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 sent 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 (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!
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.
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?