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Easter 7 (A)
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Readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Cycle A

1. Acts 12-14

  • My first impressions?  They went back to the upper room where they were staying.  And all of them devoted themselves with one accord to prayer. 
  • It sounds to me like the briefest set of minutes, or perhaps the report of the origins of a prayer society so long ago and far away.  I’ll take another look, since it deserves more of my care than reading the minutes of a meeting.
  • The names have center stage.  I will read them carefully, almost as if I am a camera shifting my attention from one to the other.  The apostles we know.  But listen: some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers.  It sounds like a traditional family and the extended family of disciples.  Let me bring that out by pausing noticeably between the two groups.
  • And there it is!  So let me not rush through the minutes, even though our assembly knows the names and probably thinks they know what the main order of the prayer was about.  Any other time they would be in a hurry to approve them and move on to the order of business, but not this time!
  • Climax: They began with prayer. 
  • Message for our assembly:  Let us begin all our actions together with prayer, not out of habit only but out of humility, out of a need for guidance from the Lord.  I remember what Harry Truman said to the reporters on the day he became president of the United States: If you have ever prayed, pray for me now.
  • I will challenge myself: to awaken in all of us the wonder of those first days, and the pride of knowing that we follow in their footsteps.  I will not allow my listeners to forget that I am telling them about an inclusive gathering, and that we began that way.

2. I Peter 4, 13-16

  • I begin with the word Rejoice!  And this sets the tone for everything else.  The apostle assumes that some of his listeners are under fire for professing their faith.  So he tells them over and over: Rejoice exultantly, you are blessed, do not be ashamed, but glorify God. 
  • It may not be God’s will that we suffer, true enough, but if it happens the apostle has shown us the road map through our hard times to the glory of God.
  • It is not for me to single out anyone in particular with my glance today.  I shall not focus excessively as I look out.  Let me repeat the words of a letter to the early Christians and let my listeners overhear and take home the lesson.
  • It is one of the few times that I read the word Christian in the Bible, and I want it to sound genuine and a badge of honor.
  • Central point: I color the idea of suffering with the reality that we share in the sufferings of Christ.
  • The message for our assembly: That none of us is alone in suffering as a Christian.  We must help each other.
  • I will challenge myself: Not to sound like I am sugar-coating the distress and stress that some of my listeners are feeling, but to speak out of my own faith and out of my own depth of “buke and scorn.”  In fact, let me sing that spiritual to myself while I read.
  • When I hear the list of sinful conduct, I will use it to contrast with our actions in solidarity with Christ.  We are not dealing with the suffering that comes with a justly deserved punishment.  My focus is on Christ, as is this brief reading, which echoes the names of Christ and the Spirit of glory and of God.

John 17, 1-11

  • Tradition calls chapter 17 of John’s Gospel the Priestly Prayer.  In his book Christ, Schillebeeckx calls it a shepherd’s prayer.  In many ways it is a personal testament, especially the verses we proclaim today.
  • Let me remember that John speaks of a community that is already filled with the presence of Christ, a Christ who is the image and complete expression of the Father.  He does not describe these relations as a linear progression but as a circle, returning constantly to the union between Jesus and the Father and our union in him.
  • So let me take my time to allow this circling back to take place and be felt.  Isn’t it an assuring feeling?  The evangelist reminds us of what we already know, and as we progress we breathe it more deeply, like a lectio divina. 
  • Jesus says that his mission on earth is completed and that the disciples will carry it on.  I accomplished the work that you gave me to do.  I revealed your name to them and they have kept your word. 
  • In other words, Jesus is not another teacher of a body of facts and traditions just like those we know today.  Jesus is a revealer of God.  And the test of their understanding is not their knowledge of some truth but their faithfulness to a loving God: They are yours, they have believed.  I am a teacher, and if I can remind myself to look on Jesus as if he were a teacher (though he is a revealer!) I can help my listeners make sense of this testament.
  • Central theme: Jesus has brought his disciples into the wondrous mystery of his own unity with the Father. 
  • Message for our assembly: This is what it means to hand on a tradition.  If we in our turn believe and become not followers but devotees of Christ, we will have received the faith.  The examination is not like the questions addressed to Dante in Paradiso, with a treatise on the three great virtues.  The mystics had it right: How much have we loved?  How much have we given our hearts?
  • I will challenge myself: to think like the teacher I am and remember to circle back to repeat the central points when the reading calls for them.

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