1st Reading: Acts 7: 55 – 60
The Stephen narrative links his death with the beginning of the Gentile mission and introduces Saul (eventually Paul). Stephen is the church’s first martyr, and mimics Jesus’ death in how he commends his spirit (to Jesus this time and not the Father) and asks forgiveness of his enemies. Mark that Saul is one of the enemies that he is referring to, (R. Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 366). What truths speak to you in this reading? Do you feel Jesus’ presence with you when you are faced with a trial? Would you accept and surrender to persecution like Stephen did?
2nd Reading: Revelation 22: 12 – 14, 16 – 17, 20
Christ is the speaker in these oracles which bring the book of Revelation to a conclusion (Please note that the Bible begins with God creating the heavens and the earth and ends with Jesus saying he is coming…both messages of hope and newness of life.). The expectation of the Lord’s imminent return gives the words a sense of urgency. He will return as the judge rewarding and punishing according to conduct. He is the eternal One, here applying to himself the words used earlier by God himself (1:8), (p. 367).
The summons to “come” in verse 17 allude to the liturgical practice of summoning the righteous to the Eucharist. We are reminded that the summons into the liturgical assembly is an image of that final summons to the gathering of the holy ones of God, (R. Perkins’ Collegeville Bible Commentary, p. 84). Have you ever thought of Eucharist in this way? Do you feel the dynamic of being called by God and the need for a response?
Gospel: John 17: 20 – 26
This reading is Jesus’ prayer at his last meal with his disciples. For whom does Jesus pray, for what does Jesus pray, and why does Jesus pray for it? Jesus prays for those who would believe in him on the word of the disciples. He is praying that they may all be united with the same intimacy that Jesus knows with his Father. The reason for the prayer is to bring people to faith, so people will believe that the Father sent Jesus to the world. The unity that Christ desired for his disciples would be a result of the living presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit! This is something that John’s community in particular needed to hear (W&W, Birmingham, p. 312). As you reflect on Jesus’ prayer for you, what is most comforting to you, and what might you need to change in order to conform your life more closely to what Jesus wants for you?
It is easy to see the Trinity in Jesus’ prayer. We are being called to be one with God just as Father, Son and Spirit are one with each other. This oneness unites us with each other too. Jesus, as the incarnation…the Word made flesh…is the way. The cross is a symbol of our oneness…vertical connection with God and horizontal connection with each other. Michael Downey has more thoughts on this in Altogether Gift–
The incomprehensibility of God lies in the utter gratuity of life and love, in God’s constant coming as gift. God is inexhaustible Gift, Given and Gift/ing in and through love. This is who God is and how God is. Whatever may be known of this ineffable mystery, unfathomable because of the depth and prodigality of this life pouring itself forth in love, is known in and through the gift of the indwelling Spirit of God enabling us to recognize the Word made flesh whose life, passion, and Resurrection are the very disclosure of God’s mystery.
The relationality of the three bonded in the one Love spills over into a relationality with the world, thereby making it possible for human persons to enter into this communion in the one Love.
Human personhood is not something achieved in autonomy or independence or self-determination or self-sufficiency. Rather, human personhood is received in self-donation, being toward, always toward the other and others in relation.
Fr. Bob’s 5th Sunday of Easter homily…
5th Sunday of Easter C
Have you ever thought about what heaven would be like? Have you planned it out in your head? I would have every day be Niska Day (our great community celebration in Niskayuna) with everyone coming together and people calling out my name. The weather would be in the high sixties with just a bit of a breeze. And of course the Mets would win every game. It all sounds perfect except for one thing. If I had my perfect heaven, I would be all alone because it would be nobody else’s idea of perfection. After all, what would poor Rotterdamians and Glenvillites think if every day was Niska Day? And the other priests would be annoyed by all the attention I was getting. Some people like the weather a little hotter than I do. Although if you would like it much hotter, there is an…
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Just an added thought…
Have you ever noticed the chalice that is used in Mass causes a reflection? Some of the cups are colored or muted, but the gold cups in particular act as a mirror. When Father Bob holds it up during the consecration, I can see the congregation in the cup. When it is on the table, I can see the book of prayers and other vessels for Mass. And when I go up for communion and receive the cup, I see myself.
It reminds me of other mirrors. The mirror on my van reflects things as bigger than they actually are. The mirror in my hallway tells me whether I’m going to stick with the first outfit I put on or a later rendition. The mirror in the parish office is one way, so inside I can see people coming in but they can’t see me. Most of these mirrors have…
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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.
- 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?
From Living Liturgy, 2004, p. 128:
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!
Fr. Bob’s homily 4th Sunday of Easter…
4th Sunday of Easter C
There is not a lot in this Gospel but what is there matters. Jesus says his sheep know his voice. And I imagine sheep should know the voice of their shepherd. Otherwise, how do they get to where they need to go? We all know the voices of our shepherds for they have shaped us and made us who we are. I could never forget the voice of my mother or the sound of her laughter. Most of us are blessed by the voices of our shepherds, not just parents, but friends, teachers and coaches. Their voice makes an indelible impression hopefully of caring, generosity and life. But all voices have an impact and we know all too well that some cut, hurt, bully and bludgeon. What is the sound of our voice in the world? How is it heard?
When I was in…
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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” . . .
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?
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 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.
Anyone that knows the Auletta family knows that we are NY Yankee fans, through and through. But in 1986, when the NY Mets were in the World Series, my mom became a huge fan. No one knew why or how she really got interested, since she was not really even a baseball fan, more like a baseball “widow.” But we did know that it became a source of temporal joy for her in a time when things in our family were not going all that well. (That’s another story.) Little did we know, at the moment of this photo, that she’d only be physically with us for another two and a half years. Thirty years after she passed (May 3, 1989), I think I’m starting to understand why she became a fair-weathered fan.
I’m learning that sometimes you have to think out of the box to find your own happiness even when times are tough. I’m learning a lot about how our thoughts create our feelings, and what a difference in how I am feeling now. Negativity and complaining thoughts are not flooding my brain. When they sneak in, I’m choosing happy thoughts, at least half the time (Balance is important.). I miss my mom dearly, and I know that the great fun memories of our family time warm my heart. But what is so powerful is that I am still learning today by reflecting on a simple photo and what she’s still teaching me after all these years (Rooting for the underdog is so worth it.).
So yesterday, the 30th anniversary of her death, could have made me terribly sad. Even if I tear up, I am happy and lucky that I had the mom I had. I’m blessed knowing that I’m still learning from the wisdom she modeled for us 6 kids even though she’s not physically present. Thanks Mom! I know you’re watching.
1st Reading – Acts of the Apostles 13: 14, 43-52
Paul’s life and energy were focused on Jesus and 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, and 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 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.
Father Bob’s homily for 2nd Sunday of Easter…
2nd Sunday of Easter
Lent obviously culminates in Easter. But this Lent, we heard so much of mercy with the stories of the Prodigal Sin and the Woman Caught in Adultery, it seems there is a double culmination with our celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday. Indeed, the paschal mystery Jesus giving his life on the cross in love and his rising from the dead which proves that mercy can conquer even death. Mercy is more than kindness or forgiveness or compassion. Mercy is ultimately a person, Jesus Christ.
The German theologian Walter Kasper wrote a book entitled, The Name of God s Mercy for no other word can better describe the actions of God in this world. God did not need to create; it was an act of mercy. God mercifully gave us every beautiful things and adopted Israel to be the example and bearer of divine mercy to…
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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 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?