the day’s grazing only to return to the sheepfold, a common enclosure with a low stone wall and gated entrance.  At day’s end the shepherds would bring their sheep to the fold to keep them safe from the dangers of the night: wolves and thieves.  Each night a shepherd was designated to lie down in front of the sheepgate so no one could enter without having to pass him first.  He was the protector of the flock – with his very life if need be. Each morning all the shepherds would return to this enclosure, Each shepherd would whistle or call out the names of their sheep.  The sheep would know the sound of their own shepherd – they would not respond to anyone else.  Their shepherd would then lead them out to safely graze in the pasture; the sheep always followed their shepherd…Jesus is the model Good Shepherd.  He cares for his sheep; they know his voice and respond to his voice.  There is ownership.  Jesus knows his sheep; he knows them by name.  He is in loving relationship with them, willing to lay down his life for their good.  We are to know Jesus’ voice and trust him unto death…The early church adopted this image of shepherd for their leaders also. Like Christ, the leaders were to nourish and safeguard the flock.  The word pastor was derived from this image.  (M. Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year B, 378- 379) What do you think about Jesus as the Good Shepherd?  

3rd Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

1ST READING – ACTS 5: 27-32, 40-41

The Sanhedrin was the Jewish high court, consisting of 71 members which included elders, high priests, priestly leaders and scribes.  They could pass legal judgment in most cases, except capital cases which were reserved for the Romans.  They were very powerful.  And they refused to feel any responsibility for Jesus’ death.  They considered the apostles as renegades from Judaism, and so they exerted their control over them  (Birmingham, W&W, p. 279). Yet the apostles stood their ground.  They drew their line in the sand, and actually rejoiced that they could suffer for the cause.   These are the same apostles that were hiding out in the Gospel last week!  What brought them out of their fear?   

Mark Powell in Introducing the New Testament describes Acts as a “history of a particular institution or organization composed by that entity’s public relations department,” (p. 197).  Everything always seems to work out for the best.  Embarrassing incidents, failings, prayers unanswered and people not healed aren’t mentioned, although they must have happened.  At times we are like this when someone close to us dies too.  But maybe there is a lesson in this.  We take our faith so seriously, sometimes seeing the bad more than anything else.  What if we focused on the positive?  What if we reveled in the good of our church and our relationship with God? 

2ND READING – REVELATION 5: 11-14

Revelation is a book to excite the senses.  In a sense, to ‘interpret’ this book is to misinterpret it, for often the appeal is to the imagination; it a book to be experienced, not explained  (Powell, Introducing the New Testament, p, 519).  The slain Lamb conjures images of the Jewish Passover, and Jesus represents the sacrificial lamb  (Birmingham, W&W, p. 280).  Notice how the elders are better listeners in this story than the first reading.  They actually fall down and worship…quite a contrast!  (The elders are 24, 12 for the tribes of Israel and 12 for the disciples.  It is really a way of saying ALL fell down to worship. 

Note how John includes every creature in worship.  Pope Francis in “Laudato Si” says, “Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another,” (#42) and “Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world,” (#77).  How might we worship God within the context of creation?

GOSPEL:  John 21:1-19

Night-time was the best for fishing.  From W.M. Thomson in The Land and the Book writes, “There are certain kinds of fishing always carried on at night.  It is a beautiful sight.  With blazing torch, the boat glides over the flashing sea, and the men stand gazing keenly into it until their prey is sighted, when, quick as lightening, they fling their net or fly their spear; and often you see the tired fishermen come sullenly into harbor in the morning, having toiled all night in vain.”   It also happens that the men in the boat rely on someone on shore to tell them where to cast.  From a distance, a person might see the fish in the clear water better than from straight above.  Jesus was acting as guide to his fishermen friends, just as people still do today  (Barclay, The Gospel of John Vol. 2, p. 281). 

It was Jewish law that to offer a greeting was a religious act, and for that one must be clothed.  That is why Peter first puts on his tunic before going to Jesus (p. 282).   Peter is such an example to us!  He jumps in with excitement to get to Jesus as soon as possible! 

This story is meant to ground the risen Christ.  He actually came…not as a vision or spirit but the real deal who pointed out fish, cooked and ate with his friends.

Why 153 fish?  One idea from St. Jerome is that there were 153 different kinds of fish, so the catch was all-encompassing.  The number symbolizes the fact that some day all people of all nations will be gathered together to Jesus Christ.  The net stands for the Church; and there is room in the Church for all people of all nations  (p. 284).   Like it says in Lumen Gentium from Vatican II:  The Church works and prays diligently with great hope that everyone in the whole world will ultimately join together as the People of God.

Why “more than these”?  It could be that Jesus swept his hands around the boat, nets, equipment and catch and meant more than this life Peter had.  Or perhaps Jesus meant more than the other disciples, fore-shadowing Peter’s place in the early church  (p. 285).   Either way, Jesus asks Peter 3 times of his love, giving him a chance at forgiveness and rehabilitation.  Of course, Jesus had forgiven him already, but maybe Peter still clung to guilt.    

Love costs. Peter’s love for Jesus brought him both a task and a cross. Love always involves responsibility and sacrifice.   It is the cost of discipleship; it is what ‘picking up our cross’ is all about. The cutting edge of love is not dying for the other but living for the other. It is caring for the other for their own sake, regardless of consequences.  (Celebration, April  2001 &2004)  How does this group compare with the Sanhedrin in the 1st reading?

2nd Sunday of Easter, Sunday of Divine Mercy, Cycle C

Reading #1:  Acts of the Apostles 5: 12-16

This Second Sunday of Easter has become known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  God’s mercy often comes to us through the quiet gift of another person who touches us with love, understanding, hope. — like a nurse who takes unusual care or a friend who really listens – who laughs with us and who likes us despite our ‘faults.’  Like Peter, we can all cast the shadow of God’s love and healing over another person . . .   How have you experienced such mercy?  (Exploring the Sunday Readings, April 2004)

Consider that word:  esteemed.  What images does it conjure in your mind?  “The people esteemed them.”  The dictionary has synonyms of respect, admire, value, regard, appreciate, prize, treasure, revere.  Who does this for you?  Who esteems you to be who you are and dare to put yourself out there?  Imagine if the people did not esteem them?

Solomon’s portico is also referred to as Solomon’s porch.  It is the outer courtyard of the temple.  Does the location have significance for you?

Reading #2:  Revelation 1: 9 – 13, 17-19

Revelation is an example of apocalyptic literature. It means unveiling; it tries to reveal the truth through ‘safe’ but powerful images, symbols, colors, numbers, visions and cryptic language. This is potent symbolic literature – it is written to those who had suffered persecution and were looking forward to a better life in the future.  It was to assure them that goodness would never be overcome by evil.  It draws the whole Biblical story into its own – a story of a God who journeys with humans to guide, shape and reshape human history.  (Celebration, April, 2004)

The seven gold lampstands refers to the seven churches to which this ‘letter’ was written – what do you think of this image for a church?  Notice Jesus is standing in the midst of them, with his feet showing and dressed like the lampstands.  His first words are not to be afraid.  How does this speak to you?  Do you have dreams/visionary insights/imaginary thought that impact your life too?

The Gospel:  John 20:19-31

This gospel reading is a culminating event in John’s gospel — shining forth with insight,

symbol, and challenge.  The community that gave us John’s gospel was experiencing much persecution, both from the Roman Empire that declared them illegal to the Jewish synagogues that declared them unwelcome.  What meaning do you find in:

            the locked doors

            ‘the fear of the Jews’ (the authorities)

Shalom, “Peace be with you,” Jesus’ greeting

Jesus breathing on them (Genesis 2: 7; Ezekiel 37)

the power of forgiveness

the binding that comes from the lack of forgiveness

the wounds of Jesus

Thomas’ experience of doubt and faith (See John 11: 16)?

It seems particularly important to John’s community to have Jesus assure those “who have not seen and have believed.”   Can you relate to Thomas?  When have doubts ever led you to greater faith?

Easter reality: Jesus lives; fear not!  This is the cornerstone of our faith – joyfully proclaimed, but not easy to live.  Fear can be crippling: fear of failure, fear of hurting or being hurt, fear of loss, fear of not knowing love, fear of pain, fear that what I know may not be so . . . Yet, a cowering band of men and women, hiding out from the authorities, suddenly became a powerful and public force for good  . . . What made the difference? In the risen Christ they found the end to fear . . . (Celebration, April, 2004)

At the end of this gospel story, John writes that he has told this story so that “you may come to believe . . . and that through this belief you may have life.”

But the word John uses for belief is not a noun – but a verb! In fact, John never uses the noun faith or belief; he uses the verb 98 times! John is not concerned with an inward system of thoughts, but an active commitment to trust in Jesus and in his word. This is what it means to be a disciple. It is the very reason the Father sent Jesus and why Jesus came: “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:15). Jesus’ whole life, ministry, death, and resurrection are oriented to this one outcome. This is why Jesus persisted in the face of conspiracy, rejection, abandonment – and it is why Jesus came that Easter morning to those who were locked in fear – and then again to Thomas. It is also why he continues to come to us offering us his peace.      (“Working with the Word”, Zimmerman, http://liturgy.slu.edu )  So that we might have life.

There are no auras, no blinding lights, no accompanying angels to identify Jesus. Only his wounds. Doesn’t our own faith-life have more wounds than auras, lights, angels? Like the disciples we have seen many wounds. Of course, our culture tries hard to hide wounds and wrinkles and scars. Yet, perhaps one of the greatest gifts we have to share with each other is our woundedness. Only those comfortable with wounds can enter into the wounded places of others. Like Jesus, we carry our wounds with us. One powerful witness to resurrection may be our willingness to embrace these wounds — not out of some maudlin, masochistic, woe-is-me pleasure. Rather, we need to be ‘wounded-healers’ for each other (Henri Nouwen). For “the blessing lies close to the wound” as an African saying proclaims. Here in the ‘sacred wounds’ of one another we may find the presence of the Living One who can and will breath new life into us all. That is how our faith saves us. (Celebration, April 2000)

Dusty Feet by Kris Rooney

On a day when Church made me feel sad and tired, I went into the sanctuary to pray. I noticed Jesus’ feet were dusty. Are you trying to tell me something, Jesus? “If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words – go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet, (Matthew 10: 13 – 14). I left more troubled than when I got there, having more questions instead of the answers I wanted.

Have you noticed that Jesus loves to do that? Peak curiousity rather than clarity? It’s probably for our own good, but it can be maddening. At least when we’re still searching. We hem and haw with Jesus bemused and listening. Is what made me sad and tired supposed to lead me to shake the dust off my feet and go outside? I don’t think I’m alone that sometimes Church does this to me. There are more lapsed Catholics than practicing. But leaving does not make me feel peaceful. I don’t want to shake the dust off. I want to know how the dust got there.

Literally, the dust got there because this statue of Jesus is in a corner and easily ignored on Cleaning Day. But for me, the dust was a distraction. And distractions happen a lot when it comes to Church, big and small. There can be so much dust. What is under the dust is Jesus. I can either let the dust distract me, or I can keep my eyes on what is underneath. What is underneath is Jesus…with his many, many faces. These many faces make this house worthy, at least for me. I need Jesus, and all the people in Church that become Him for me.

The next day, I brought my dust cloth and wood polish. Jesus is shiny and new again, as a statue and in my soul. They are both going to get dusty again. Church can be a dusty place, but it’s not about that. It is the underneath, the heart of Jesus that beats in all of us. Doing something about the dust brings peace upon me. I share the story in case it brings peace upon you too, and to let you know how grateful I am to be in a church with fellow dusters.

And if you are stuck with dusty feet, meaning there is something about Church that is distracting for you – big or small – please reach out to me (kafe@stkateriparish.org or 518-346-6137 X239). I would love to hear your story and try to help find a dust cloth.

Christ has no body now but yours.

No hands, no feet on earth but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world.

Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good.

Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world.

~St. Teresa of Avila

Commentary on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke

Luke  (22: 14 – 23: 56)

How does Jesus live God’s love and reconciliation to the end?  How is He obedient unto death?  Remember, the word obedient comes from a Latin word meaning to listen intently.)

Jesus did not suffer because suffering is good in itself. It is not the pain and death of Jesus that saves us.  It is the LOVE that led Him to suffer that saves us. IT WAS HIS PASSION. LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS.

From Richard J. Reichert’s book, Jesus, The Carpenter’s Son:

Why do we take a cross, a sign of such horror and torture, and make it the universal symbol of Christianity? What is the meaning of Jesus’ suffering? The answer is wrapped in the mystery of God’s love. It is also Jesus’ supreme act of trust in God, his ‘Abba.’ His death seemed to mean the failure and end to all Jesus had tried to do during his life and ministry. Yet, he was not a victim. He was a martyr: a witness to God’s love that was stronger than death. Unlike all the humans who had gone before him, Jesus trusted in God’s love regardless of the pain and failure he experienced. Other lessons we can learn from the cross:

1. The cross shows us just how cruel and destructive evil actually is. Evil kills and tortures, trying to destroy all that is love and truth.

2.  The cross also shows us the power of love, of good, of God. No matter how powerful evil can seem, it is false. God and his love are greater than ANY evil or pain. God redeems (sets free) and saves (brings to health).

John Dwyer, a Scripture scholar and professor from St. Bernard’s: The Cross is a great act of love . . . God accepts, affirms, sustains, and supports us. He loves us and takes his place with us, in and through Jesus. He has chosen to be with us in our brokenness. He has come to stay: “There is no dark corner of human existence which will ever be able to separate us from him again.” Even though we are sinners, God claims us as his own. Now suffering and death are signs of his presence and power. Although we are weak, vulnerable, and insecure, God’s love calls us from what kills to what brings forth life. This is why we “Proclaim the death of the Lord” until he comes. Then in love and truth, we will see him face to face.

From Preaching Resources, April 2007:

The Lucan Jesus invites us to share his human suffering, so that we might weep as he did at the brokenness of what is meant to be whole.  We are asked to share his passion – to enter into his sorrows as if they were our own because they are our own. Jesus suffered and died, not to spare us the burden of a wounded world but that we might see the wounds as our own and embrace and attend them with love. Only in Luke’s gospel does Jesus cry out: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” In the midst of darkness and pain he shows us that God’s love can still be there for us – nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 8: 39)

From Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

The passion narratives differ in form from the rest of the gospel materials. They are continuous narratives – not ‘pericopes’ – that is why we read the passion stories as whole units on Palm Sunday and during the Triduum. Each of the four evangelists have their own distinctive perspective on the passion. Mark emphasizes the isolation of Christ – betrayed, forsaken, denied – mocked and tortured – even bereft of a sense of his Father’s presence. Matthew brings out Christ’s royalty – a paradoxical royalty manifesting itself in humiliation. John’s gospel also has Jesus royal and in control – but with a glory that shines forth – visibly present. Luke seems to take a different look. He gives us the face of tragedy, pathos,  the story of a martyr who goes out to others in sympathy and forgiveness. These passion narratives are not meant to narrate what happened, but to interpret it as good news.

Insights on suffering from Cornelius Remple, Hospital chaplain:

1. Suffering is not God’s desire for us, but occurs in the process of life.

2. Suffering is not given to teach us something, but we do learn through it.

3. Suffering is not given to us to teach others something, but they, too, may learn through it.

4. Suffering does not occur because our faith is weak, but through it our faith may be strengthened.

 5. Suffering is not given to punish us, but it is sometimes the consequence of poor judgment.

6. Suffering is not God’s way to achieve the Divine purpose, but through suffering God’s purposes are sometimes achieved.

7. Suffering is not always to be avoided at all costs, but it is sometimes chosen.

8. Suffering can either destroy us or add meaning to life.

9. The will of God has more to do with how we respond to life than how life deals with us.

From Bill Huebsch’s book, A New Look at Grace:

Now it is said that Peter denied Jesus –

but maybe he more denied himself.

Remember how in the story all the others run off, but he follows,

even if from quite a distance. He was obviously afraid

as he stood by that charcoal fire. He was afraid, but at least he was there.

It was at that fire that Peter is asked if he is not one who was with Jesus:

“You are one of them, aren’t you?” Now Jesus promises that the truth will set us free, but right then it was not so for Peter. It was only making Peter miserable. But in his fear, he did not deny that Jesus was Jesus. He did not deny who Jesus had been. Peter denied himself: “I am not one of them,” he said. He denied himself three times. When we deny ourselves, we do deny the truth. Jesus told us: “I am the truth.” I am the truth about who you are . . . what you need . . . who you love . . . what you’ve done . . . I am the truth about you. So to deny the truth is to deny Jesus. Having faith in Jesus means having faith in the truth – having faith in myself . . . and the power of God’s love for me. (p.30-33+)