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Easter 5 (A)
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Readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Cycle A

 

1. Acts 6, 1-7

  • The early church faced a problem in carrying out its ministry, and Luke tells us how they solved it.  The original Twelve, Jews of Galilee, welcome into the ministry other Jews of the Hellenist sector. 
  • The Hellenists complained against the Hebrews.  I report the complaint – so there were ethnic factions in the early church, too?  Then I pause briefly.  How do we think the issue will be resolved?  How would we resolve it today?
  • I am struck by the way the Hebrews responded to the complaint.  They didn’t dismiss it out of hand, they didn’t meet in secret and dictate an edict, but rather they called together the community of the disciples.  That means that everyone was consulted, as Paul reminds us (no longer Jew and Greek).
  • And then I see how the process worked.  Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men.  In other words, the Hellenists chose the men and the apostles dedicated them to the work.
  • Climax: The apostles prayed and laid hands on them.  Our church is one of witnesses who carry on personally the knowledge of Christ to a new generation.
  • And the proof of their love for each other comes at the end: The number of the disciples increased greatly.  If we are effective in this way there will always be persons attending each of our masses for the first time.
  • Message for our assembly: My assembly is made up of many nations, and so is the universal church.  We see and live that diversity graphically whenever the bishops of the world meet in synod.  So often in our diversity we confront division.  Can we end in community?  I hear that word twice in my reading.  In our present time of sharp divisions can I say whole community with longing and faith?
  • I will challenge myself: to say the names of the seven Hellenists who are dedicated to ministry, with the same familiarity as I can use in naming the dedicated people of our parish, or the members of the college of cardinals.

 

2. I Peter 2, 4-9

  • The apostle gives us a brief homily in which he compares Jesus to a precious stone, an indispensable stone.  He also tells us who we are in the eyes of God and the world.  He quotes liberally from the prophets.
  • This passage is an invitation: Come to him, a living stone.  And it is a promise, too: you are like living stones.  Don’t diamonds and emeralds seem alive when they shine?  Are not marble and granite rich with veins?  Our secular and spiritual temples breathe grandeur and nobleness, and doesn’t it rub off on us?
  • If any reading demands a sweeping eye contact, this is it.  Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.  This means the entire assembly, not each individual unto themselves.  We need to fit into each other.  We depend on each other.
  • The message for our assembly: the call to a royal priesthood is meant for all who follow Jesus and carry on his Good News, announcing the praises of God. 
  • Climax: We are called a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own. 
  • I will challenge myself: To reflect in my reading the precious value of each of us in the sight of God.  I can do this with my encouraging voice and glances at the congregation.
  • I know that many have rejected Jesus through the centuries.  The apostle says that They stumble by disobeying the word.  I merely read what is in the text, but questions of fate are not my main concern here.  Rather, I mourn for that spotted history of violent opposition and reprisal.  Briefly I mourn, for the predominant mood of the reading is one of rejoicing about our wonderful calling.

 

Gospel. John 14, 1-12

  • Assuring words of Jesus to his disciples on the night before his death.  He tells us how to find him, how to reach him, how to see him in the world.  So why are the disciples troubled?  Can I capture some of that in my reading?
  • I don’t have much time to set the stage.  How do I say the words Do not let your hearts be troubled?  I must read them like someone who is perfectly at peace with the events to come, and who sees those around him terrified about those same events.  I’m looking for a kind of “Now, now!” inspired by a complete acceptance and trust and not by the false denial we often hear from our friends and relatives, or Jesus heard once from Peter.  I pass my own peace on to them.
  • Thomas tells Jesus: We do not know where you are going.  Philip asks him: Show us the Father.  They see a prophet who is just as much a man as they are.  That is, they see the human nature of Jesus and cannot imagine that he is bringing God to them.  For them God is still unapproachable light. 
  • But how can we identify with Thomas and Philip today?  I certainly do not, and I doubt that any of my listeners does.  Jesus has been taken up in our prayer and faith to the right hand of God.  In other words, we see in our faith the divine nature of Christ and have lost track of the man Jesus.  He is there with God and we are here.  We build our altars to God and refuse to accept the fellow traveler who breaks into our lives.
  • I will add some anxiety in the voices of Thomas and Philip.  Their master is going away and they fear that they will be left alone in a hostile country.  I can identify with that.  Our own lives are filled with anxiety, not to mention revulsion toward any form of discomfort, pain or (God forbid) death.
  • And the voice of Jesus?  It will certainly not come to us cold from a plaster saint.  It will not echo with the finality of a teaching authority who has all the answers.  How could it?  These are not propositions with easy answers, these are life-and-death invitations to a terrifying unknown.  Jesus is no longer a prophet, he is The Way.  Jesus is no longer the teacher like no other, he is the beloved son and the Father dwells in him.  I would almost breathe the words: I am the way, and Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  Now Jesus is not the teacher pressing home a point for the umpteenth time, facing us imposingly in the lecture hall.  We are together with Jesus in a warm and encouraging place (like a womb perhaps?), but we have scales over our eyes.  The disciples have to shed their human predispositions about Jesus.  And we must shed our divine predispositions about him before we will begin to know.
  • Climax: Jesus tells us: I am the way.
  • Message for our assembly: We should lay it all out there, as the disciples did.
  • I will challenge myself: To come into that place where Jesus is and appeal to the trust of our assembly so that we may all have faith in God and in him.

Word to Eucharist: Jesus is present in the assembly in so many ways, especially in our procession to the table.  See how he challenges and assures us at these times.

 

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