1ST READING – ACTS 5: 27-32, 40-41
How is this reading pertinent to church and political life today? 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 relation 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 be 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?
Reading #1: Acts of the Apostles 5: 12-16
This book (by the same writer as Luke’s Gospel) is sort of a cultic biography. It is a rather idealized version of the early church – the first people who knew and lived the reality of the Risen Christ. It acts like a norm by which we are to measure our attempts at being church. What do you find important in this reading?
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)
In Near Eastern cultures of this time, a shadow was commonly thought of as an extension of the person. It was a time of ‘magical understanding’ rather than scientific. It was even thought that one might harm people by stabbing their shadow. Symbolically, it was often used in Hebrew scripture as a sign of protection – especially God’s protection as in Ps. 17:8: “Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Understanding God’s Word, April – June, 2007)
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?
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 more 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
Can you relate to Thomas? When have doubts ever led you to greater faith?
“To believe in the resurrection of Jesus means to undertake
the surprising risk of reckoning with Jesus Christ as a present reality.” (Meinrad Limbeck)
What does that statement mean to you? 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.”
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 )
How many of us are like Thomas? Our faith may be strong, but there are slivers of doubt that creep in now and then. It is an ancient problem and John gives us an honest scene to ponder. Here are the disciples of Jesus hiding behind locked doors — Afraid. They were not expecting the Risen Christ. Locked doors are not a welcoming gesture! But suddenly he is there – offering peace, forgiveness, new 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 or lights or 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)
1st Reading – Daniel 7: 13-14
We need to appreciate what has come before the passage we read today in order to know the wonder of this vision of the coming of the son of man before the throne of the Ancient One. The writer has been sharing a vision of four beasts who have emerged from the sea, the realm of evil and chaos. These beasts represent the various oppressive kingdoms that have tormented the Jewish people: 1st the lion with eagle’s wings and a human heart (the Babylon empire), 2nd a bear with three ribs (the Medes), 3rd a leopard with four heads and four wings (the Persian rule), and 4th a beast with huge feet and iron teeth who ate and trampled over everything. This fourth one was the Greek empire; its ten horns represented the ten kings of the Seleucid dynasty. This was the dynasty under which Daniel and his people were now suffering. Unlike the tyrants who emerged from the realm of evil (the sea), the Son of Man would come from heaven, from goodness, from God. The tyrants’ rule was cruel, but would exist for only a time. The Son of Man would rule over all peoples for all ages. (Preaching Resources, Nov. 23, 2003)
When this book was written, the author probably intended the image of the Son of Man to represent all the faithful people of the Lord – people whose trust in God would end in fulfillment and not disaster. As Christians we see in this passage a fore-seeing, a ‘vision’ of the final establishment of Christ’s rule. All things are not yet under our King’s feet – all do not follow his way of love. But that all will do so in the end is our Christian hope.
(Reginald Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu.)
2nd Reading – Revelation 1: 5-8
Here, too, is imagery of hope for those who are persecuted by an evil beast (Rome). Christ is given three titles. 1st Jesus is the faithful witness to the truth of God. Jesus’ very life, death and resurrection is the witness par excellence of God’s power of love and goodness. 2nd Jesus is called the first-born from the dead. He is Lord of the living and the dead: in resurrection he gains a victory over death; he is the first-born in whom the power and the honor of his father is fully invested. 3rd, Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth; he is affirmed as king and messiah. In all these ways we are assured that Jesus loves and frees us by making us his own – a nation of priests in God’s service, mediators of divine presence here on earth. In that way, his kingdom that is not of this world (the gospel) will transform this world. (Preaching Resources, Nov. 2003)
From John Kavanaugh, S.J. “The Word Encountered,” http://liturgy.slu.edu. :
Throughout the readings for this Sunday we ‘dream’ of kingship and regal splendor – we hope for an eternal Lord whose decrees are worthy of trust. Here in Revelation we find the “Alpha and Omega” – the One who is and who was and who is to come. This king is a liberator and lover. The lord of history who stands before the throne of God is not a lion. He is a lamb. In John’s gospel, we see that he is a servant-king, who washes his follower’s feet. In the face of Roman power, he is strangely grand and noble in his vulnerability and the utter truth of his being. He does not muster armies. He just invites. In Jesus’ kingdom people are drawn into a life of liberation, freed from false securities armed only with humility and truth. The human heart will never outgrow its longing for such a promised friend and rule. Something deep rises from within us in the face of its beauty. It awakens a long-lost ache to give everything else away for a cause so good and true . . . “When Love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?” (an old Shaker hymn)
The Gospel – John 18: 33b-37
In this conversation between Jesus and Pilate, John the Evangelist is offering to his readers a challenge. Jesus — faced with suffering and death at Roman hands — invites Pilate to listen and to respond to the truth. But Pilate just responds with his own question – a question for which he does not want an answer: “What is truth?” We, too, are asked through this story, “Will you respond to the truth?” Jesus and his kingdom do not originate from human scheming and political power. Jesus’ kingdom is not like Pilate’s. Pilate’s kingdom is one of domination, privilege, power and prestige. In Jesus’ kingdom, love and justice and service are present. Jesus’ kingdom comes into human history, enhancing it and leading it beyond itself . . . (Mary Birmingham, W&W for Year B, p.744)
From Henri Nouwen, written in his journal on the feast of Christ the King, 1995:
Today, “Christ is presented to us as the humbled king on trial for his life and as the glorious ruler of the universe. The greatest humiliation and the greatest victory come together in Christ today. How important it is for us to look at this humiliated and victorious Christ before the liturgical year begins. Today, Christ, humble and victorious, reminds us to stay close to him — close to him in humility, close to him in victory. We are called to live both aspects of Christ in our own daily lives. We are small and big, specks in the universe and the glory of God, little, fearful people and sons and daughters of the Lord of all creation.” (Preaching Resources, Nov., 2003)
1st Reading — The Book of Revelation (7: 2-4, 9 – 14)
This is the last book of the Bible. It abounds in unfamiliar and extravagant symbolism and language. This type of apocalyptic writing uses symbolic colors, metals, garments and numbers. It tries to show graphically how awful evil is and how much it offends the goodness of God. This book has its origin in a time of crisis and persecution, but it remains valid and meaningful for Christians of all time. In the midst of horrible evil and suffering, we are called to trust and remain faithful to Christ and to a God whose care is ever with us – and will be with us for all eternity. No matter what adversity or sacrifice we may endure as Christians, we will end in triumph over evil and pain. This is its enduring message. It is a message of hope and consolation and challenge for all who dare to believe. (The Catholic Answer Bible, Fireside Catholic Publishing, pp. 1372-1373)
Symbolism according to Word of God Lutheran Church for the Deaf in Iowa:
East: Or the place the sun rises. This is often connected somehow with God.
Seals: Hide the secrets of the future. Only God knows them and opens them.
144,000: All of God’s people. 12 means God’s people, and 10 means complete. Cubed (10x10x10) is holy and perfect. 144,000 (12x12x10x10x10) is really ALL of God’s people, holy and perfect.
White: Clean & pure, or victory & triumph.
Elders: There are 24 elders: 12 Old Testament and 12 New Testament
4 Living Creatures: Cherubim or seraphim, like God’s personal servants. They are very close to God and His throne and carry His word.
Throne: Where God is, the center of all His glory and power.
We often think of saints and martyrs as sort of ‘out-of-the-world’ holy people – far beyond our own experience or sense of goodness. But this Sunday should remind us that they were also ordinary folk like us. We should find encouragement along with the challenge. God doesn’t judge us only on our weakness but on our persevering in our willingness to give of ourselves for the good of others. The simple, everyday things we do will wash us in the blood of the lamb. Our smile is a saintly one. Our gesture of kindness is an expression of blessedness. Simple, kind, ordinary ways of giving of ourselves brings the kingdom of God’s love and goodness closer . . . (Living Liturgy, 2003, p.236)
2nd Reading – 1 John 3: 1-3
This letter is dealing with ‘false teaching’ from within the Christian church around the year 100 A.D. Some were denying the true humanity of Christ; some also misunderstood what it meant to be Christian. This reading is dealing with the second problem. Some people were claiming to be already perfected. They saw no need for moral effort. The writer is trying to encourage them not to rely on their own strength or ‘perfection’ – but on the goodness and love of the Father that Christ has given us. We are his children and must trust as children and live as children of this good and caring Father.
(Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu. )
But isn’t it true that when we are questioning our faith, our journey, our identity…we are also questioning where love is in that deep well in ourselves? We need to be reminded that God’s presence is here. God is with us. God’s love will never leave us. It is knit in our bones. And right now, not just when we think we “have it all together”. This letter from John speaks to that inner conflict we sometimes have.
The Gospel – Matthew 5: 1-12a
This Sermon on the Mount was “the concentrated memory of many heart to heart” talks that Jesus probably had with his disciples. This is what he would teach them. Matthew writes that Jesus “sat down” – the typical position of a rabbi when he was teaching. He also says: “He opened his mouth and taught them.” This Greek phrase meant two things: 1) it was used of a solemn, serious, and dignified utterance – often used when referring to the saying of an oracle. 2) It was also used when a person was really opening his heart and fully pouring out his mind – an intimate and profound teaching.
Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .
The Greek word for poor that is used here is ptochos. It means absolute and abject poverty. It describes the one who has nothing, a beggar. In Hebrew and Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke, this idea of poverty underwent this kind of development: it meant poor, and because they were poor they had no power, or help or influence or honor or prestige. Finally, because of all this, they had no hope except to put their whole trust in God. So the poor came to describe the one who was humble and totally reliant on God: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” (Ps. 34:6) See also Psalms 9:18, 35:10, 68:10, 107:41 to name just a few.
**We must be careful not to think that Jesus is saying that actual material poverty is a good thing. Jesus would never declare ‘blessed’ a state where people live in slums and have not enough to eat, and where health rots because conditions are all against it. That kind of poverty we as Christians are called to remove.
Blessed are they who mourn . . .
The word used here for mourning is the strongest word for grief in the Greek language. It is the passionate lament for a loved one. It is the kind of grief that cannot be hidden. It is a sorrow that calls for compassion from others – and that Jesus reassures us will come from God. God does not send ‘suffering’ – but God can help us cope with it – and even learn from it. Sorrow can ‘drive’ us to the deep things of life. We are also called by Jesus to be people who deeply care about others, who empathize and feel with them. As God became one of us in Jesus, so are we called to unite with others. It is right to be detached from things, but it is never right to be detached from people. We are asked by Jesus to care intensely about the sufferings and needs of others – to mourn over the evil and sickness and blindness in this world – to work with God to comfort and overcome the suffering where we can.
Blessed are the meek . . .
The Greek word for meek, praus, expressed a great ethical idea. It was the happy medium between too much and too little anger. It was also commonly used to describe an animal that had been domesticated, trained. It was also the opposite of pride and “lofty-heartedness’. It meant true humility. It is a quality that helps us to realize the truth about ourselves — that we need to learn and to be forgiven – that we need to be God-controlled: gentle towards others and open to God’s Holy Spirit.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst . . .
Few of us really know what it is to be hungry or thirsty. In our abundance, we rarely starve for food or die of thirst – even if we use these words often. Yet, this is the kind of hunger and thirst that Jesus is talking about –a starving and thirsting for goodness, for what is right. God does not care just about our achievements, but also about our dreams – our yearnings – our hungers. If we hunger and thirst for God’s goodness, Jesus tells us that God will supply our need.
Blessed are the merciful . . .
The Hebrew idea for mercy that Jesus is using means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel with his feelings. This is what God did in Jesus: God came to be one with us. Jesus is asking us to let God help us to reach out in the same way to others.
Blessed are the pure in heart (clean of heart) . . .
The Greek words for pure is katharos; it has a variety of meanings. It means clean, such as soiled clothes that have been washed clean. It was also used to describe corn or wheat that had been winnowed or sifted and cleansed of all its chaff. It also was often used to mean unadulterated or unmixed – such as a pure metal or wine. Jesus is calling us to be people who are sincerely who we are – not to be fake or have hidden agendas.
Blessed are the peacemakers . . .
The Hebrew idea of peace is expressed in the word shalom. It means everything which makes life good, full, healthy. It is the presence of all good things. We are called not just to be peace-lovers, but peace-makers. It can be that if we love peace in the wrong way, we may allow a dangerous or threatening situation to develop and not take any action to prevent it because we ‘just want peace and quiet.’ As peacemakers, we are not to pile up troubles for another day, but to do all we can to create life-giving situations. What this beatitude is demanding is that we do not passively accept things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things and the making of peace even when the way to peace is through struggle. We are to make the world a better place for all to live in – to help create right relationships with all others. Peacemakers are people in whose presence bitterness cannot live – people who bridge the gulfs and heal the broken – and sweeten the bitterness of life. Such people do God’s work.
Blessed are those who are persecuted . . .
Jesus is honest; being his follower is not going to be easy. But it is the way God will bless this world with God’s presence and strength. It is the way to abundant life. Jesus wants us to remember that despite persecution and hardship “Our help is from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 121)
(Wm. Barclay, The Daily Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1)
This feast day was originally one for the early martyrs, when there were so many that all the names could not be listed. This is long before there was anything official about canonization. Also, in the New Testament all baptized Christians were called saints, hagioi, holy ones. The Greek means, ‘called as saints.” (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu. ) Who or what do you think of on this day?
The Communion of Saints is an important reminder that our relationship with God and with Christ is both vertical and horizontal, and that our relationship is always mediated. “In the lives of those who shared in our humanity and yet were transformed into especially successful images of Christ, God vividly manifests to humankind his presence and his face. He speaks to us in them, and gives us a sign of his Kingdom, to which we are powerfully drawn . . . our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ.” (R. P. McBrien, Catholicism, Vol.II, 890; Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church)
“What Jesus wants from us is not admiration, but imitation . . .the incarnation is still going on and it is just as real and as radically physical as when Jesus of Nazareth, in the flesh, walked the dirt roads of Palestine.” (Ronald Rolheiser, Holy Longing, 74, 76)
Those in heaven live fully with God,
yet they remain united to us in love . . .
They pray for us.
They worship with us.
They lend us their spiritual strength in our weakness . . .
In the Eucharist, the whole communion of Christ,
living and dead,
gathers around the table . . .
we experience a profound closeness
with those who have gone before us . . .
It is a marvelous gathering of heaven and earth!
(Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,#49)
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 many years 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?
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!
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” . . . For the ancients the sea was thought to be the abode of chaos,
darkness, death and foreboding. (Celebration, May, 2004)
Wm. Barclay, The Revelation of John, Vol. 2: The sea was a place of fear and evil. In Jewish dreams 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 12: 31-35
This gospel passage comes right after Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and Judas’ leaves to plot his betrayal. Judas think 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.
Last week in Father Bob’s homily, 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.