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Contents: Volume 2 - Sixth Sunday of Easter May 6 2018

 


 

 Sixth

Sunday

EASTER

2018

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP
2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller
3. -- Brian Gleeson CP
4. -- (Your reflection can be here!)
5. -- (Your reflection can be here!)
 

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Easter 6 B

The messages in the scripture readings this day hit right at the heart of the meaning of equality. We are told that God shows no partiality in loving all people. Consequently, we have been given a commandment, not a suggestion, a commandment to love one another.

It is easy to slough off the deepest meanings here and their ramifications in our daily life. No one is more prestigious in God's sight nor more lowly than anyone else. I think that letting some of these holy words of Scripture seep into our daily lives might take a bit of time.

Does God really mean EVERY one, however, or just the ones I conveniently choose out of "one another"?? Certainly not ________!!! Putting on the mind and heart of Jesus is not easy and it often seems impossible.

Each and every one of us includes all those people that we dislike or shun, for whatever reason, rational or not. It includes those who are very different from us and even those who confront or despise the very words of God and Jesus, God's Son. It is often difficult to wrap our minds (and especially our hearts) around the fact that God hates sin but still loves the sinner, sometimes when that applies to us, but even more so when it applies to someone else!

For me, I can try to approach the possibility to think and act like God does more easily if I remember how much I have been forgiven and that I am still included in God's embrace. I always say that some sins are more visible than others but God knows them all... and forgives all when asked. Remembering that softens my own heart and leads me to be more open to those whom I tend to judge inwardly or outwardly, even though I may not even know them. Acknowledging that each of us is flawed but still redeemed and loved unconditionally does help.

The blessing of being in the older generation is that we usually have a reasonably clear sense of right and wrong. Our downfall is when we act as judge! The challenge for all generations is to love and serve all others... and let God do the judging of all those Jesus called "friends", the apostles and ALL humanity.

The task we have in our day and age is to level the playing field so to speak, for those "friends" of Jesus who are not readily included in society because they are not "good enough" in some way or just not enough like us. That is a tall order because "outsiders" are becoming more and more numerous even in our very own neighborhoods. Perhaps individually each of us could seek out just one of "those" people and be kind to him or her as a friend of Jesus. Pretty soon, that might become as a brother or sister!

Blessings,
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP
Southern Dominican Laity
lanie@leblanc.one

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Sixth Sunday of Easter May 6 2018

Acts: 10:25-48; Responsorial Psalm 98; 1st John 4:7-10; Gospel Acclamation John 14:23; John 15:9-17

It often seems to me that the experience of humanity over the thousands of years of our existence has hard-wired into our DNA the notion that following a set of rules guarantees us the ultimate reward. We know this because following socially and economically sound rules of behavior result in achievement. Those benchmarks of achievement are most often wealth, control, or prestige. Advertising agencies create needs in the human psyche to drive consumer behavior. The operative word is “deserve” as the motivation for parting us from our money. We deserve the best. So as long as we adhere to the rules of commerce and social relationships established by culture, custom, or civil law we’ll be successful according to the Way of the World. Following the rules provides a sort of peace and harmony in society.

Such commercial and cultural mind-sets drift over into our spiritual lives. We begin to believe that following the rules is all that is required. We somehow have the capacity to “earn,” to deserve divine favor. We will arrive at the pearly gates and be welcomed and shown to the mansion prepared for us because of our following the rules. We “deserve” eternal life.

The readings this Sunday are an instruction to turn away from such thoughts. There is nothing we can do to “deserve” heaven. Just as the human race did not deserve the Incarnation of the Son of God in the person of Jesus, so also we cannot deserve the love God has for us. That is the lesson on this the sixth Sunday of Easter. We are still “walking around in the mysteries” this week. And the lesson is that God chooses us. The mystery of God’s love for us begins with the gift of faith God extends to us. Faith is the basis for how we live our lives. The truth of our lives is the mystery of us as well. Each of us is unique: each of us differs from all others who have gone before us, live in our time, and will come to live after us. We share bits and pieces of personality. But the mystery is that we are each unique and an expression of God’s creative Spirit. With that understanding we come to know the evil that is the culture of death. We gain an understanding that each life whether born or unborn, whether productive or dependent, whether criminal or law abiding, whether enemy or ally – all life is a gift from God. Failing to respect that gift is a rejection of God’s presence.

And there is the impact of the reading from Acts. Cornelius is a Roman Centurion – a true big-wig in the military establishment of the Roman Empire. Yet, Peter is led by the Spirit to go to his home and to speak with him of the events in Jerusalem over the recent Passover. The uniqueness of the Jews as God’s chosen is spread to all nations. How do we think of ourselves as a nation, as a people, as a culture? Peter comes to a realization of God’s perspective. “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” This applies to us as well. Anyone – whether Christian, whether Buddhist, whether Muslim, whether Democrat or Republican – who fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. This sounds like a quid-pro-quo: if you behave in this way then God will accept that person. What is missing in this formula is that God calls each one of us to seek him. That is God’s gift to us, that we are called to understand God’s presence to us.

What a wonderful thing – that God loves me – and you, and you, and you. If God loves us and finds wonder and value in each one of us, then what’s our problem that we fail to find God’s presence in each other person. That mystery is why we sing in response to the first reading: “Sing to the Lord a new song!” For the Lord “has revealed to the nations his saving power!”

The second reading is from John’s first letter to the churches. He encourages us to love one another. If we have faith in the presence of God in and around us, then we know that love itself is of God. God is its source; God is its power of attraction. John insists that if we love others we are born of God and we know God. If we do not love then we do not know God. John goes on in this reading to tell us that love is not that we love but that God loves us as his gift to us. If we fail to experience God in our lives it is because we fail to respond to God’s love by imitating the love God has for us: for each unique one of us.

In the gospel reading we get to the root of the mystery of this sixth Sunday of Easter. Jesus speaks about love in this instruction to his disciples before his passion, death, and resurrection. He insists that the love he extends to them goes all the way, even to giving up one’s life for love of others. He tells his disciples that his commandment to them is that they love each other as Jesus himself has loved them.

So if in our minds we think what is required of us that we follow the rules, recite and practice the rituals, and embrace regulations we are fooling ourselves. If we fail to take to heart the commandment Jesus gives his disciples at the Last Supper, then we are missing the message, missing the purpose of the Incarnation of the Son of God as one of us. If we are strict in our rule following we are not guaranteed a place at the banquet table at the end of our journey. We are reminded in this gospel reading of Matthew’s account of the final judgement. What the just judge looks for in the lives of all persons is whether they fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited those in prison, educated the ignorant, buried the dead. There is the purpose of a fulfilled life, that we love one another as God loved us. If we are truly followers of Jesus, then we must love to the extent of laying down our lives out of love for others.

So does this mean the rules are out? Does this mean we don’t need “thou shalt nots?” That would be a foolish thought. The morality taught in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures prepares us to live as Jesus lived. He taught, he cured, he fostered community and love of neighbor. Anyone who thinks that love is a squishy, cheap second-hand emotion has never loved. Love demands much more than any commandment or regulation could ever demand of us.

As we continue to walk in the mystery of God-for-us this Easter season, it is well for us to look to those who come into assembly with us. Do we love enough to say hello? Do we love enough to care about them? Do we love them enough to ask for the gift of peace from them? Do we have the courage of seek forgiveness for our failures to love? Love is of God. And he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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LIVING FOR OTHERS: 6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER B

Along the path of life we come across both selfish and unselfish people. To which group do you and I belong? Perhaps we are a mixture of both generosity and selfishness. But to the extent that we may still be partly selfish, self-centred, and self-indulgent, we are not living the message of Jesus: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15:12-13).

Jesus lived his entire life for God and others. Speaking God's love to people, showing them God's love, and living God's love for them, that’s what Jesus of Nazareth was all about. He practised no racism, no apartheid, and no discrimination. To rich and poor, powerful and powerless alike, he reached out with unstinting love. Nobody was excluded from the love burning in his great heart. Then he died just as he had lived - with love and generosity, kindness, compassion and forgiveness in his heart.

Ever since, hundreds and thousands of his followers have lived his example and commandment. I’m thinking of so many good mothers and fathers, who have given everything they could to the care of their children, friends, neighbours and strangers. I’m thinking of so many religious, men and women, who have laid down their lives in the service of others, and even more particularly of religious Sisters. A little while ago in the press and other media both here and overseas, there was an outpouring of love, appreciation and gratitude for the lives and work of religious Sisters. For the ways they have befriended people on the margins! For the ways they have educated, often completely free of charge, a countless number of children of poor families! For their pastoral care and kindness to patients in hospitals! For their visits to lonely and troubled prisoners in jail cells! For their shelter and support to abused and hurting mothers and children! For their outreach to refugees and asylum-seekers! The list of their good deeds is endless. The example of their humble and generous service leaves us in no doubt that the meaning of life is to be a loving, caring person.

Let me illustrate the impact of such persons with two striking examples, one a man, the other a woman. The first is a Polish man, Maximilian Kolbe, who was born in 1894. Killed by the Nazis in 1941, he was canonized as a martyr by Pope John Paul II in 1982. In 1911 he professed his first vows as a Conventual Franciscan friar. After ordination in 1918, he energetically shared his Catholic faith in print and radio. In 1930 he went as a missionary to Japan. On the outskirts of Nagasaki he founded a monastery (still standing), a Japanese newspaper, and a seminary.

Back in Poland during the Second World War, he provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2000 Jews whom he hid in his friary residence from Nazi persecution. The Gestapo arrested him in 1941 and threw him into prison. In Auschwitz his offer to die in place of the life of a married man with a family, was accepted. After two weeks of starvation, an injection of carbolic acid ended his life on August 14th. He was found sitting against a wall, his face radiant, his eyes open and fixed on a certain spot. John Paul II named him ‘the patron saint of our difficult century’. Our Anglican brothers and sisters have honoured him with a statue along with those of nineteen another 20th century martyrs, on the facade of Westminster Abbey, London.

My second example of faithful caring love is the Australian Sister of St Joseph, Irene McCormack. She may be recognised as Australia’s next Saint. On her mission to the Pueblo people of Peru she was martyred by Marxist guerrillas on Tuesday, May 21st, 1991.

Irene left Australia for Peru in 1987. Her aim was to keep bringing God’s love and literacy to poor and marginalised persons, just as she had done in Australia. She understood that going into Peru was to go into the unknown, but with trust in God. She noted that her life among the people there was ‘a gift’ from God. In the village of Huasahuasi (population 5000) high up in the Andes mountain range, she ran a simple village school and library for the local children, led prayer services on Sundays when the priest was away, and supervised a community kitchen from which she distributed food to poor families. This helped to supplement nutrition from the potatoes and maize they grew themselves. But the thugs who shot her sentenced her, so they said, for ‘pushing “Yankee” food’ and ‘bringing in books’ ‘to push “Yankee” ideas’.

To know these saints of our times is to be inspired to imitate them in their constant unselfish generosity. This, of course this is a big ask. But with God on our side, surely we can do better and become better persons than we already are! For this to happen to us, let us make our own again and again St Ignatius Loyola’s famous Prayer for Generosity:

Lord, teach me to be generous
Teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for any reward
but that of knowing that I do your will. AMEN.


"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net. Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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