26May 26 May, 2019. 6th Sunday of Easter

1st Reading: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29

The apostolic  leaders make decisions with the consent of the whole church

Some individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this?

Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.

Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

Responsorial: Psalm 66: 2-3, 5-6, 8

Response: O God, let all the nations praise you!

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help. (R./)

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth. (R./)

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him. (R./)

2nd Reading: Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23

In his exile on Patmos, John paints a dazzling picture of the new Jerusalem

In the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The angel who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width; and he measured the city with his rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, one hundred forty-four cubits by human measurement, which the angel was using. The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Gospel: John 14:23-29

At the Last Supper, Jesus says he is going to the Father

Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.


BIBLE

A Special Goodbye

French offers more precision than English when people are about to part. They have several ways of saying “Goodbye” depending on whether the absence will be short or long. For everyday brief separations, they use Au revoir (until we next meet). The more sombre Adieu is reserved for a more final departure, and means, literally, “until we meet in heaven.” Our journey through life includes a succession of Au revoirs and Adieus. The Adieus grow more frequent as we grow older. Our hearts and memories are peopled with faces that once were dear to us, but who have passed from our lives never to reappear again. If their names crop up in conversation we say either, “May the Lord grant them rest,” or “I wonder what ever became of them.”  Life is a series of separations until our own death becomes our  last great Adieu.

A positive way of coping with the many Goodbyes in life, is to see ourselves as a pilgrim people, on the move. We need faithful friends who travel with us on this journey, which has a worthwhile destination, over the horizon. Jesus alerts his disciples that he will soon be leaving them, and leaving this earth, by ascension into heaven. His farewell is not the definitive Adieu but a kind of Au revoir. “I am going away, but I shall return.” We never really say goodbye to the Son of God, for he stays always with us.

In recent decades we are aware of how many immigrants leave their families, friends and culture and settle, often penniless, in an alien environment, far from home. It’s notable how soon they begin to settle in their new environment by building themselves a place of worship. Such was the case with the Irish in America or Australia. Such is the case today with immigrant Muslims building mosques all over Europe. Their relationship with God is what they cling on to.

God keeps his promise to be with us always. He will always keep his pledge. It is up to us to keep ours. When we come to the end of life’s pilgrimage and make our last goodbye, it will be literally Adieu, “going to God.”


We are carriers of Jesus’ blessing

(José Antonio Pagola)

These are Jesus’ last moments with his own. Very soon he will leave them in order to enter once and for all into the Father’s mystery. No longer can he walk with them on the world’s paths as he has done in Galilee. No one else can take the place of his presence. What he wants is that God’s forgiveness and mercy be told to every nation. That all hear his call to conversion. No one has to feel lost. No one has to live without hope. Everyone must know that God understands and loves God’s sons and daughters without end. Who can announce this Good News?

He wasn’t thinking about priests or bishops, nor about doctors or theologians. He wants to leave «witnesses» behind in the world. This is the most important: «You are witnesses to this». Jesus’ witnesses will be the ones who communicate their experience of a good God and they will spread their way of life by working for a more humane world. He knows his disciples well. They are weak and afraid. Where will they find the audacity to be witnesses of someone who has been crucified by the Empire’s representative and by the leaders of the Temple? Jesus calms their anxiety: «I am sending upon you what the Father has promised». They won’t lack «the power from on high». God’s Spirit will defend them.

Luke describes Jesus’ leaving of this world in a surprising manner: Jesus returns to the Father as he raises his hands and blesses his disciples. This is his last gesture. Jesus enters into the unfathomable mystery of God, and his blessing descends over the world. Have we Christians forgotten that we are carriers of Jesus’ blessing? Our first task is to be witnesses of God’s goodness. Keep hope alive. Not give in to evil. This world that seems to be a «living hell» isn’t lost. God looks upon it with kindness and compassion.

Even today it’s possible to do good, to spread goodness. It’s possible to work for a more humane world and for a healthier way of living. We can be more in solidarity and less selfish. More austere and less enslaved by money. The economic crisis itself can push us to seek urgently a society that is less corrupt. Jesus is a blessing and people need to know it. The main thing is to promote a «pastoral of kindness». We must see ourselves as witnesses and prophets of the One who spent his life sowing gestures and words of goodness. That’s how he woke up the people to Galilee to the hope of a good and saving God. Jesus is a blessing and the people need to know it.


My Peace I give you

Hearing this Gospel (John 14) we must wonder: what have we done with the message of Jesus? Stop any young person on our streets and ask what does religion, or God mean to them. Many of them are indifferent to so much of what they perceive the churches are saying and doing. Even the vocabulary that Christian churches use appears to have little or no meaning to the children and grandchildren of people who were “practicing Catholics”.

There is widespread indifference. There is also distrust and anger. The clerical child sex abuse cases have been devastating for victims and their families, for the faithful, for the public at large. And yet if one can step back from all that terrible mess, and listen to today’s Gospel with an open heart and mind, one is transported into an ideal of love, care and peace. “I give you a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.” (John 14: 27)

Imagine if we had peace in our world. How well known is the church for campaigning for peace? Yes, there are some strong Christian advocates for peace, but I don’t think any measure of public opinion would show the churches in the vanguard when it comes to peace campaigners. Or at least the churches’ message does not sound vibrant enough to be reported by the media.

Last year the world spent $1.7 trillion on armaments. The US president has requested a $750 billion military budget for 2020. And have we any idea what Russia and China are spending on weaponry? Weapons that are designed to kill and maim. Surely a far cry from the ideal of Jesus “I give you a peace.” How many homilists will proclaim this message of peace, and what Jesus means when he tells us to love one another? We are invited to stay close to him, make our home with him. We all need a haven, a place which we can call home.

Imagine what that message has to say to a world that is so fractured. The peace, unity and love that Christ offers our world is anything but out of date and staid. It is a message of hope and love, filled with excitement and challenge. As individuals, we may not be in a position to rid the world of the shocking arsenal that has been built — but we all can play our own role in living the very different story taught us by Jesus Christ.

Isn’t it odd how seldom a word is said in church against weapons of mass destruction? That might be part of the reason why so many people have given up on us. What is the perceived relevance of our church today? Jesus lived and preached love and peace, not indifference.

(adapted from Michael Commane, “Thinking Anew” Irish Times, May 25, 2019)


LAST WISHES OF JESUS

As Jesus says goodbye to his disciples, he sees them sad and scared. They feel they are seeing the last of their beloved Master. What will happen when he is gone? Who will guide them now and show them how to proceed? Jesus wants to encourage them by his final words. His great desire is that His Good News of God will not be forgetten. His followers must keep alive the ideal of the Father’s humanizing “kingdom of God.” He wants them to hold fast to what they learned from him. “Whoever loves me will stay true to my words … whoever does not love me do not keep them.”

After twenty centuries, what we have done with the Gospel of Jesus? Do we keep it faithfully or do we care only for our own personal interests? Do we keep Jesus alive  in our hearts or are we forgetting him? Do we honestly present his message have we overlaid it with specious, self-serving doctrines?

“I give you my peace” he says. He wants to make our own the special kind of peace that was his welling up from his intimate union with the Father. His peace will blossom in our heart if we accept the Spirit of Jesus. We must never lose that peace. Jesus insists: “Do not be troubled or afraid”.

After twenty centuries, why does fear for the future paralyze us from spreading his peace, his outlook? Why does our church seem so defensive, so inward-looking? There are many people our there who are hungry for meaning, who want to find a more spiritual dimension in life. Pope Francis is a true gift from God for our church today, urging us to appreciate and share the Good News. Our times invite us to move to be more faithful to Jesus and his Gospel Church.
(José Antonio Pagola)


Faith and action

Obedientia, the Latin for obeying, literally means to listen hard, to focus one’s hearing on something. The first rule of the road that we all learned was “Stop! Look! Listen!” Before you cross the railway tracks, stop and listen. There may be a train coming.

“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart.” What a beautiful promise, what a special gift. Peace is not the absence of war. It is the presence of something real and tangible. It is something I can experience, a gift we have received. But it also comes with an invitation, like a card that includes RSVP. The sender is expecting a response from us. Every word of Jesus calls for a response. A rule of thumb is to learn to listen, then listen to learn..

Believing with my head alone is no more than mental faith. Just being able to recite the apostles’ creed is not the living faith that sustains life. Faith is not just in the head, it is also in the heart, and it must eventually makes its way to my hands and feet. The message of the gospel is simple and direct. There is not one “maybe” in all the words of Jesus. The response to faith must be practical; it entails doing what God wants of me. I must be ready to step out and act on his example and in his name.


Creideamh agus gníomh

Níl níos mó sa creidiúint le mo cheann ahmáin ná creidiúnú meabhrach. Níl creideamh é Cré na n-Aspal a rá le mo bheóla. Níl an chreidiúint sa cheann, tá sé sa chroí freisin, agus caithfidh sé bealach a dhéanamh fós chun mo lámha agus mo chosa. Tá teachtaireacht an soiscéil simplí agus díreach. Níl aon b’fhéidir ann i ngach focal Íosa. An freagra cheart ar chreideamh caithfidh sé bheith praiticiúil. Is é atá i gceist an méid a theastaíonn le Dia uaim. Caithfidh mé a bheith réidh dul amach agus bheith gníomhach ar shampla agus in ainm Íosa.

CANDLE

Saint Philip Neri

Filippo Romolo Neri (1515-1595), affectionately known as the apostle of Rome, was an Italian priest noted for kindness and compassion and a special ministry of mercy. He founded a society of secular clergy called the Congregation of the Oratory (Oratorians).


4 Responses

  1. Fr Jim Clarke

    Just a quick note of thanks. I am always using your site as a resource for bidding prayers, when I am on the last minute, as is often the case, your web site allows me to put together bidding prayers super fast. Thanks – much appreciated!
    Fr Jim

  2. Andrew Linus

    It such a helpful and useful site! Thanks.

  3. Joe O'Leary

    The Splendour of the Church

    In this brief Easter Season the Church places before us three of the richest texts in the Bible: the Acts of the Apostles give a charged and instructive portrait of the earliest days of the Church, the Book of Revelation envisages its final glorified state, and the Last Discourse of Jesus from St John’s Gospel records the voice of Christ as heard by prophets and evangelists speaking at the heart of the Church and in the depths of their own hearts—a voice that sounds so different from our scanty records of the teachings of the historical Jesus, and yet is clearly the voice of that same Jesus, present among us, encouraging, challenging, and communicating peace and joy.

    The early Church knew huge crises that could have torn it apart. The apostles burst on the world with their joyful message but were ill-prepared for the reception it met. Their Jewish brethren, to whom they first turned, were less than enthusiastic, but a flood of Gentiles reacted with tremendous interest. Peter was shocked to see those pagans filled with the Holy Spirit, and it took a divine vision commanding him to eat unclean meat to get him to begin consider embracing them as bona fide members of the new gospel family.

    Jesus had left no moral blueprints—happily, for they would have been an oppressive cage to Christians ever after. But Jesus had given something better than a moral code — he had selected from the Torah the double commandment of love of God (Deut 6:5) and love of neighbour (Lev 19:18), pointing to an ethic of the heart. He had given the basic wisdom on the basis of which ever practical moral, pastoral, missionary, or organization problem could be addressed and solved.

    The only law that Peter and the others knew was the Torah. But these Gentiles had never heard of the Torah and stared in incomprehension when hearing of its prescriptions and the demand that they be circumcised. Narrow-minded armchair theologians had made trouble for the new converts, telling them they should observe all the nitty-gritty of the Torah, or get out!

    The Council of Jerusalem, the first of the hundreds of synods that have dotted Christian history, including the score of Ecumenical Councils uniting the bishops of the whole Church, wrote a wonderful letter to the targets of these objections. Luke probably does not transmit the exact text of the letter, for it was the custom of ancient historians to compose speeches and letters that they thought represented what the personages would fittingly have said. Nonetheless it is a very convincing reconstruction of the attitude of the Jerusalem leaders. They take the side of ‘our beloved Paul and Barnabas,’ pointing out that unlike the critics those two apostles have had laid their life on the line for the Gospel. They are not content with issuing a written edict — ‘take it of leave it’ like so many Vatican documents. Their letter breathes the spirit of personal concern, and is delivered by two trusted emissaries, who are also charged with explaining it by word of mouth.

    The spirit of gracious communication breathes in this letter, as it did in the Council itself. The differing factions had come together and chewed over the problem. And by a process of dialogue, consultation, and listening they had come to a unanimous decision where only a short time before such agreement has seemed impossible. That is why they write “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” They are not using the Holy Spirit as a guarantor of their authority, like those papal legates who bullied the bishops at Trent and of whom it was joked that they carried the Holy Spirit in their diplomatic bags. Rather, the marvelous event of communication and consensus that the assembled elders and apostles experienced was as it were a second Pentecost, a Spirit-created event, closely associated with a generous and patient openness to the other, which is a model for the Church in dealing with its female and its lgbt members today.

    Some today, as often in church history, cry, “Away with bishops, away with priests! Who needs them?” Well, the Spirit breathes where it wills, but nonetheless Jesus did found a Church with elders and authorities, given the charism of leadership. One may call for radical change in models of leadership, but to abolish it altogether would render his church unrecognizable.

    The dynamic of death and resurrection that characterizes the life of Jesus is lived out as well by his Apostles and by the Church as a whole. Always in crisis, always oppressed by errors and divisions, the Church also knows its moments of Resurrection. The Counter-Reformation was such a moment, Vatican I was such a moment, and so was Vatican II. The power of the Spirit who is to teach us all things and lead us into all truth, as the Johannine Jesus promises, is always beating on the doors of the Church and on our closed minds and hearts, and there are moments when it breaks through and when the Gospel is heard anew in foreign tongues and cultures. The Council of Jerusalem was as generous as possible, refusing to put any burden on the Gentiles, except to discourage some of their idolatrous and licentious practices. Similar generosity and flexibility cannot be misplaced today.

  4. Pat Rogers

    Many thanks again, Joe, for your inspiring thoughts on the dynamic at work in the early church. We need to keep trusting that the same Spirit of God is able to breathe new life into our church today, to free us from entombing the faith in too many outworn structures! Please keep up your contributions to our Sunday Resources!
    Pat


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