1st Reading – The Acts of the Apostles 9: 26-31
Luke uses the disbelief of the community to stress just how radical Saul’s/Paul’s transformation is. The Lord’s work is revealed through events that ‘upset’ human expectation. As always, Luke presents God as the ultimate Surprise. We as church can have difficulty keeping up with such a God – unless like the gospel suggests we stay rooted in God – and allow God to remain in us. (Birmingham, W& W Wkbk for Yr B, 384-385)
For Paul’s version of his conversion and later visit to Jerusalem, read Galatians 1:11-24.
Reflect on the friendship of Paul and Barnabas. The other apostles were afraid of Paul until Barnabas stood up for him. It was after this support that they began to see the change in Paul and be confident enough to send him on to Tarsus (possibly his hometown). Then we learn how the church is built up because of the Holy Spirit. Aren’t these related? When we free ourselves from our fear, it allows the Holy Spirit to work wonders, within us and through us. When we have spiritual friends to stand with us, we are strengthened and nourished in a deeply moving way. Mary DeTurris Poust in Walking Together says, “…when we focus our hearts, minds, and spirits on loving God and serving others….suddenly – or maybe not so suddenly – our innate human inclination to protect and preserve our own well-being starts to open up in a way that reveals a softness, a generosity, a desire to give rather than to get,” (p, 24-25). Do you find this to be true in your life?
2nd Reading – 1 John 3: 18-24
Although this letter can be repetitious and fragmented in many ways, today’s reading has an emerging theme: Christians can be assured of ‘salvation’ if they follow the command to love one another. Our two primary concerns as Christians must be to love the Lord and to love one another. Evidence of our relationship with God, God’s indwelling within us, will be how we live this in our everyday lives. (Birmingham, W& W Wkbk for Yr B, 386)
Our life of faith must bear fruit in love and service – words are empty shams and lies when our lives do not live out our words. Love is action that embodies the truth. But we are also assured that God is “greater than our hearts and all is known to God.” This is our hope. God know our sins and weaknesses but also our longings and intentions that go too often unfulfilled. If we can stay united to the Vine and trust this source of life – then all that happens can bring forth good fruit. As Mother Teresa once said , God does not demand our success; God wants our faithfulness. (Celebration, May 2000)
The Gospel – John 15: 1-8
The verb, which is translated “to abide with” or “to stay with” or “to remain”
is used more than 67 times in the Gospel and the Letters of John. Why do you think that this verb was so important? How is it important to you?
The people of Israel saw the vine and its branches as an apt symbol for themselves and their relationship with God. One of the ‘glories’ of the temple was a great golden vine upon the front of the Holy Place. Jesus saw in this image his own relationship with God and with us. Perhaps it was the one sturdy branch which gives life to so many branches or the intertwining of the branches, the gnarled and twisted way in which the vine grows, that spoke to Jesus. Or, perhaps he wanted to remind us that there are many pathways to growth: as united believers we need our share of curves, bumps and detours to produce the Spirit’s fruits. (Celebration, May, 2000)
John’s gospel in this passage is a profound expression of God’s love for his people. Jesus is the ‘sacrament’ of this love: the real, tangible, touchable expression of the Father’s love for us. In the person of Jesus of Nazareth we can come to know the face and care of this God of love. Jesus desires nothing more than that we be united in him as he is with the Father — to “remain in God and God in us.” Jesus is our way home. Jesus reveals God, and the church is called to reveal and be Jesus. We need to live and experience this love in our community, in the liturgy, in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. Love forgives a multitude of sins. M. Birmingham, W and W rkbk for Year B, 387-388
For a vine regular pruning is necessary in order to achieve maximum fruitfulness. Dead branches must be removed to preserve the vitality of the vine. As this pruning produces new tiny tender green tendrils they reach out in all directions from the vine. Gradually these tendrils develop into sturdy branches that allow the vine to flourish. Henri Nouwen says that this image of the ‘healthy need’ for pruning might help us to gain a new perspective on growth and suffering. With the ‘sap’ of Jesus’ Spirit flowing into us the painful rejections and loneliness and difficulties of our lives can become a means of growth as they prune away that which is not life-giving so that we grow closer to the One who is. (Celebration, May, 2000 & 2006)
Let us pray:
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Though we may struggle in our lives with fear or worry,
we are reminded that you have not left us alone.
For we follow in faith the call of the shepherd
whom you have sent for our hope and our strength.
Attune our minds to the sound of the shepherd’s voice.
Lead our steps in the path shown to us by the shepherd,
that we may know the strength of your outstretched arm
and enjoy the light of your presence forever. AMEN
1st Reading – The Acts of the Apostles 4: 8-12
Acts show us just how radically Jesus’ followers have been transformed by His risen presence. Before, fear ruled their behavior; now they are courageous. They boldly proclaim Christ crucified and risen; in that process they too enter into the cycle of dying and rising. Only the power of the risen Christ and his Spirit could bring about such a profound change in their lives. (Birmingham, W& W Workbook, 376)
The word for cornerstone in Greek could be more correctly translated as the head of a corner or the capstone or keystone. When building arches, Romans first constructed the two sides of the arch; the last stone to be set in place was the capstone which joined the sides assuring stability and endurance. This capstone was a powerful symbol for Christ for the early Christians. (Celebration, May 2003)
The name of a person is more than just an artificial ‘tag’ to tell one person from another. A name represents the fullness of a person. If we do something in someone’s name, we do it as that person would do it. As a Christian we are to act as Christ, to act in his name. To live this way is to find salvation (fullness of health). Salvation in the name of Jesus is not a ‘magic thing.’ It is a way of life. It is a way of love.
2nd Reading – 1 John 3: 1-2
We are children of God. By nature we are creatures of God, but it is by grace that we are children of God. It is like comparing paternity and fatherhood (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 73-74). It is one thing to be created, and something entirely endearing and intimate to family. We are called into this kind of relationship to God. How do we answer? How does God reveal Godself to you? When you sense this, do you feel more like a child of God? Take some prayerful time to sit with these words and mull the questions.
The Gospel– John 10: 11-18
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. (Birmingham, W&W Wkbk Yr B, 378- 379)
Let us reflect on this poem Messenger, by Mary Oliver:
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth
and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,
over and over, how it is that we live forever.
So I broke a cross. And I was in the tabernacle area of all places. I had a lot in my hands and was trying to set it all down so I could pray. Plop. Break. My first inclination was to quick get some super glue and fix it. I even wrote myself a note to remind myself to bring it into work:
But then I told my friend, Helen. She laughed and said to leave it. Sit with it for a while. So I did, and now you get to hear about it.
I sat in the tabernacle and stared at the crucifix on the wall. I thought about the Emmaus story, how Cleopas and the other disciple who is unnamed were walking and talking. Jesus started walking with them, but they didn’t know it was him. They started talking to him about how things didn’t go the way they planned. “We had different hopes.” Isn’t that truth? It still gets me. Don’t you know so many people, or experience yourself, having a hope of something going a certain way and it just doesn’t? It can be heart-breaking. It can be a game changer. It can be so hard to allow.
There I sat with my broken cross. I didn’t mean for it to happen, and I wanted to quickly fix it so nobody would ever know. Lots of things can’t be fixed though. We have to sit with the brokenness. we have to see where God might be in it. Like Cleopas and his friend, sometimes things don’t turn out the way we hope, but good still comes from it. They suddenly realized Jesus was with them the whole time. Even though all seemed lost and broken. And they ran back to share the good news.
So I’m going to leave my cross broken and sit with it some more. It’s a good reminder that I don’t have to have everything figured out and put together with super glue. Jesus is with me and all of us in our brokenness. By his grace, good comes anyway.
Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…
2nd Sunday of Easter B
It seems that Jesus wanted the theme of Eater to be peace. As love was the theme of the Last Supper in John’s Gospel (“No one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for their friends”) and as John emphasized victory in his depiction of the cross, the Easter story is about peace. Three times in the Gospel appearances to the disciples Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” I don’t think he is simply reassuring the apostles because they are freaking out as he just appeared on the other side of locked doors. Well maybe a little. But he also says it after they are already rejoicing. I think it is more than a greeting. I think it is a statement of fact and theology: peace is with them because he has risen from the dead.
Peace is with them because Jesus is…
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Fr. Bob’s Holy Thursday homily…
Holy Thursday 2018
Some parishes have very precise rules for who can receive communion and who cannot. We never have. But that is about to change right now.
Our first reading is about the Passover as the Last Supper was a Passover meal. It concerns the great liberation of the Jewish slaves from the clutches of Pharaoh in Egypt. God had heard their cries and noted their suffering and God was ready to act in a definitive and awful way to let his people go. For it seems the Lord is intent in our being free. Of course, God who created us in freedom and for freedom knows that without it, there can be no love. No one can be forced to love someone else. It was precisely that gift that was central to Jewish self-understanding that all Jews celebrated and still…
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