6th Sunday of Easter – 2020

6th Sunday of Easter – 2020

Easter6A20.    Acts of the Apostles  8:5-8, 14-17.

It appears that because of a persecution in Jerusalem led by Saul, Philip moves on and goes to evangelize Samaria.  The miracles that Philip performed helped the Samaritans to accept Jesus as the Messiah with great joy.  Before they had “been baptized only in the name of the Lord Jesus” but that was previous to Pentecost.  So they had not received the fullness of baptism, the Holy Spirit.  Peter and John were sent by the apostles in Jerusalem to bring the Holy Spirit to them.

John 14:15-21.  “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”   The commandments he is speaking of are not the Ten Commandments given to Moses but rather ‘loving Jesus’ means that we love his will and will do whatever he wants of us. After all, his will is an expression of his love for us. To love God means to love him as one who is infinitely supreme and superior to everything and anyone else.  To love God is to respect who he is and, in an incredibly stark contrast to him, who we are. We love him as our God over us and we love his love for us, who only amount to anything because of his love for us and our living in his love for us.  “And whoever loves me will beloved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”  1 Peter 1:8a,b: says: “Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him.”  Learning to live with Jesus daily is a wonderful experience that is at the same time mystical, spiritual and real.  Believe; he makes it happen.

The Holy Spirit he gives us is always with us and in us.  Not only is the Spiritin us; but Jesus says of himself that he will be in us and we will be in him.  In the Trinity, the Father and the Son are in the Spirit; the Spirit and the Son in the Father, and the Son in the Father and the Spirit.  In our own lowly way the Three Persons who are One God is inviting us to be a loved member of the Divine Trinitarian Family, where God’s love is our life.

1 Peter 3:15-18.   “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.”  “Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit.”  Jesus, both human and divine, surrendered his human life in the flesh to death; but that humanness rose from death to a spiritual life that carried him eternally beyond anything that is human.  In our world a body in the casket is lifeless and hopefully remembered for a wonderful past.  However that life that was once in that body has now immeasurably more, higher and far greater life than it ever had before.

6th Sunday of Easter – 2017

E7A.  Acts of the Apostles 8:5-8, 14-17.  The Samaritan Jewish sect was considered counterfeit or fake Jews by the Jerusalem Jews who felt that the Jewish Law could only be fulfilled in the temple in Jerusalem.  For Philip to bring the Samaritan Jews to belief in Jesus as the Messiah was a great spiritual conquest.  Although they were baptized in Jesus, apparently they showed none of the charismatic gifts associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  So the Apostles in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to administer what we call the sacrament of Confirmation.

John 14:23.  This Gospel has a symphony of complimentary concepts or ideas.  First, to love Jesus means not only to have a deep affection for him, but even more importantly, to love and obey his will or his commandments.  Later in John 15:10, he says, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”  And then in John 15 12, he says, “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.”  He is not referring to the Ten Commandments but rather to the second of the two great commandments, which he changes from “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” to “Love one another as I have loved you.”  Neighbor was traditionally understood as one’s fellow countryman not the foreigner.  Secondly, the measure of what we ought do is what God does.  As I understand what Jesus is saying here is to love as God loves, i.e. love others and yourself as God loves all of you.  In Matthew 5:48 Jesus said, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  There is a growth or development from the Old Testament or Covenant to the New.

Secondly,  when we have the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, living within us and we accept the life that he is giving us as our life or life force, we are said to know him, i.e., have an ever-deepening spiritual relationship with him and thereby with Jesus who reveals himself more and more to us through the Spirit.  Jesus said in this Gospel, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” I presume that the words ‘on that day’ refer to the day when we receive the Spirit.

Thirdly, God the Father has a special role as he works hand to hand with the Son and Holy Spirit.  Once we show that we want to grow in loving Jesus by loving his will, God the Father sends the Spirit to aid that growth. God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, loves us by enabling us to grow in holiness as God is holy to the extent that God has given us the capacity to be holy.

1 Peter 3:15-18.  In this section on Christian suffering, 1 Peter 3:13-15a states, “Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good?  But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you.  Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ in your hearts.”  Focus in on the Lord who is in your heart so to find strength and away from whatever or whomever gives you fear. 1 Peter 3:15b-16a continues, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear.”  Be understanding and kind to anyone who questions you for your other-worldly behavior hoping to move them away a worldly behavior or attitude.  What is awkwardly stated in 1 Peter 3:18b, “Put to death in the flesh, he has brought to life in the spirit” I believe is better stated as, “Put to death what is of the flesh by suffering in the flesh; bring to life what is in the spirit.”  Perhaps a good summation is what John 15:18-19 states: “If the world hates you realize, that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.”


5th Sunday of Easter – May 7, 2023

East5A23.    Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7.   Among the early Christians there was favoritism that sprang up naturally in the community in Jerusalem where all goods were held in common without any private ownership to be more generous in the distribution of goods to those who were more Hebrew than those who had a more Greek-speaking background.  As a settlement, deacons were chosen to serve the more physical, material needs in the community in order to allow others to devote themselves more fully to the spiritual needs.  “The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” The Spirit of Pentecost was very productive.

John 14:1-12.    The Apostles were felling lost at the prospect of not having Jesus physically present with them.  Jesus calls upon them to trust in him to get the job done.  As they are with him on earth, they will be with him in heaven.  In the physical world the way to go is marked physically with road markers.  In the spiritual world the way to go is living one’s life daily in Christ.  Jesus was saying to Philip that we recognize God’s presence in our everyday human smallness.  Our God is right here, loving us, present to us.

1 Peter 2:4-9.  Recognizable only to the eyes that perceive what is spiritual, we can be seen in this world to be living in the same house where God lives.  We “are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you (we) may announce the praises’ of him who called you (us) out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  We know we are God’s people because we live as his, each and every day with him in our very midst.

5th Sunday of Easter – 2020

Easter5A20.   Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7.   The Hellenists generally were the non-Hebrew members of the Christian community.  The Christian community looked after the needs of the widows but it seems that the distribution of goods seemed to favor the Hebrew widows more than the Hellenists.  The Apostles or the Twelve gathered the community to set up a special group chosen to care for the problem stated above.  We now call these men deacons.  The “number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly,” building the church community in the days after Pentecost.

John 14:1-12.  “Jesus said to his disciples:”  “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”   I will “’take you to myself, so that where I am going you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’”  Thomas does not comprehend the spiritual.  For him things are only earthly.  That is why later Thomas refuses to accept Jesus’ resurrection.  To a person who thinks only in terms of what this earth is all about, death is absolute, total termination and obliteration.  Jesus was always trying to lift his disciples’ way of thinking from the earthly and physical to the spiritual and heavenly.  I do not think the disciples understood fully until the Spirit came to build them into people that had a spiritual frame of mind.  Spirituality is drawing the daily breathe of our lives from the Holy Spirit. The “dwelling places” that Jesus is speaking about is that we will have an eternal life with him, the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Even in this world if we are children of God the Father, then we live in profound and intimate union with the person of God.  Our dwelling place is our life or our dwelling in Jesus who is also our way to heaven. Jesus goes to the Father to be our Advocate along with the Spirit, calling upon the Father that what we do in his name and will, we will do empowered by the Father.  The works that Jesus did, he will now do through us, by making us the instruments of his will on earth.

1 Peter 2:4-9.  God is building his spiritual house, his Church, that is to say his Christian community, with his people, as the living stones.  What enables us to be his living stones is our faith which empowers us to draw our spiritual life from Christ.  To those who choose to live in Christ, “you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”   The real Church is the people of God who use a physical building called the church to be the visible sign of the Holy Spirit’s invisible work in this world.

5th Sunday of Easter – 2017

E5A.  Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7.  The Hellenists were Jews who spoke only Greek.  At this point Paul had not yet reached out to the Gentiles.  In the Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35, it states in verse 32 that all temporal possessions were held in common and in verse 35 that those goods were distributed to each according to need.  In today’s first reading the Hellenists complain that in fact the Hellenists “widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.”  The Apostles or “the ‘Twelve’ called together the community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.”  “Filled with the Spirit and wisdom,” they created an order of service to the community, or what we have always called the diaconate, to be in charge of the proper distribution of goods.  The establishment of deacons is formally constituted by the Apostles’ prayer and the laying on of hands.  The Apostles declare that they shall devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”  However, the deacons are never later mentioned as serving at table but, at least, in the case of Philip and Stephen, as serving in the ministry of the word.  Stephen is not martyred for his serving at table but for his ministry of the word.

In the gospel for this Sunday Jesus declares, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)  In the next verses that go just beyond the ones quoted in this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus says, “And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)  I believe the works that Jesus is referring to are the efforts of those who believe in Jesus to bring people to a life of faith in God.  This is testified to in the last sentence of the first reading, “The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”

John 14:1-12.  In my practice as a parish priest this reading is the most popular for funerals because of what Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”  The faith that Jesus calls us to is faith in his person, not so much in a set of instructions, or an idea, ideal or general concepts.  When Thomas wants to bring things down to earth or the everyday world, Jesus responds, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Only the Son can take us to the Father.  The only way to heaven is to obediently follow the Good Shepherd as humble sheep.  Jesus says, “The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.”  God the Father works through his Son and in turn through those who work in their faith in his Son.  Our faith opens the door to God to enter into us and use us as his instruments or hands to bring the faith to others.

1 Peter 2:4-9.  “Beloved: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”  Once again it is only through Jesus that we have a way to heaven by offering spiritual sacrifices through obedience to his will within the spiritual house that is the Church which is made of the living stones, all the people who live daily in the Lord.  Peter writes of us, “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  Not to live in Christ is to live in darkness; to live in Christ is to live in the light.  We now are his new chosen priestly people, the new Israel, who offer ourselves and all we do in him as sacrifices to God.

It seems quite appropriate here to quote Ephesians 2:19-22.  “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.  Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

4th Sunday of Easter – April 30, 2023

East4A23.   Acts of the Apostles 2:14a, 36-41.   When Peter spoke to the crowd there saying, “this Jesus whom you crucified,”“they were cut to the heart” that they had done such.  Then “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Peter was telling them to ask for forgiveness for their godless ways and be born into God’s way of life in Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit who would enable them to live in God’s spiritual way of life.  Three thousand accepted.

John 10:1-10.  Jesus, the gatekeeper, is the owner who keeps within the gates what is his own.  Those who are his own do not follow anyone else because they recognize the one to whom they belong, Jesus.  “They do not follow a stranger.”  All the gatekeepers, who came before Jesus, were looking out for their own interest and not for the sheep, those over whom they were put in charge.  In a stark contrast, Jesus “came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.”

1 Peter 2:20b-25.  “By his wounds you have been healed.  For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”  The God who is love cares for us as a shepherd cares for his sheep.

4th Sunday of Easter – 2020

Easter4A20.    Acts of the Apostles 2:14a, 36-41.   Peter “proclaimed: “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified,” “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart.” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized.”  “Those who accepted this message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.” Jesus in Luke 8:15 said, “But for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.” Among the people that heard the words of Peter there were many who were like the good soil that God had prepared to be open to Peter’s words, the good seed.  The Pharisees on the other hand were hard-hearted and rejected Jesus.  The gift who prepares us daily to be good soil till the day we die is the Holy Spirit.

John 10:1-10.  Jesus said, “I am the gate for the sheep.” “Whoever enters through me will be saved, will come and go out and find pasture.”  “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”   Jesus daily helps us to grow in holiness, the good soil.  He feeds us with the life that only he has, a share in his divine life, his holiness.  “The Pharisees did not realize” that he was calling them the thieves and robbers who used their position as religious leaders to feed themselves and not the flock.  In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”   By his suffering, death and resurrection he open the gate to heaven for all of us who follow him who is not only the gate but also the shepherd. (John 10:11)  He cares for us so much that despite the fact that he is gloriously almighty, each one of us is like a sheep who is dear to him, our shepherd.  The imagery of us being sheep is a call for us to be so humble and docile that we willingly and lovingly follow and obey him.

1 Peter 2:20b-25.  To be a follower of Jesus meant at the time of the first Christians to suffer and be ridiculed.  Our answer to that suffering then and now is to willingly suffer as Jesus suffered for us joining our suffering to his.  Jesus has shepherded us by offering himself up as the innocent lamb that was sacrificed for sinners.  “By his wounds we have been healed, for you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”

4th Sunday of Easter – 2017

E4A.  Acts of the Apostles 2:14a, 36-41.  “God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  That crowd accept the truth of the words of Peter and so, they asked, “’What are we to do, my brothers?’  Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”  To repent is to reject everything that is not of the Will of God.  To be baptized is to accept entry into the Church, the community of God, so that together, through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, we may become God’s holy people.  Being conceived into the human race is the vocation to become holy through both an individual and communitarian effort.

John 10:1-10.  “Although Jesus used this figure of speech, the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.”  This sentence is key to understanding the comparison that Jesus draws between himself as the Savior who leads us out of the motivation for what is good for us versus the Pharisees who are leaders for what they can gain for themselves.  Jesus proclaims himself to be benevolent gatekeeper, gate and shepherd who has come to save us by giving us the abundance of eternal life; whereas, the Pharisees are thieves and robbers who steal, slaughter and destroy the good things that God does and has given to those who believe in him.  Jesus says of himself, “I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved.” In John 14:6, “Jesus said to Thomas, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”  It is only if we go to God the Father that we can have salvation and the only way to him is through Jesus.  In John 15:4-5, Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”  Without Jesus the work of the Pharisees is destructive.  In fact they block the way to God.

“The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.”  Jesus’ followers develop a sense of personal closeness to him because they feel they belong to Jesus and Jesus feels they belong to him and so cares for them deeply.  “But they will not follow a stranger.”  Jesus’ followers have come to trust him, i. e., put their faith in him and in him alone.

1 Peter 2:20b-25.  “Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.”  In the English language we say that verbs have an active and a passive voice.  In the active voice the subject acts, in other words, is the one who performs the action spoken of by the verb.  In the passive voice the subject receives the action spoken of by the verb.  When we speak of Jesus’ Passion, we are saying that he received the action spoken of by the verb which was torture and death, i. e. that he willingly received the suffering that was dealt to him.  In this reading from Peter (“If you are patient”) the word patient means that we willingly receive the suffering that is dealt to us.  Living life in ‘the good times and in the bad’ for one another is commonly recognized as what life here on earth is all about.  To Christianize suffering is to say that the cause for suffering is a grace from God, an opportunity to give ourselves to God’s Will as Jesus did in the Agony of the Garden (Matthew 26:38-42), when he asked that the cup of suffering that was about to be his, pass him by but God the Father rejected his plea.  It is the nature of all living things to seek what feels good and avoid what feels bad.  It is supernatural, spiritual to seek to fulfill the Will of God, no matter how it feels.  “The spirit is willing; the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41b)  How much more merit there is to do God’s Will when it is difficult and against what we naturally would like to do.  The Shepherd gave himself for the sheep; should not the sheep be obedient to the Shepherd even unto death?


Third Sunday of Easter – April 23, 2023

East3A23.   Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22-33.  Peter said, “God had sworn an oath to him (David) that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of Christ.”  God planned to send a descendant of David who would be enthroned to lead God’s People and who would not be subject to a death that would end his leadership of his People.  God fulfilled that plan in the person of Jesus.

Luke 24:13-35.  Jesus explained to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus that God had revealed through the prophets his plan that the Messiah would have to suffer to achieve God’s purposes.  Jesus “then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, (he) interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”  In Matthew 16:21 Jesus predicted that he would suffer greatly at the hands of the Jewish authorities, “be killed and on the third be raised.”  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

1 Peter 1:17-21.  God had an eternal plan for our redemption. “He (Jesus) was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” Rejoice in the salvation that is growing more and more day by day to one day bloom magnificently in our eternal life in heaven.

Third Sunday of Easter – 2020

Easter3A20.   Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22-33.   “Jesus, the Nazorean, was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst.”  “This man,” “you killed;” “but God raised him up, releasing from the throes of death.” David “foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ.” “God raised this Jesus; of this we all witnesses.” The once fearful Peter, hiding in the Upper Room but now burning with the fire of the Holy Spirit, fearlessly announces that the once dead Jesus is now the risen Messiah.

Luke 24:13-35.   How wonderful is this narrative of Jesus and his two disciples on the way to Emmaus.  Later the followers of Jesus were known as the people of the Way.  The Way is the journey we make daily with Jesus to heaven.  When we lose sight of this, we become wanderers in the darkness.  Not realizing that they are talking to the risen Jesus, Jesus’ companions to Emmaus tell him that Jesus was put to death on the cross.  They were despondent because they had hoped “that he would be the one to redeem Israel” from the Romans.  Yet they were astounded because “some women from our group” “reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.”  Jesus responds, “How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!”  In speaking this to the disciples, Jesus was speaking to the whole of his followers who were so preoccupied with the thought that Jesus would deliver Israel from the Romans that they could not comprehend that his self-sacrifice on the cross and resurrection had already redeemed them not from the Romans but from sin.   Jesus was frustrated at their inability to comprehend that the redemption had just happened.  He had just redeemed them from what matters eternally.  There would be others who would oppress the Jews politically besides the Romans, such as the Moslems and the Nazis, but they could not harm them eternally as sin could.  The many appearances of the resurrected Jesus would help his followers to understand that God’s Will is different from humans’ will.  The material, physical nature of this world is only the context of our salvation but not the goal.  The goal of our life here is to take us beyond our world here and not to win wars. First our minds must understand what God’s plan is. Then our hearts must burn with the desire to accomplish God’s will.   Only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can make our hearts burst into the flames of a spiritual fire that moves us to devote ourselves to accomplish his will.

1 Peter 1:17-21.  Peter writes, “Beloved: If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning (here on earth), realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct ”  “with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.”  Realize through the day as we go about our daily routine that our souls have been purchased at a great price, so precious are we to him.  May each day be an opportunity to hold him preciously in our hearts.