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?
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)
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 (email@example.com 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
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+)