Pentecost Sunday – May 31, 2020

PentA20. Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11. At “the time for Pentecost” “suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind.” “There appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” “Now there were devout Jews from every nation, who spoke many different languages. “They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,” “We hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” One God yet three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How often have we heard of the Holy Spirit who is the One given to us for our daily sanctification by the Trinity? Only saints are allowed in heaven; the Holy Spirit enables us to become saints, if we only cooperate with him daily. Nothing is impossible for God. The Holy Spirit accomplishes whatever he wishes since He is truly God but God will never force holiness upon us. We ourselves must choose to die daily to our own self-centered tendencies so as to belong to the beneficent Will and Love of God. The Spirit enabled the Apostles to speak miraculously. If we belong to the Spirit, he will miraculously enable us to be holy, despite the devil, our own natural desires and the ways of the world around us.

John 20:19-23. The first day of week after the crucifixion was Easter Sunday, the same day that John the Evangelist, the author of this Sunday’ gospel, marks as Pentecost, thus differing from the other three gospels writers. Perhaps it is only that his recall of events was different, leaving our humanness as the reason for the discrepancy. Nevertheless, John speaks of the locked doors and the fear of the apostles in contrast to the divine capacity of Jesus to pass through locked doors and to bring peace to the fear-filled disciples. He shows the disciples his hands and his side that had been pierced as proof that he is the risen Jesus and not a ghost or an impostor. Then Jesus commissions them to go as he had gone out to convert the people. Next he immediately empowers the disciples by giving them the Holy Spirit so to enable them to accomplish the commission he has just given them. He next gives them the power to open the gates of heaven through the forgiveness of sins or to keep the gates shut to those whose sins are retained. Now the gates are opened by a life lived in Christ or retained locked by a life that shuts out Christ. The power that Jesus had exercised to open locked doors or to keep them shut is given to the disciples and their successors. The Holy Spirit works through the Church, the followers of Christ, to enable us through the centuries to become holy and so to enter into heaven.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13. “Brothers and sisters: No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (Please also read Matthew 16:15-16) In other words, God enables us to declare the truth. I personally believe that God and only God is the source of ALL goodness. Even when a person is agnostic or hates God, if they do any good that is truly good, God is the root source of that goodness that they have just done without them knowing that it was God who enabled them to do good. There can be no goodness in this universe unless that good work has God as the one who empowered it to be. “There are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” When we live in union with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit often uses us as his visible instrument in this world to do his work. If what we do is good, the radical or root source of that goodness is the Spirit who is working through us. “We were all given to drink of one Spirit.” The Spirit pours himself into us, the vessels who choose to be open to him, so that the life and gifts we have are from him to build the Church. In as much as we have chosen to be the instruments of the Spirit without whom we could do nothing good, we deserve a small portion of the credit. However, by far the credit belongs to the Spirit.

Pentecost Sunday – 2017

PentA. In Judaism on Passover, the people of Israel were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh; on Shavuot, they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God. The word Shavuot means weeks, and the festival of Shavuot marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot. (Wikipedia under Shavuot) For Christians, Passover becomes Easter when we pass from slavery to our sinfulness to freedom because we have been redeemed by Christ death on the Cross. For Christians Shavuot, which is also the feast of harvest of barley & wheat, is Pentecost or the giving of the Holy Spirit who is our living, i.e. not written, guide and enabling force in the spiritual life, and the harvesting of Jesus’ work with his Apostles.
Genesis 11:1-9 & Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11. I wish to look at the first readings for the Vigil and the Feast of Pentecost together because it seems to me that they meant to be contrasting and in that sense complementary as left to right arms. In the Genesis reading the people already speak the same language but God confuses their language because their unity of language was being used to try to accomplish things without God; whereas in the Acts reading, they are being united in the one Holy Spirit by understanding each in one’s own language “of the mighty acts of God.” God brings about unity with God as the center but without God there is only division and chaos. If we try to reach to the sky on our own, no good will come of it; but being united with God who comes down from the sky to earth, all is well.
In Genesis 1:1-2 “a mighty wind swept over the waters” as a sign that God creative powers were about to work. In the Acts reading with the coming of the Spirit he appears “like a strong driving wind.” The Spirit comes as “tongues of fire” that gave the Apostles an intensity of desire to speak “of the mighty acts of God.”
John7:37-39 & John 20:19-23. The reading of the Vigil states that there had been “no Spirit yet;” nevertheless, Luke’s Gospel speaks of the Spirit working long before Pentecost (Lk. 1:35, 41; 2: 25-26; 3: 22; 4:1, 14). I believe John’s gospel means to say that the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, that was to give the spiritual gifts necessary to initiate the Church after Jesus had been glorified in the Ascension, was to arrive at the proper time later. Jesus “exclaimed, ‘Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As the Scripture says: Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.’ He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive.” The ‘rivers of living water’ that are to flow from the Christian believers perhaps are the graced workings of the Holy Spirit who dwell within them. In John’s Gospel the Holy Spirit is given on Easter Sunday (first of the week). Jesus said, “’Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” With Jesus present to them physically as he walked the surface of the earth, God’s grace or life flow into them externally. When Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit, the breathe of God’s spiritual life was within them. They no longer needed the external, physical presence of Jesus as a source of God’s grace or spiritual life.
Jesus said, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” He was also ordaining them as priests (Grk. presbyteroi) so that the Church then had the power to forgive sins so to renew spiritual life within the faithful. Spiritual life was what Jesus had come to bring, the gift that gives eternally. Miracles, that give or renew physical life, are only a sign that Jesus and the Church, Body of Christ, (that exists physically after Jesus had left the world physically when he ascended into heaven) have the power to give the spiritual life that is for all eternity. With the forgiveness of sins, the spiritual life of each one of the members of the Church is reborn and renewed and so the Church has the Spirit’s life as its driving force.
On Easter Sunday, Jesus said, “Peace be with you” to give a type of resurrection to the Apostles who had locked themselves “for fear of the Jews” in the upper room which had become a sort of tomb for them.
Romans 8:22-27. The lifelong labor or struggle for holiness leads us to a groaning because we cannot just go out and do it and it’s done. Rather it is a never-ending- till- death struggle because the opposition does not give up until we have breathed our last breathe and are in the firm grip of the Lord, adopted into heaven as his son and daughters. The Holy Spirit groans along with us in our struggle, interceding for us “with inexpressible groanings.” It is like the groaning of those who are in a tug-of-war, or pushing on something or pulling on something we cannot move. We do not want to give up but, no matter how hard we try, we cannot get the job done. The forces that oppose the Lord never give up because they know, that as long as we have free will, they still have the chance to turn the tide. Nevertheless, we will have the victory as long as we stay united to the Spirit who never ceases to intercede “for the holy ones according to God’s will.”
“As we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” Paul writes. I have always heard of redemption of our souls but as a whole person, our bodies need to be redeemed too. Paul wrote, “He will change our lowly bodies to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” (Philippians 3:21) Paul continues, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” Paul is encouraging Jesus’ followers to endure through difficulties. “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weigh of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18)

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13. Paul wrote, “None can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to St. Peter who had professed to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God,” “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 16:16-17) We can nothing good, unless we are graced by God to do it, even if we deny the existence of God or do not even know or care that there is a God.
The Church is a community of believers who receive many, differing gifts so that, as a whole its tasks work a unified result. There are many parts of the whole body but all the parts are to work together for the benefit of the whole entity. There is one Spirit to work together through all the baptized to achieve God’s will. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” God’s gifts, God’s will differs for each individual, but we work as a cohesive whole and so we, though many, are one. “We were all given to drink of the one Spirit;” but, if we do not, we will die on the vine and be fruitless.

Ascension of The Lord – May 24, 2020

AscenA20.    Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11.   Luke first writes his gospel and secondly the Acts of the Apostles.  He addresses both to Theophilus, which translated from the Greek means one who loves God.  In other words, he is speaking to people who are already believers but want to increase their belief.   Luke relates that Jesus was taken up into heaven, “after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit (but before Pentecost) to the apostles whom he had chosen.”  They only receive the Holy Spirit himself later at Pentecost.  Jesus says to his Apostles, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” “When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”  “Suddenly two men dressed in white garments” “said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?  This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.’”  In other words, Jesus wants the Apostles now to get on the next phase of their work here on earth and not just stare into the sky.  Jesus in effect is saying await the Spirit.  Once empowered by him go and convert the world.

Matthew 28:16-20.  Jesus says in Matthew 28:19a: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations; and in Matthew 28:20b: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  The end of the age means the end of the universe or Jesus’ Second Coming when Jesus judges all as Lord over all.  Meanwhile though not physically present, he is with us spiritually to continue his ministry to lead all to heaven through the power of the Spirit.

Ephesians 1:17-23.   Paul writes: “Brothers and sisters: May the God of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in the knowledge of him.” In Matthew 16:15b -16 Peter said: “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” Jesus said in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”  That was ‘the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,’ working in the name of the Father, working in a spiritually unseen but a divinely, real manner.  “And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” Jesus is all that is all-6 good and heavenly given.  Though not here bodily he is here even more intensely spiritually to fulfill his mission to bring all to salvation.

 

Ascension of The Lord – 2017

AscA17.  Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11.  Luke begins his history of the beginnings of the Church established by Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah or Christ by addressing his writings to Theophilus, which is Greek meaning ‘lover of God’.  Perhaps what he really means to say is ‘to all of you who love God’.   Luke sets up a timeline of forty days after the resurrection during which Jesus presented himself alive to prove that he truly had arisen and to prepare his followers for the coming of the Holy Spirit so that they could begin forming the Church based on the spiritual presence of the Holy Spirit and not the physical presence of Jesus.

“When they had gathered together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” That question seems to indicate that they still were thinking that Jesus came to overthrow the Romans and become king of the worldly kingdom of Israel.  Jesus sidesteps the question by responding that they are not to know the times that God the Father has established; “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses” everywhere.  Jesus then ascended up into heaven.  The Apostles were left on the ground astounded and probably quite at a loss at what they had just seen and what it all meant for them.  Angels appear saying, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”  They are predicting the Second Coming of Jesus when he comes to end the physical universe and call all his own to him and to heaven.

Matthew 28:16-20.  “When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.”  They adored him but they did not know where this was all going to go.  As their question in the Acts of the Apostles shows, they wanted to have a worldly based certainty in what they were putting their trust.   Faith in Christ is believing that in the end God will make it all work out without us knowing how.  The Holy Spirit would help them gain that depth of faith that they did not yet have.  Jesus said to them, “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me.”  He has been obedient to the Father’s Will to the utmost and so has gained the ultimate victory.  He goes to heaven so to give the victory to us to establish his kingdom on earth in the souls of all who are willing to believe in Him.  As he made disciples so he empowers us to do likewise making disciples, followers of Jesus who follow him to heaven through the Spirit he sends us.  Baptism in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit unites to the One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” means that what God teaches we believe: nothing more; nothing less.  Though not now with us as when he walked physically with his apostles, he is with us spiritually.  “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  ‘The end of the age’ is what the angels promised at end of the first reading, i.e. his Second Coming.

Ephesians 1:17-23.  Paul asks that we be blessed with a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.  My understanding is that Paul is asking that we be blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit who will enable us to come to know “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” personally throughout our lives.  “May the eyes of your heart, i.e., the emotions by which we live daily be enlightened by God so that he himself is our hope to share in the riches of his eternal glory, his awesomeness beyond anything human beings are capable of imagining.  God put all things beneath Jesus’ “feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” Jesus makes all things to be filled with God’s goodness.  When we are his, we have everything but without him, we have nothing.

6th Sunday of Easter – May 17, 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 be loved 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 Spirit in 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 10, 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

Easter17. Acts of the Apostles 10:34a, 37-43. Peter,appointed by Jesus to lead the Church, speaks, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.” “This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance.” Here Luke, traditionally accepted as the author of the Acts of the Apostles, seems to see Jesus as man empowered by God but not God in himself. Apparently for Luke that would be a laterdevelopment. The Apostles are witnesses to all he did while he walked this earth, to his resurrection to full life again, able to eat and drink. Peter goes on to say: “he commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” Both the Apostles and the prophets are witnesses to believing in him will bring one eternal salvation.
John 20:1-9. Jesus had foretold at various times that he was to suffer, be put to death and then arise. It appears that no one, not even Mary of Magdala nor the Apostles, took him at his word. The last line of this Gospel says, “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” One commentary states that the Greek from which this gospel was translated indicates that it appeared that Jesus miraculously slipped out of burial cloths, leaving them empty of the body that had been in them, with the cloth that had covered his head, removed and placed in a separate place. The word tomb is mentioned in this gospel seven times, I believe, to indicate the empty tomb with the stone rolled back is a physical witness to the resurrection of Jesus. Peter’s authority and leadership is clearly accepted by John, since he waited for Peter, more important than he, to enter first. John goes into the tomb “and he saw and believed” that the tomb was empty.
Colossians 3:1-4. “Seek what is above,” “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” After Jesus had told his disciples that he had to suffer and die and then Peter rebuked Jesus for thinking that way, then Jesus in turn rebuked Peter saying, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matthew 16:18) We are people who live in this world, not in heaven. This world can, and easily does, drown us in its way of thinking, feeling and acting. The Holy Spirit, who is far more powerful than our good intentions and will power, can enable us to have Jesus as our life. With Christ as our life, one day he will share his glory with us.
1 Corinthians 5:6b-8. “Let us celebrate the feast, not with old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Yeast could be symbolically thought of as an evil, corrupting force; whereas being unleavened was thought of as growing in the purity of the “sincerity and truth” of Christ. If we dine on the lamb, that is the paschal lamb that is Christ, the bread of our meal must be unleavened, i.e. pure, not corrupted by the evil of this world (Exodus 12:1-15). We ought not to mix the sinful ways of this world with holy ways of God.

4th Sunday of Easter – May 3, 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?