Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…
Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ A
It was over 25 years ago and I had told my friends that I was thinking of entering the seminary when my friend Alissa gave me a book by the German write Ranier Marie Rilke. I was startled by the challenge to think of what you would die for, and then live for it. It is the kind of answer that you cannot think about. It needs to come to you in a flash and my answer surprised me. The Eucharist. Until that moment I had never known just how deeply I have been penetrated by the Eucharist. How Christ’s body and blood had formed me and moved me.
I have been extra reflective this weekend because John Cronin was ordained a priest in our diocese and every ordination encourages you to recall the heady…
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1st Reading: Jeremiah 20: 10-13
The “Confession of Jeremiah” reflects the interior dialogue of a prophet who gave his life as an authentic witness to God. Jeremiah suffered at the hands of his own colleagues. He was in great turmoil because he believed God ill-equipped him for his mission. He felt inadequate – that he was not up to the impossible task at hand. He felt duped and angry. Yet he knew that God had called him to the prophetic life. He was confident that the Lord remains faithful to those who are faithful to him. We are all invited into Jeremiah’s trusting hymn of grateful praise (Birmingham, W&W for Yr A, p. 429).
Jeremiah turns to God in prayer when he is overwhelmed and full of emotion, as most prophets do. Margaret Guenther in The Practice of Prayer says, “I enjoy listening to prophets when they say I like to hear (that is, when their target is someone other than me), but I prefer to tune them out when they threaten my comfort. Prophets can expect to be unpopular, to be opposed and even killed if they persist in their candor,” (p. 36). Consider the 2 men who were killed in Portland, OR when they tried to stop an anti-Muslim rant. Their deaths saved the lives of the 2 women being bullied. They are modern day prophets for us in their actions.
Who are our persecutors? Does God give us strength in times of struggle? How do you feel the Lord with you? What helps us persist in trusting the Lord?
2nd Reading: Romans 5: 12-15
When trying to understand Paul here, it is important to understand the Jewish notion of “corporate personality” – sort of like our modern idea of an ecosystem in which everything in that system is mutually interdependent. Paul is talking about the social effects of evil – death coming to all of us as we have sinned “in Adam.” This does not mean that Adam introduced into human life a hereditary trait that is henceforth transmitted biologically. It is more that we have all sinned in Adam because we have all sinned like Adam. Adam is that insecure, false, needy self that we are all like without Christ.
Death is also not to be seen in some crude mechanical way as a punishment for sin. The awful death that Paul is talking about is separation from God; such separation is sin, a turning away from the very source of life. Physical death is a biological inevitability in an imperfect world – but it is also the final revelation of our utter aloneness before the forces of life and death. Without Christ, we are hopeless. But Paul is reassuring us that God’s grace is much greater than our sin, our separation. With faith in Christ, we can overcome the chasm . . .
From Celebration, June, 2002 and R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu.
Sin can come in through a very small door – a moment of vanity, a selfish choice, an avoidance of compassion. It doesn’t take much energy. Sin can seem so easy; the failure to love can be ‘second nature’ to us – but it is our ‘false nature.’ Our first nature is to love and be loved. We can become insensitive, insecure, walking around in a fog of self-centeredness. But Jesus offers us another way – another door – a door wide enough to bring in love and life. Sin may give us many excuses to say no, but love makes us yearn to say yes. (Exploring the Sunday Readings, June, 1999)
The Gospel: Matthew 10: 26-33
In Matthew 10: 16, Jesus says, “I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves.” Jesus knew that the way of discipleship is and was a very countercultural way of life. Yet, in today’s passage he also assures us of God’s loving concern with every aspect of our being – even the hairs on our heads. The problem may be with us. We hold records of everything that can and does go wrong with our frail mortality. We cling to our insecurity and worry, instead of living fully a life of faith and hope. But when we begin to speak the truth of God’s love, its certainty grows in us. When we act on this truth, we are brought into Christ’s marvelous light.
(Exploring the Sunday Readings, June, 1999)
Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), a professor at the Union Theological Union in New York once wrote: “Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable; and most of all, fear put hopelessness at the heart of life, while faith rejoices in its God.” (Celebration, June, 2002)
Sparrows are what bird-watchers call ‘junk birds’ – birds so plentiful that them seem uninteresting, unworthy of much attention. But Jesus assures us that God cares for such things – and even cares for us unworthy humans. Jesus urges
1st Reading: Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 14-16
Underline what words strike you as you read this pericope. Consider your own journeying with God…how has God been present with you, especially in difficulty? How have you been fed? What do you think of the words “let you be afflicted”? Do you sometimes forget where God works in your life?
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17
Living Liturgy, Year A, states: “It is a misunderstanding to conceive of Communion as a privatized moment between ‘Jesus and me.’ Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ compels communion with one another.” (2002, p. 161) What do you see in this reading to confirm this statement?
Look around you at communion time and pray for all of those you are one with: the older one with a walker, the young dude in a leather jacket, the one whose nose is pierced, the elderly gentle grandfather, the young mother in need of sleep, the one with strangely colored hair, the carpenter with calloused hands and splintered nails. Communion means more than accepting the host in our hands. It means accepting our relationship with, even our responsibility toward, all those people. Each of us in the communion line will hear the words, “Body of Christ,” and each of us needs to confirm being a part of that Body with an “Amen” – “So be it.” (“Exploring the Sunday Readings,” June, 1999, Cycle A)
The Gospel — John 6: 51-58
The Lord’s supper is:
1) a memorial of Jesus’ death and resurrection, a covenant sacrifice
2) a continuation of Jesus’ earthly and post-resurrection meals in which the messianic banquet is anticipated
3) a ritual extension of Jesus’ Incarnation.
The bread and wine become the living body and blood of Christ in those who receive him into their lives. John’s gospel is emphasizing this idea. Through this Living Bread, Christ’s ongoing presence and life continue in the community – in the world.
Raymond Brown says that this passage is a profound proclamation of sacramental and Eucharistic theology. The living bread given by Christ is his own flesh. In ancient times flesh was understood to mean the totality of the person. John’s focus is on this flesh, the Word made flesh. The totality of Christ’s person, his complete life-force (blood), is the only food that gives life, an eternal life. The coming of Christ into the world is the supreme act of redemption.
“If Baptism gives us that life which the Father shares with the Son, then the Eucharist is food nourishing it.” Jesus promises to dwell within the hearts of believers – to abide within them. A mutual indwelling happens between Jesus and his disciples. This incredible act of intimacy (INTO-ME-SEE) with Jesus opens the door to life – eternal life. Flesh (sarx) is that which of itself leads to death. In Jesus this flesh, sarx, is transformed, redeemed, set free from natural destruction by the Spirit of Jesus. (Birmingham, W&W Wkbk Year A, p.607)
Life is the most precious thing we have. To share one’s life, then, is to share with another our deepest “I am.” This is how we remain in each other – through self-giving and, yes, participating in the common Meal. Jesus’ gift of life to us through our participation in his Body and Blood is not simply for our own sakes, but also for the sake of others. To receive this gift of life is to be compelled to give this gift to others. Giving of one’s life-force, one’s blood, is not so beyond our own human experience either. Every time a mother gives birth, she sheds her blood. Family members readily give blood for the transfusion of a loved one. Our public blood banks are testimony to the generous giving of blood by strangers to strangers. Heroes sometimes shed their blood trying to help or protect another. Living Liturgy, 2002, p. 161
From St. Irenaeus on the sacraments, written 220AD:
“For as the bread, which comes from the earth, receives the invocation of God, and then it is no longer common bread but Eucharist, consists of 2 things, an earthly and a heavenly; so our bodies, after partaking of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the eternal resurrection.”
And Tertullian, another ancient theologian:
“The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ that the soul may be fattened on God.”
And St. Cyril of Jerusalem:
“And while the moisture is still on your lips, touch them with your hands, and sanctify your eyes and forehead and the rest of your organs of sense. Then wait for the prayer, and give thanks to God who has counted you worthy of admission to those great mysteries.”
From The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church, Eugene LaVerdiere:
“For John, the event is viewed primarily from the point of view of Christ’s personal presence, sustaining, challenging, nourishing, and uniting the Church on its journey to the Father…(p. 113) It is as the Word made flesh that Jesus is glorified, that the Father is present in him and that he reveals the Father. It is as the Word made flesh that Jesus dies, rose again, is exalted, and is now present to us in sacrament (p. 117).”
From Henri Nouwen in his book With Burning Hearts, p. 34-35; 80-97:
The word, “Eucharist” means literally “act of thanksgiving.” To celebrate Eucharist and to live a Eucharistic life has everything to do with gratitude. Living Eucharistically is living life as a gift . . . The great mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist is precisely that through mourning our losses we come to know life as a gift. The beauty and preciousness of life is intimately connected with its fragility and mortality.
In Eucharist we take the ‘bread and the wine’ of our lives and discover the ‘flesh and the blood’ of the Risen One: we take, bless, break and give; Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives. Jesus is the fullness of the God who from the beginning of time has desired to enter into communion with us. Communion is what God wants and what we want, need. It is the deepest cry of God’s and our heart . . . and communion creates community. The God-in-us is now able to see the God-in-others. We begin to glimpse the ongoing incarnation of God – and we participate with gratitude and joy.
Father Bob’s Trinity homily…
Most Holy Trinity A
On this first beautiful and summery day, I thought nothing could be more beneficial than an overly theological homily!
Couched in the second reading is a very familiar phrase as Saint Paul greets the Corinthians in his second letter. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” I congratulate all of you for not saying “And in your Spirit” as a response to the second reading! Yet, this phrase, with the slight correction of the recent liturgical translation of fellowship to communion, represents a staggering insight into the Trinity. And through this insight, we might discover that what seems the most theoretical and foreign of doctrines, the Trinity, provides the greatest revelation of our character and humanity.
Let us begin where everything began. The Love of God. Love is the…
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Father Bob’s Pentecost homily…
Pentecost A 2017
I usually think of Pentecost in terms of unity and commonality and it is a powerful symbol of such. After all, those who speak many languages are able to hear St. Peter’s speech in their own language. The Holy Spirit creates the Body of Christ and only those who belong to the Body can claim, “Jesus is Lord.” It is the birthday of the church and a celebration of our oneness in Christ.
Yet, there is also a particular and intimately personal aspect of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul reminds us of the different gifts, service and workings that come from the same Holy Spirit, but are received in us differently. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
So not only did Jesus breathe on all the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit, each one of them received it, just as…
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1ST READING: ACTS 2: 1-11
Luke is telling us this Pentecost story in such a way as to remind us of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist had promised that the Messiah would baptize “with the holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3: 16). Here we see that the fire comes in tongues giving courage and meaning and understanding to the gift of speech. In many ways this story is the reversal of the Babel story in Genesis 11: 1-9. At Babel, sin (self-importance and false pride) had brought confusion and defeat. Now with the power of God’s Holy Spirit we see a new universal outreach characterized by mutual understanding and respect. Also where there was fear and inaction, there is now new energy and boldness that is rooted in faith in the God of Jesus. This Holy Spirit is still available today; we also need this ability to understand each other despite differences. Luke’s writing to encourage us to be open to the ongoing process of transformation that is the Spirit! (Birmingham, W&W, p. 336; Celebration, May2002)
Every essential step in Acts of how witness was borne to Christ from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth is guided by the Spirit, whose presence becomes obvious at great moments where the human agents would otherwise be hesitant or choose wrongly (R. Brown, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind, p. 68). Isn’t this profoundly hopeful and encouraging?
2ND READING: 1 CORINTHIANS 12: 3-13
In Corinth, they seemed to feel that ‘spectacular’ gifts such as speaking in strange tongues were more impressive gifts. Those who did not display such wonder-filled gifts were seen as inferior. Paul is trying to help them set their priorities straight. He wants to ground them in the reality that it is Jesus, the crucified one, who is called Lord. The Spirit of this Jesus gives us gifts that are for the good of all. No one gift is to be prized over another – except perhaps love (1 Cor. 13). Through baptism, we are one body – the body of Christ. Through Eucharist we “drink of the one Spirit” — together we are to nourish and build up the entire body that is the very presence of Jesus in the world. (Birmingham, W&W, p. 336)
The term ‘body’ (soma, in Greek) means the whole person – the whole human being as he lives in relationship with and for others – the way we are REAL for each other. Paul is using the metaphor in 2 ways:
- As a body has different parts yet is one body, so are we.
- We, as church, are a living organism: Christ’s body in the world. We derive our life from Jesus; and, it is the way Jesus remains involved in our history, relating to us – to each other.
As we experience and LIVE Jesus’ presence in His Word and Eucharist, we are to BE that presence in the world. The Spirit is both the source of our unity AND our diversity. Our hope, our consolation, our strength and challenge is in the Spirit who is God-with-us. (from notes taken from John Dwyer’s talks on this subject)
Martin Luther’s teaching on the priesthood of all believers emphasizes that each Christian has a vocation, a calling, by virtue of their standing or office in the world. It is through faith, for Luther, that one accepts one’s divinely appointed standing and lives out that faith through the good works of daily life, whether as a cobbler, painter, spouse, or son. Each of these paths gives glory to God…For work to be a calling means it is recognized as both a gift and a response. It is more than a desire to do something for others; it is felt as an imperative that I must do this, regardless of how difficult. In that sense work is experienced as a calling that brings both joy and fulfillment. (Cahalan, K., Introducing the Practice of Ministry, p. 27).
THE GOSPEL: JOHN 20: 19-23
From The Vatican II Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, (translated by Bill Huebsch, chapter one):
‘This Spirit is a fountain of living water springing up to life eternal! . . .
Working through the ordinary lives of us all,
the Spirit gives the Church everything it needs . . .
Praying through the heart of the faithful and dwelling in us as in a temple,
The Spirit unifies us all in love . . .
Life in this church is sometimes messy because the Church includes everyone
with all their various talents and desires.
We would end up in a mess with all this if we did not have Christ to lead us. . .
Christ wants us to love each other, to endure sorrow with one another,
to share happiness, to forgive each other freely,
all in a family-like lifestyle.
Therefore, whoever leads us as the Church toward a community of love . . .
real love lived out in everyday life, that person speaks for Christ.’
This in-between-time is a time for a “significant pause” – a pause that refreshes!
The Spirit is always a gift freely given, but also ‘waited upon’ – constantly sought anew in prayer. This Spirit is the powerful, tangible presence of the Risen Christ who strengthens us to work for the good of all. The Spirit is not given to answer our every manipulative request. The Spirit is the gratuitous, unmerited gift of God’s love and action in our lives. In order to welcome this Spirit and be ready to respond, we are called to prayer and to self-sacrificing discipleship. (M Birmingham, W& W Workbook for Year A, p. 330)
1st Reading: Acts 1: 12-14
Jesus was “taken up to heaven”. . . What is ‘heaven’ to you?
The eleven, so important to Luke’s gospel, are named, as is Mary the mother of Jesus. This is an indication of the parallel between the Spirit’s overshadowing of Mary at the conception of Jesus, and the Spirit’s overshadowing her and the other disciples at the birth of the Church. There is great significance in the coming together of Jesus’ followers, not only as individuals but also as one body. (Foundations in Faith, p. 101) What experiences of gathering together with family and friends during times of confusion or anticipation have you had? Why was it important to be together…what was the result of your coming together?
Prayer is a part of all of our readings today. Since the twelve play such a key role as witnesses to Jesus’ ministry and the subsequent gospel proclamation, Luke sees it as essential that they be at full complement before the coming of the Spirit. Mary, Jesus’ mother is the living personification of faith, the “brothers” of Jesus and the women (who were probably at the crucifixion) are all gathered together to pray (R. Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p. 357). Margaret Guenther says, “…there is no such thing as a private Christian spirituality. Christian spirituality is a family affair: it is lived in the midst of relationships with God and those around us,” (The Practice of Prayer, p. 10). What does prayer do for you?
2nd Reading: 1 Peter 4: 13-16
In Kittel’s Theological Dictionary, it states: Greek, doxa (glory) – Hebrew, kabod, have these connotations: honor, splendor, divine radiance, something of great importance, that which reveals God’s very nature. It is God’s self-manifestation; it is what shows forth God’s impressiveness, importance, splendor! How is this connected to the “sufferings of Christ” and our sufferings? This reading is a warning about coming hardship and trials. As Christ was triumphant in the face of the horror of the cross, so we must trust that any of our trials and sufferings are transitory and are as nothing compared to the goodness and glory of God’s love for us. Any ‘dying’ that we must do is to be seen as an opportunity to share more fully in the paschal mystery of eternal life – a gift we have now and for ever more. (Living Liturgy, Year A, 2004 & M. Birmingham, Word and Worship Wbk. For Yr. A, p. 329)
Rob Bell, in his podcast series on Alternative Wisdom:
- Pre-conventional Wisdom: unaware that there’s a way things are usually done, against the rules
- Conventional Wisdom: the rules, how things are done
- Post-conventional Wisdom: mindful bending or application of the rules, resisting or moving beyond rules because of reasons
You have to learn conventional wisdom before you can get to post-conventional. It’s the wisdom after wisdom. This is what Peter is talking about. Jesus showed us that he suffered because of evil in the world. If we want to be like Jesus, then we might have to as well. But it is all for good. Knowing that can bring us peace and glorifies God. It is a deep knowing that abides with us now. It is the other side of knowing…does that make sense? How can you incorporate that in your life?
The Gospel: John 17: 1-11
What does it mean that Jesus “revealed God’s name”? Kittel states: “It is a common belief of antiquity that the name is not just a label, but part of the personality of the one who bears it . . .the name carries will and power. The “name conjures up the person” carrying a real sense of presence and power. (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged, 694)
Another time to ponder Ronald Rolheiser’s discussion of the Paschal Mystery in The Holy Longing, chapter 7:
The Paschal Mystery is a cycle for rebirth; this is what Jesus taught and lived.
There are two kinds of death:
Terminal death — a death that ends life and ends possibilities.
Paschal death – a death that while ending one kind of life, opens the person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life.
There are two kinds of life:
Resuscitated life – when one is restored to a former life and health.
Resurrected life – this is an entirely new way of life. Jesus did not get his old life back. He received a new life – a richer life and one within which he would not have to die again.
Jesus gives us a pattern in which with his help we, too, can experience this Paschal Mystery – throughout our lives – in many little deaths and risings – until someday we enter into the ultimate experience of this mystery – which is really God’s love for us – calling us always to fully experience his eternal love and life.
- Good Friday . . . “the loss of life – real death”
- Easter Sunday . . . “the reception of new life”
- The Forty Days . . . “a time for readjustment to the new and for grieving the old”
- Ascension . . . “letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to cling”
- Pentecost . . .”the reception of new spirit for the new life that one is already living”
In more common language of our day this means:
- “Name your deaths”
- “Claim your births”
- “Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality”
- “Do not cling to the old, let it ascend and give you its blessing”
- “Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living”
Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…
5th Sunday of Easter A
I have been following St. Thomas a lot this year. We heard him showing great courage when Jesus decides to return to Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead. As all his enemies are waiting for Jesus there, he says to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.” Then we witnessed most famously his denial of the resurrection after the others have seen the risen Lord. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” When you put those two statements together, you realize that Thomas was neither primarily brave nor doubtful. He is a realist. So it is not surprising as Jesus gives his speech to the disciples at the Last Supper, saying, “Do not let your hearts be…
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1st Reading: Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17
Just before this passage Luke tells us in Acts, that Stephen was stoned and that a severe persecution broke out upon the church in Jerusalem. Persecution did to the church what wind does to seed; it scattered it, and it did produce a greater harvest. As this church was scattered like a farmer’s seed, it carried with it the goodness of God’s Word and Love to be sown in every welcoming heart. Here we see Philip, a devout Jewish Christian, offering the Samaritans (previously seen as deviant, tainted, unclean enemies) this Good News of God’s love and truth. His words of love were matched by works of love, and so healing and joy abounded. Evil was overcome, and abundant life was begun. (Celebration, May 1999)
When true faith and authentic Christianity is lived, joy is generated. Luke is stressing that this out-reach was also authentically a part of the Jerusalem church. This calling of Peter and John to come to Samaria just confirms the right and goodness of this missionary movement. It is not correct to see this as an early separation of baptism and confirmation. Such a separation was not known in the early church. In fact, Luke even has the Holy Spirit come upon believers before baptism as in the case of Cornelius and his household (10:44-48). Also, in Acts 2:38 Luke clearly states that the Spirit is received by those who are baptized. (Celebration, May, 2002, & Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
What is it to be “of one accord”? The unity and clarity of thought that is described in this reading is palatable. Remember this when we get to our next reading…
2nd Reading: 1 Peter 3: 15-18
It wasn’t and isn’t easy to be Christian; not only do we have to overcome our own prejudices and blind-spots (with the help of Spirit) – but we can be threatened at times by persecution, or at least by misunderstanding and criticism. The community for which this letter was written was being increasingly threatened. On the local level they were despised as evildoers and challengers to sacredly-held codes and values (2:12). Believers were defamed (3:16) vilified (4:4), and insulted (4:14). Christians were seen as lacking in patriotism; when they refused to participate in the feasts of Roman gods and the cult of the emperor, they were seen as traitors. Yet, they were to give back good for any evil; they were to live Jesus’ law of love – ‘in season and out of season’. Their words of love needed to be lived even in the midst of hatred and confusion. The newly baptized are being warned that they have not been promised a ‘rose garden’. Like Jesus, when crosses come, they must pick them up with love and carry on. So must we. (Celebration, May, 2002, & Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
Hans Kung, a great theologian and scholar, who has been both applauded by many and silenced by his own church, despite his struggles gives testimony to the Spirit of Jesus that is alive in him. He says: “Why do I remain committed? I know what I can hold on to because I believe in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who is alive today, who is the Spirit of God himself, who is the Holy Spirit. This living Spirit enables me and countless others to be truly human; not only to live but also to die – because in everything, both positive and negative, in all happiness and unhappiness, we are sustained by God.” To have this awareness – to believe this Good News – is to have salvation: fullness of life. (Celebration, May, 2002)
This quote by Hans Kung points to the “of one accord” from our 1st reading and nods in this 2nd reading (“sanctify” from Latin, to make holy and “conscience clear”). These words illustrate a point that being closer to God and inviting Spirit to work in our lives involves intention and openness. Richard Rohr in The Naked Now says, “The mind wants a job and loves to process things. The key to stopping this game is, quite simply, peace, silence, or stillness…stop labeling, ranking, and categorizing people and things and just see them…when this happens to you, you are now a living paradox: at one and the same time utterly connected to everybody else in a compassionate and caring way, and absolutely free to be your own self.” Do you hear it?
Remember the word flesh, “sarx”, is the whole person as s/he lives wounded, broken and attention-seeking (little self that is insecure and trapped). Spirit, “Pneuma”, is the whole person when knowing and trusting God (the true, big self that responds to God’s love). We are living into our baptism as we live more in Spirit!
The Gospel: John 14: 15-21
Recall Deacon Ron’s homily on Spirit as our spiritual GPS. We must only believe and trust in Spirit to show us the way, or re-calculate when we stray!
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 Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to enlighten us, to empower us, to put our troubled, fearful hearts at work and at peace. What does this mean to you?
From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
The word, “Advocate,” is sometimes translated “paraclete,” “counselor” or “comforter” – the Greek word 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
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!
Some thoughts from Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium:
“Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!” (p. 3)
“Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.” (p. 4)
“Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (p. 4 quoting, Pope Benedict XVI)
“An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice.” (p. 8)
1ST READING: ACTS 6: 1-7
Hellenists were congregations of Diaspora Jews (those who had lived outside the Holy Land) but returned to Jerusalem. They were more open to new ideas and less rigid in regard to ritual law than their fellow Jews. Because of this, they were despised and persecuted by the non-Christian Jews, and were eventually driven out of Jerusalem. It was providential because it ended up spreading the new faith (Church History, J. Dwyer. P. 25-27).
St. Stephen is the patron saint of deacons. This is one of the primary roles of deacons to bring alms to the widows. The apostles are beginning to organize themselves. The laying on of hands suggests the idea of being called into formal service. The apostles listened to the needs of the people and responded. How do our deacons do this today?
From Celebration, April 2005: Church is not a monarchy, but a community. Note verse 5: “The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen” . . . Some conclusions from this text about leadership in the church:
* leadership within the church arises from the community’s need
* leadership arises from ‘below’, not from ‘above’
2ND READING: 1 PETER 2: 4-9
It is likely that this reading is taken from an early homily, perhaps given as instruction for candidates for baptism (W&W, Birmingham, p.308). This reading calls us. How does it call you?
The early Christians did not ‘build’ a church until the 4th century; they met in homes and, at times, catacombs – What can we learn from their idea of church?
“chosen race” – “royal priesthood” – “holy (consecrated) nation” What does each mean for you? How does each move us from darkness into God’s light? Christians, the living stones, are joined by Christ himself who is the cornerstone – the foundation that supports the living stones. In the Old Testament no one was to approach the rock of Sinai, under penalty of death. Contrast that with Jesus, the cornerstone, who invites his people to come close to him. He has created something new and wonderful. He has gathered his living stones and formed them into a new people, a new religion (W&W, Birminham, p. 308).
From Celebration, April 2005:
At Vatican II, it was reaffirmed that “the Church is all the people of God.” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, #9) It overturned the pyramid model, stressing the privileges and responsibilities of all baptized believers. Hans Kung says that “Laypersons do not belong to the Church, nor do they have a role in the Church. Rather, through baptism, they are Church.” Vatican II states: “All are endowed with charisms for the upbuilding of the Church and all share in the threefold office of Christ: priestly, prophetical, and royal. Among all the people of Christ, there is a true equality, a genuine freedom, a profound dignity, a global responsibility, a sense of vocation and a personal union with Christ and his mission” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, #30-33,37)
THE GOSPEL: JOHN 14: 1-12
Remember, these words come before the crucifixion in John’s gospel.
Yet, they are truly a life-giving Easter message.
Jesus promises that he is going “to prepare a place for you.” William Barclay explains that this means that Jesus will act as our prodromoi which means a forerunner, a scout . . . it was also used at the time to refer to the small pilot boat sent ahead of great ships to lead them through a “dangerous or difficult harbor.” Jesus tells us that he will go ahead, find a path, and secure our passage from death to life. He just asks us to trust – to “have faith in this.” (Celebration, April 2005)
= THE WAY (the way beyond dead ends): the God we find in Jesus is a faithful God of new beginnings
= THE TRUTH: that which is real, that which will set us free (Jn 8:32)
=AND THE LIFE – that which nurtures, cares, labors, grows, creates, loves
From Mary Birmingham: Only through self-giving love can human beings become their most authentic selves. We were created to love. Jesus shows us what that means. If we live the love that Jesus lived, we will know God, who Is Love. . . the Christians of John’s community were beginning to feel the sting of religious prejudice. They were expelled from the synagogue. The synagogue has been heart and hearth to them. For Yahweh’s chosen people, it was the place of encounter with God. How would they now encounter God? Jesus encouraged them and us, ‘If you know me, you know God.’” ( Word and Worship Workbook, Year A, p..311)
From Celebrations, April, 2002:
There is no secret word, no magic potion, no hidden wisdom. If there were, Jesus would surely have found it. We must learn to read the truth between the lies. Jesus is not the Solution; He is the Way. And the best he can give us is some direction along the way.