Pentecost Sunday – 2018

PentB18.   Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11.  Jesus, the Love, the Center, the Light of their lives had ascended, gone away into the heavens.  They were now without him. Jesus had promised the Spirit and so they waited.  When the Holy Spirit came, he came in great power. “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.”  The Holy Spirit came to set their tongues on fire so that their words might instill a burning desire in their hearers to be devoted to Jesus as their life-giving God.  The Apostles spoke to a crowd of vastly different languages, yet they heard “them speaking in (their) own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”  The Spirit works today, ordinarily not with such a spectacular show, nonetheless with great, quiet power for those whose hearts welcome him.

John 20:19-23 & 15:26-27; 16:12-15.  John’s gospel has Pentecost and Easter occurring on the same day.  For John, Jesus comes on Easter to give the Holy Spirit to the Apostles so that they may go and bring to holiness those who wished to be saved from their sins.  In the second Gospel option, Jesus says, “the Spirit of truth” “will guide you to all truth,” which he receives from the Son who had received it from the Father, the Trinity working together as the one God.  In John’s gospel the word ‘truth’ is used 52 times, and yet even more times in the epistles.  The ‘truth’ means that we belong to what is genuinely real for all eternity, not what people would like to call the truth but what is only invented to make them feel good, or what they would like to think, or what is in fashion today.  That latter so called ‘truth’ are the lies which the devil uses to deliver us to his realm of darkness, away from the light that is God himself.  The truth that the Spirit brings to us is a continuation of what Jesus had brought to his followers when he was on earth.  God, the Holy Spirit uses the bible, the Church’s magisterium or teaching authority and all forms of teaching as instruments to guide us to all truth.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13.  “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”  All good that is truly good comes radically from God, the only true source of genuine goodness.  All that we do, think or say that is good comes from the work of God. In Matthew 16: 16-17, “Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.’”  In other words, Peter did not figure this all out on his own but God moved him to recognize the truth of who Jesus was.  If the preacher preaches in such a way that we are moved to be a holier people, that is the work of the Spirit in the preacher and in those who hear his words and not something they do on their own apart from God.  To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.  It is the work of the Spirit to build up the church by giving different gifts to different individuals.  It is the “same God who produces all of them in everyone.” “We are all given to drink of one Spirit.”

Galatians 5:16-25.  “Live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.”  Here Paul is not writing about the necessary, nutritional demands our bodies make on us to live from day to day but on the illicit cravings that our bodily nature might tempt us to.  The fruit of the Spirit are the good actions that God calls us to.  “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.”

Ascension – May 16, 2021

AscenB21.    Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11.   Luke relates that Jesus, after the resurrection “presented himself alive” to his apostles enjoining them to remain in Jerusalem to wait to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  The apostles were still thinking that the kingdom Jesus promised to establish was of a political nature.  However, he tells them that the power they will receive is not of a military nature but will be power that will come upon them from the Holy Spirit so that they can give witness “to the ends of the earth” that Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus ascends up into heaven to make way for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Then two men dressed in white garments, who we understand to be angels, tell them that one day Jesus will return from heaven, his Second Coming.

Mark 16:15-20.    “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”  “They went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”  What Jesus had begun while he was visibly and physically in this world, the Church, led by the apostles, were to continue, by going to the entire world, giving witness to his saving power.

Ephesians 1:17-23 & Ephesians 4:1-13.  In his resurrection, Jesus was raised from the dead.  In his ascension, Jesus was seated at the right hand of the Father, far above everything and everyone forever.  “That he might fill all things” means whatever is good has Jesus as its life-giving energy and his personal presence.  Without Jesus the vine, nothing can have any value.  His presence and life-giving force or grace equips the holy ones, those devoted to Jesus, “for the work of the ministry, for the building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God.”  By the power of Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit, we grow into full adult Christian maturity, “to the extent of the full stature of Christ.”  He brings us together into his body with him as the head.  With his grace energizing and guiding us, we all must become one or unified in him.

Ascension – 2018

AscenB18.   Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11.   “He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days.”  Jesus had truly died and truly arose from the dead.  He proved that to his apostles in a physical way, visible to their eyes and palpable to their touch.  However, the time of Jesus’ physical presence was shortly to end and Christianity was to enter into a spiritual phase that demands a faith in what we cannot see or touch but which is fostered by the divine work of the Holy Spirit.  Through his powerful presence in the timid, previously fearful Apostles, Jesus’ salvific work was brought “to the ends of the earth.”  Jesus ascended into heaven but some day will return just as he ascended.  That will be Jesus, the divine King, at the end of the universe.  When it will happen belongs to God, and God alone, to know.

Mark 16:15-20.  “Jesus proclaimed to them, ‘go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” He “was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.  But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”  Through the Spirit, Jesus worked with his disciples, at first in a very visible, physical way but later, in a more spiritual and hidden way, demanding more faith on the part of the believer.

  1. Ephesians 1:17-23. At first Paul calls upon us through the power of God to come to know what hope we have been given from the riches of his glory and infinite power for us who put our faith in him.  Secondly, Paul says that we have put our faith in the Christ who is at the right hand of God the Father far above everything or anyone.  “And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body.”  As we receive the body and blood of Christ in communion, we, as church, become his body with him as our head.  We have been given a deep intimacy of union with him, so much is he a part of us and we, a part of him.  Jesus, filled with all goodness and love, fills us with all that is himself.  What eternal joy we have!
  2. Ephesians 4:1-13. The call or vocation that Christ has given us is to live in heaven one day.  We need to start living now as though we were already in heaven, “bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace.”  Through the Spirit he is equipping us for the work of the ministry by proclaiming the gospel to all in order to build up the church, which is the body of Christ.  We are all called to be one, united in Christ.  The depths of that union enable us to grow and develop as God’s holy ones, “to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.”

6th Sunday of Easter – May 9, 2021

East6B21.   Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48.    Prior to this, Cornelius, a non-Jew, had seen a God-given vision that led him to receive Peter as a messenger from God.  Peter, on the other hand, had been given a vision to accept people who were not Jews nor practiced Jewish ritual ways so that he was opened to accept the work of the Holy Spirit that had “been poured out on the Gentiles.”  So “he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”  It was astounding for the Jewish followers of the Christ to accept non-Jews as also followers of Christ, so imbued they were with Judaism as a prerequisite for salvation.  Whatever is the will of God, no matter what anyone had held before, is what we ought to accept.  The prerequisite for remaining in union with God is to accept and live in union with his will.

John 15:9-17.   “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.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.  This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”  To keep God’s commandments means to live in absolute obedience to God’s will as he reveals it to us day by day throughout the day.  His will is his way of communicating and expressing his love for us.  The cross we bear is to reject and die to our will.   The resurrection that we live is to live in his will.  What joy it is to live in his will that is his love for us!  In Judaism God’s commandments were engraved on two stone tablets.  However, in Christianity God’s commandments are not something written down once and forever but are made known to us by our being in an ongoing, never ending spiritual relationship and communication with Jesus.  In John 14:6-7a, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, then you will also know my Father.’”  The joy of knowing Jesus personally and spiritually, even though he is invisible to human eyes, deepens and grows as we surrender ourselves to be led by him to live less and less in our own will so to live more and more in his will (commandments) and love.  The one expression of his will or commandment that will never change is to love as he loves.

1 John 4:7-10.   “Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God.”  If we have God as the source of our daily life, then our daily life is love.  “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”  Divine love is defined by the crucifix, totally selfless love.  Human nature, in itself and apart from God, does not have the capacity to love as God loves.  God is the only one who can enable us to love as he loves.  If we live in the love he pours out into us daily, then and only then can we love as he loves.

6th Sunday of Easter – 2018

East6B18.    Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48.  The Acts of the Apostles 15:1 states:  Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.”  Today’s first reading helps to set the stage for debate that was to rage later in beginnings of Christianity.  Was what Christ was establishing a new form or sect of Judaism or an entirely different religion that was rooted in Judaism?  It is the latter. “Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him (Jesus),” Peter says.  The Holy Spirit poured out himself on Jew and Gentile alike without any discrimination.

John 15:9-17 & 17:11b-19. (Since in the Wilmington Diocese we do the Mass for the Ascension on the second Sunday from now, thus leaving the readings of the Seventh Sunday without any coverage, I would like to bring the second and third readings from the Seventh Sunday into this reflection so that they get some attention.  In John 15:9, “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love.”  In other words, remain in and live in the divine love that I pour into you.  We have always heard, “Love with all your heart, with all your mind and all your soul,” as if we ourselves create the love from within ourselves from our own resources that enables us to respond positively to this command.  I believe that it is not our love with which we love but rather the love that God is always giving us that is the love that we bring to the commandments of love.  In other words, I understand that on our own, apart from God, we cannot truly love.  In John 15:5b, Jesus says, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”  It is only that we have received love from God that we have love to bring to anyone.  In our second reading for this Sixth Sunday of Easter, we read, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” God is always at the center of our bearing any fruit.  In John 15:16a, Jesus says, “ It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.”  What we must ask for is true love in the midst of a world that all too often wants to love itself and a life in the flesh that only wants to love pleasures for the flesh.  It is now as Jesus said in John 13:34, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another,” and no longer, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  Jesus who offered himself up as a sacrifice for our sins to open the gates of heaven to us showed us that love is what we do for the true unadulterated benefit of others and not for what we can get out of it.

In John 17:6, Jesus says, “I revealed your name (you) to those whom you gave me out of the world.  They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (lived by what they have been taught.) In John 17:9, Jesus says, “I pray for them.  I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours.”  Since we Christians belong to God, he protects and guards us from the evil one.  The devil roams about the world trying to steal away from God those who have chosen to belong to God.  We are in the world but do not belong to the world and the devil but to God and heaven.  In John 18:36, in speaking to Pilate, “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world’.”  In John 17:17, Jesus says, “Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth.”  To be consecrated means to be given or devoted completely and totally to God who is the fullness of truth, of what is eternally divine and not just a temporary gloss or veneer that appears to be momentarily pleasing in the eye of the world.

1 John 4:7-10, 11-16 (the second readings of both the Sixth and Seventh Sundays of Easter).       In 1 John 4:16, we read: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”  When our life comes from the love that God is giving us every moment of our lives, then we remain in God and in his love.  If we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work for our sanctification, then we build holiness within ourselves from the Spirit’s developing within us a sharing in God’s divine life that is the result of God’s endless act of loving us. The love that has been poured into us is what we share by loving one another as he has loved us.  God demands to see the fruit of his work of love in us.  Jesus says in John 15:16-17, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.  This I command you: love one another.”  When we do God’s work of love, we do it with him.  He never leaves our side, so to give us whatever we need to accomplish his Will, his work of love through us and in us.

5th Sunday of Easter – May 2, 2021

East5B21.    Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31.   When Saul, later to be renamed Paul, who previously had viciously persecuted Christians, arrived in Jerusalem, the disciples did not believe that he was truly a disciple of Jesus.  Barnabas reported that the Lord had converted Paul by appearing to him and speaking to him.  Paul bore the fruit of his conversion by speaking “out boldly in the name of Jesus.”  The church (people of God) also bore the fruit of God’s work in them by “being built up” and growing in numbers.

John 15:1-8.  Jesus is, as a vine through whom divine life flows into us, the branches.  “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”   God’s divine life, flowing into us, enables us to grow more and more in his image and likeness as his children.  He demands that his presence in us is productive; otherwise he will dispose of us.  “If you remain in me and my words (if you listen and obey what I tell you) remain in you, ask for whatever you want (in order to bear the fruit God expects of us) and it will be done for you.”  “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”  When God’s presence and the work of his presence can be seen in us, glory is given to God.

1 John 3:18-24.   Love is more than what we talk about and the affections we feel, but even more importantly, how we act and treat others.  We need to develop an inner sense and confidence (‘our hearts’) with God’s help that we are on the right track for pleasing God and for doing God’s will and not our own.  We ask of God for what we need to belong to his him and his will.  “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.”  We depend upon the Holy Spirit to move our hearts, minds and actions in the direction that pleases God.  We hope and pray that God’s work in us may give glory to God.

5th Sunday of Easter – 2018

East5B18.   Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31.    Barnabas brought Paul “to the apostles, and he reported how he had seen the Lord,” and how in Damascus Paul “had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.”  Paul cooperated with Jesus so that a true conversion was effected in him to the extent that, despite the threat of persecution, he spoke out publicly to convert others to Jesus.  The presence of Jesus bore fruit in him as it did in the building up of converts in Israel.

John 15:1-8.  “Remain in me as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me.”  The power of Jesus flows through us so that we can be truly productive.  Whatever we try to do without Jesus is useless.  Since what we ourselves do is worthless, then we are useless, worthy to be thrown out in the fire like worthless branches and be burned.  To remain in the Lord means to draw our life from him. So deep should our life be in Jesus that it is no longer we who are at the center of personhood but he who lives in us.  We lose ourselves in our life with him yet still remain people who daily must renew our choice to live in him.  For each of us, I still am I but now I find myself living in the depths of a joy I had never known before because I remain in him and he remains in me.  In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” In 1 John 5:12, John writes, “Whoever possesses the Son has life; whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.”

In Philippians 2:13, Paul writes, “For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.”  God and only God is the root of all goodness. It is God working through us who unite ourselves to him who truly works the genuine good.  Without uniting ourselves to him everything we do is worthless or bad.  The good we do in God gives glory to God.  Jesus says in John 14:13, “And whatever you ask in my name (i.e. in accord with his will and in Christ), I will do, so that the Father may be gloried in the Son.”

1 John 3:18-24.   I believe what John is addressing here is that some Christians needed to be reassured that they were truly living in Christ and not just diluting themselves.  “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.”  His Spirit reassures us that he dwells within us because Jesus and his love is our way of life.  “And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.”

 

4th Sunday of Easter – April 25, 2021

East4B21.     Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12.    Following the cure of the crippled beggar in Acts 3, Peter, standing before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Although it was the person of Peter and his voice that was heard, it was the Holy Spirit who spoke through him.  When they heard Peter, they were hearing God, made audible through the voice of Peter, God’s spokesperson.  Jesus said in John 14:26: “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.”   Peter declared in today’s first reading, “It was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean” that “this man stands before you healed.  He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”   Through Jesus, and only through Jesus, do we have salvation!

John 10:11-18.     Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd, who loves his sheep so dearly that he lays down his life for them in contrast to the hired man who only loves the profit he can get out of it for himself.   Because the good shepherd cares so deeply for his sheep, they have come to know and love him dearly.  The good shepherd wants all sheep to be able to receive his love and caring.  So he reaches out to other sheep who are not of this present fold.  Jesus has learned and acquired the desire to know and to love from his relationship with the Father in which each know and love one another.  Jesus’ love for the sheep has led him to freely offer himself up as a sacrifice on the cross so they may be saved.  His sacrificial offering was in obedience to the will of the Father who is love.  Jesus does all out of love for us.  Jesus pours out his life into us so that we may have life forever.

1 John 3:1-2.   Jesus said in John 3:3b, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”  His love for us makes us children of God, begotten by God as long as we draw our life out of his love for us as the source of our life.  In 1 John 4:15-16 we read: “Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God.  We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.” Paul writes in Philippians 3:8a, “More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit we come to know Jesus personally, our good shepherd who cares for us as his own on our way to heaven through this life that is filled with many dangers.  “What we shall be has not been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he.”  Paul goes on to write in Philippians 3:21, “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.”  Through the power of God those who belong to God will be remade into the image and likeness of Jesus.

4th Sunday of Easter – 2018

East4B18.   Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12.  “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said ‘Leaders of the people and elders.  He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.’”  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:11, calls Jesus Christ, the only foundation upon which we can build.  Otherwise, one’s work will come to nothing.  In the passage in John 10:9 Jesus calls himself the gate to the sheepfold or sheep coral, saying, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  In other words we cannot get into heaven, unless we follow Jesus, who leads us there, as our good shepherd.  In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’”  Peter spoke filled with the Holy Spirit.  In other words, it was the Holy Spirit who spoke through him, using Peter as his spokesperson, as God did of the prophets in the Old Testament.  In 1 Corinthians 3:10a, Paul also says he acts “according to the grace of God given to me.”  In 1 Corinthians 3:9a, Paul speaks of himself and Apollos as “God’s co-workers.”

John 10:11-18.  “I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  Jesus has laid down his life for us.  No one took it from him but he laid it down on his own because of his infinite love for us.  “I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”  He knows us as a loving parent knows their child.  Our daily task is to come to know him just as we know anyone who loves us and in turn we love.  God is not just a celestial being who lives only to calculate our positive and negative behaviors but an intensely loving Father and brother, a real though spiritual person in our lives.  We are called upon to know Jesus just as the son knows the Father and the Father knows the Son, the divine relationship that is the model for us.  As Jesus is the obedient son in what he did for us while in the flesh on this earth so should we be, obedient to our Father.  Jesus’ death on the cross was his loving gift of redemption to us.  Our giving of ourselves to God should be our gift in response to his love for us.

1 John 3:1-2.   “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”  The shepherd is shepherding us to become the sons and daughter of God, the Father.  The joy of what he is, he wishes to give to us.  To his good and faithful servants, Jesus says, “Come, share your master’s joy.” (Matthew 25: 21c & 23c)  “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34b)  “We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  Taking us to himself in his home, our Father will share something of himself with us, his children, out of his infinite love for us.

 

 

3rd Sunday of Easter – April 18, 2021

East3B21.        Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19.  Peter accuses those present of having Jesus crucified, saying, “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.  Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did”.  Peter continues, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”  Peter proclaims that Jesus has been glorified by the God of the Jews by being given resurrection.  Now Jesus is the author of life, given the authority to give us spiritual life, the resurrection from our sins.  Only the sinless are entitled to live the life that is eternal in heaven.

Luke 24:35-48.  Jesus provides physical proof of his resurrection from the dead by saying: “Touch me and see” and eating “a piece of baked fish.”  His crucifixion and death were the fulfillment of what had been written about him in the Old Testament. “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus says to the disciples.  The purpose for his death and resurrection is to lead us to repentance for the forgiveness of our sins so that we may have eternal salvation.

1 John 2:1-5a.    John wrote, “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.”  In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me.’” Jesus, personally, living in us through the power of the Holy Spirit, walking with us, guiding us, strengthening us, and protecting us, enables us to live as true daughters and sons of the Father.  Christianity is not a list of things to do but Jesus, a person to be with in the deepest and fullest way.  He must be the author or source of daily life for us.   John ends with the words: “But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.”  To ‘keep his word’ means to do his will.  When we do what he wants of us, we will be perfected, that is made to the fullest of our God-given potential what God in his divine will has made us to be.  Then we will have done what Jesus commanded of us in John 5:48: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”