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 many years later about things that happened to others.
- Why Paul attended the Council: Luke (author of Acts) says he was send by the community in Antioch, while Paul says he went on his own initiative.
- 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.
- 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! 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 . . .
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?
When does God dwell among us? The gospel says it is when we love, keep Jesus’ word, and believe. Rather than three different tasks, these are really three descriptions of the same action – giving of one’s self – a self-sacrifice that leads to life. And, what does God bring when God dwells among us? God brings us his Holy Spirit to enlighten us, to empower us, to put our troubled, fearful hearts at peace. This is the Paschal Mystery again – a dying and rising experience . . . It is both challenging and life-giving as we respond to God’s indwelling as an intimate Friend who is always with us, never forsakes us, and offers us unending care and strength. From “Working with the Word”, http://liturgy.slu.edu
The word, “Advocate,” is sometimes translated “paraclete,” “counselor” or “comforter” – the Greek word used basically means “advocate,” 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!
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?
2nd Reading: Revelation 21: 1-5
“And the sea was no more” . . . For the ancients the sea was thought to be the abode of chaos,
darkness, death and foreboding. (Celebration, May, 2004)
Wm. Barclay, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2: The sea was a place of fear and evil. In Jewish dreams 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?
Pope Paul VI would also have us realize that this salvation that is so beautifully talked about is not just for some end-time – nor is it an otherworldly experience. Salvation must necessarily involve human advancement, development and liberation, here and now, as well as the hope of the future participation of all in the eternal reign of God. (Celebration, May 2004)
The Gospel: John 12: 31-35
This gospel passage comes right after Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and Judas’ leaves to plot his betrayal. Judas think 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.
Last week in Father Bob’s homily, 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.
Who would do this? Are we safe? What is happening in our world? These are questions we are all having after the actions that took place at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday. What is frustrating is that there are no real answers. We have to just be in this uncertain, uncomfortable place of not knowing. We do not know what the intent was in the bombings, at least not yet. Is this a national threat, or a local one? We want answers that aren’t there yet.
So we turn to our hearts since our heads can’t wrap around the tragedy. And some hearts are filled with anger. “What kind of sick person would hurt people like that?!” “They deserve to be punished!” Isn’t finding blame easier than simply being in sadness or disbelief? We can make that choice and go to that dark place, but that is not the choice God would like us to make. God chooses life for us. God wants to be one with us.
In our reading from the Gospel of John this Sunday, Jesus says, “No one can take them out of my hand,” and then, “The Father and I are one.” If we are in the hands of Jesus, who is one with the Father, then we are all in some way, one together. God works in every way to unite us together with him. That’s love. If we are called to be like Jesus, then we need to strive to be one with each other. Even those we don’t love or even like very much. Even, dare I say, our enemies.
I’m not there yet. I’m not sure if anyone ever is completely. How can we be one with someone who wants to intentional bomb and hurt someone? Richard Rohr says, “…our work and the only work of religion is to create unity wherever you go. If you are not creating unity, you are part of the problem and you are certainly not one of the children of God. You can come to mass as much as you want and come to communion as often as you can. But you are not in communion, ” (Hungry and You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C, Ed. Deacon J. Knipper, p. 108). Wow, that’s a tall order.
I’m not here to preach and say I have it all figured out. Clearly the opposite. I don’t know how we can be one with each other, especially when it’s hard. But Jesus tells us it has to do with love. He is our example. And I do believe that God delights in our trying. We can try to find unity in our world’s brokeness. Maybe that’s enough. Follow goodness, follow love, follow the light of Christ…keep trying for oneness with ourselves and with God.
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
Many important and vivid symbols and images are contained in this reading. And such comfort! What brings comfort to you?
From Preaching Resources, April 29, 2007:
The image of the Lamb has four different, yet related meanings. First, the lamb is the Passover Lamb that saved us from death. Second, the Lamb is the Suffering Servant – the one whose sufferings brought about goodness. The suffering was not without value. Third, this Lamb is also enthroned in heaven and is one with God. Fourth, this Lamb is a Shepherd; he leads us to springs of life-giving waters. Also, all those who have suffered like this Lamb did – this immense crowd from every nation and race – are now dressed in white robes (white is the color of victory; victorious Roman generals would parade in white robes) and they are waving palm branches, another sign of victory and peace. This is the fulfillment of the covenant of Abraham – what had begun as a pure tribal confederation is now a multicultural, multinational, multilingual multitude! What meaning do you find in all this?
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
What do you think about Jesus as the Good Shepherd? What else seems important to you about these words of Jesus’? “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)
Jesus is the ‘visible face’ of the invisible God. This is the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ life – that humans could know and love God. In the process, we humans also come to know and love each other and ourselves. We can know ourselves fully only in relating to others. We can control ourselves completely only in dealing with others. We can be ourselves truly only in union with others. We are hybrid creatures – a mixture of the solitary and the communal. We paradoxically only receive ourselves by giving ourselves – we find ourselves by losing ourselves. (Celebration, April , 2004) Doesn’t this feel like we are making ourselves pretty vulnerable? When we are honest with ourselves and put our true selves out there for the world to see, we are vulnerable. That is where God is. God is in our vulnerable places; God holds us in God’s hands there.
In case you missed (or would like to reflect more deeply on) Father Bob’s Easter homily…
Eater Sunday C
The women come to anoint Jesus, the crucified one; to give honor in death where none was given in the killing. They wonder how they will remove the stone but are met by a far great wonder. Two men, in dazzling white greet them and ask, “Why do you seek the living among the dead. He is not here, he has been raised.” They excitedly, with great hope try to decipher the news. On their way back, they are greeted by Jesus himself who asks them to convey the message that the Risen Jesus will precede them back to Galilee.
Now they hurry home with their hopes confirmed. They prepare to deliver the good news, the GOOD NEWS that will shape all of history. It all falls flat. The apostles all think it is nonsense. Why should they listen to a bunch of women? Now I cannot…
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1ST READING – ACTS 5: 27-32, 40-41
How is this reading pertinent to church and political life today? 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?
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!
This vision ‘warns’ us and encourages us by telling us that at the throne of God, things will look quite different from this world’s order. We need to be people who will rejoice at the surprising and ‘upside-down’ order of God’s love! (Celebration, April 2004; Exploring the Sunday Readings, April, 2001)
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 kids 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 perhaps Peter still clung to the 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?