-- Lanie LeBlanc OP
Barbara Cooper, OP
Carol & Dennis Keller
Brian Gleeson CP
Paul O'Reilly SJ
6. – (Your
reflection can be here!)
6th Sunday of Easter
The second reading for this day from 1 Peter gives us a
challenge. It says: "Always be ready to give an explanation to
anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope..." I think we need
to articulate what our hope is before we can give a reason for it.
In any given day, I think we hope for many things. Most of these
things vary in true importance and are physical such as a sunny day
for a picnic or special event, lighter than usual traffic, a raise,
a good report card, or that our efforts will produce a yummy meal.
With all the ups and downs and seriousness of life, however, most of
us also hope for something much deeper, something to make us
generally happier or the world a better place to be.
What is our deepest hope? Do we hope for good health for us and
our loved ones? Do we hope for lasting peace in our world?
All of these things are good things worthy of our hope. We need
to go even deeper, however. We need to hope for God's will to come
to be, for only then will things be "whole" and not fractured as
they now are.
Now that is deep! Trying to hope for God things with certainty is
almost impossible. We surely do hope that God's promises for us are
true and they will come to fruition, some here on earth, but
definitely at the end of time as we know it.
For me, then, it is trust in these promises that fuels my hope. I
base that trust on faith, what is said in Scripture, and on
hindsight. My faith is indeed a gift and so, too, is hindsight
because I realize God is always working especially during difficult
times in my life.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus promises us an Advocate, the Holy
Spirit who will be with us always. For me, the Holy Spirit is the
person of the Trinity who works 24/7 and overtime, too, to bring all
things together, a little at a time, so that the Plan will
eventually be accomplished. The Fulfilled Plan, the final hope, is
that we all will be one with our Triune God. Faith, Scripture, and
hindsight, through the graces of the Holy Spirit, bring me a bit
closer each day. How about you?
Lanie LeBlanc OP
Southern Dominican Laity
Sixth Sunday of Easter – A – May 21, 2017
I read that first reading from Acts at least three times before I
realized that the author is talking about "Samaritans". "Those
people", the "heretics", the "people who don't obey the laws" or
hold "orthodox opinions" Philip proclaims the Christ to them and
their hearts are open to listen. People are healed; people are full
of joy. The Samaritans are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit.
This is the Spirit of Love, the spirit that impels us to live in
Jesus, to live according to his teaching, to centre our lives in God
as Jesus did. This Spirit is offered to each of us. There are no
restrictions of gender, nationality, or even orthodoxy.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments" or in other
translations "obey my instructions". Pious words and elaborate
prayers and rituals might help us remember who we are called to be
by our baptism. But the "proof of the pudding is in the eating" and
the spirit we have is shown in our actions.
I've heard people say: "Oh, if only I had lived in Jesus' time
and heard him speak, seen his miracles, had the opportunity to
actually be with him! I would be so much better as a Christian." I
fear that in those circumstances I would have been one of those who
judged Jesus to be "out of his mind" as some of his family members
did. Perhaps I would even have approved of his crucifixion in the
interests of civil order through obedience.
We are privileged to live in these days. I think we might know
more about Jesus than his next door neighbour did. Most of all, we
live in the post-resurrection age of the Spirit. The risen Christ
lives in and among us without limits except those we create from
ignorance or fear – both of which are curable. Like the Samaritans
in the first reading, we are invited to open our hearts and receive
"On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me."
Vancouver Island, BC Canada
Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 21, 2017
Acts 8:5-8; Responsorial Psalm 66; 1st Peter 3:15-18; John
What is so attractive about the Message of the Apostles to
thousands of Jews and Gentiles? According our first reading from the
Acts of the Apostles, Philip is among the Samaritans and tells them
about Jesus, his teaching, his healing, his death and amazing
resurrection. Large crowds of those Samaritans ask to be baptized.
This Philip is one of the seven we heard about last Sunday, one of
the seven reputable men called to assist the apostles. In those
early days following the Ascension of Jesus, so many Jews were
baptized into "The Way" that the religious leadership of the Jews
persecuted them to stop the growth of "The Way". True, the followers
of "The Way" continued worshipping at the temple and practicing the
ancient Jewish rituals. But the followers of "The Way" went from the
temple services and gathered at someone’s home. There they would
listen to stories about Jesus and how Jesus fulfilled prophecies.
Then they would "bread the bread" and "drink the cup." These first
followers of "The Way" thought of themselves as Jews who followed
the teachings of Jesus. But this Sunday is different. This is the
store of the conversion of Samaritans. Jews and Samaritans despised
each other. The Samaritans believed Jews were arrogant, holier than
thou religionists. The Jews thought of Samaritans as mongrel people,
Hebrew blood lines tainted by intermarriage with pagan nations.
These Samaritans could be accepted as pure blooded descendants of
the tribes that followed Moses. Prejudice and discrimination has
always been with us: prejudice divides us, destroys unity
established by the Creator God. What could ever forge a new unity
that mirrored the very image and likeness of God?
It was in Antioch that followers of "The Way" were called
Christians. And it was the pagan people of Antioch who exclaimed
"How they love one another!" That exclamation was how the gentiles
described those who walked "The Way". That love amazed the pagan
citizens of Antioch. It was so obvious to those pagans. It was the
care and concern, the genuine appreciation of the dignity and worth
of each person, great or small, powerful or weak, wealthy or poor,
health or sick that caught the attention of those pagan citizens.
"The Way" – what does this mean? If we look at how rapidly and
completely "The Way" changed lives, perhaps we’ll rediscover the
message of the Risen Lord. It’s an oversimplification to call "The
Way" an attitude, though it is certainly that. It is a gross
understatement to claim "The Way" is about personal maturity, though
"The Way" is clearly that as well. The Acts of the Apostles speaks
of several incidents of preaching and how that preaching affected
those listening. In each case there is a sense of repentance, of "metanoia".
Metanoia is the Greek word that describes a total turn around, a
change in how we live. St. Paul compares "The Way" of the follower
of Christ with the way of the world. The way of the world is
competition, of domination, of accumulation at the expense of the
widow, the orphan, and the laborer. The way of the world is rugged
individualism; as though winners are those who end up with all the
toys, capture the hill, win all the marbles; as if winning is
everything and the only thing. But "The Way" practiced by walkers in
"The Way" of the Lord is contrary to the way of the world. The way
of the world divides, destroys others for profits. The way of the
world is abusing another for sexual gratification, for control, for
the power wealth carries with it. But "The Way" is different is
about what Jesus did and said.
This Sunday’s gospel is a statement defining "The Way". Jesus is
about to physically leave the disciples. They are frightened at the
prospect of life without his presence. They are unsure of
themselves: they are afraid to be left alone without guidance,
without his presence. They understand his importance and worry they
might forget what he taught, what he demonstrated when he leaves
them. Jesus makes a difficult-to-understand promise: if they keep
his commandments he will ask the Father, and the Father WILL send
another Advocate to be with you always.
What are these commandments? What are these rules?
For many this is an "aha moment". Here are the rules for the game
of life: here is how we can judge ourselves. Here is how we can
judge others. Here is how we will be saved.
If we carefully read the gospel and the second reading from the
first letter of Peter, we’ll have to trash can that thought. There
are many preachers and teachers this Sunday trotting out lists of
do’s and don’ts for our safety and salvation. Those preachers
believe God wants moral purity more than anything: those preachers
scour the gospels and the apostolic writings for precise
understanding of the rules. Those preachers would never allow Philip
to preach to the Samaritans. After all, Samaritans were even more
impure than even pagans, more so than gentiles. The first reading
denies religious purity is the meaning of Jesus’ commandments.
Besides that, what is the attraction in a set of laws and
regulations that would attract so great a crowd? St. Paul insists
that the law does little to help us: its power is to condemn us for
our failures. This doesn’t mean law and regulations are worthless.
It means only that they mere guides preventing us from fooling
What is Jesus telling us as he tells anxious disciples to keep
his commandments? Over and over again in his ministry, Jesus heals,
Jesus teaches, Jesus encourages, Jesus builds bridges between
persons: he returns persons to community: his Body and His Blood
make us into one Body, one community bound together by his work on
the Cross and the Spirit’s work of recreation with his resurrection.
This is no personal adherence to a moral code. This is much more
demanding than the minimum required by law or regulation. Jesus
tells his disciples: "A new commandment I give you, that you love
each other as I have loved you."
And how intensely did Jesus love us? It is obvious to anyone who
has seen and wondered about the crosses that are the symbol and sign
of our faith. Jesus outstretched arms on the cross is how big he is
for us: those arms reach out to collect us and make our sufferings
an integral part of the salvation of all creation.
In another place Jesus responds to the young lawyer about the Law
of Moses. "Love the Lord you God with all your heart and all your
soul and your neighbor as yourself." The Franciscan Friar, Richard
Rohr, insists we’ve misunderstood this instruction of Jesus. Rohr
insists the "as" is not "like" you love yourself. He insists it
means we must love our neighbor "as if" the neighbor is us. That’s a
lot steeper demand on our care and concern of the other. Our most
primitive and basic instinct is for the preservation of our life.
That self-preservation is the most basic of instincts. If Rohr is
correct, then our basic instinct as a follower of "The Way" of Jesus
is the preservation and flourishing of our neighbor.
These are the commandments of Jesus. If we grasp these
commandments taught us by Jesus’ preaching and demonstrated to us by
his miracles, his signs, we can only live our moments differently.
If so, those who observe us will say of us, "see how he/she loves
the others!" Is it any wonder that so many persons came to "The Way"
so quickly? That was and is still the message of Jesus. In the story
of the blind man, Bartimaeus, we recognize a person who struggles
with making sense of his dark world. Here is someone who cannot see
a way for his life. He cries out to Jesus, walking by. Jesus asks
him what he wants. He responds "That I may see." This is not merely
a return to sensing color, light, objects, or faces of others. The
story tells us that Jesus offers him an even deeper vision. The
evangelist ends this story by saying that Bartimaeus followed in
"The Way" of Jesus. This story is about more than physical sight. We
forget this story continued with Jesus going to Jerusalem where he
will be accused, tried, tortured, hung on a cross, dies, is buried
and is raised up. We forget Jesus’ way is acceptance of terrible
isolation, rejection by friends, terrible pain. This is the way of
Jesus. And we should know that we too will have pain, rejection,
isolation, and even events that seek to kill our spirits. Such
suffering is part of "The Way" of Jesus. But if we forget the
resurrection, we are not followers of "The Way" of Jesus. We’ve
missed the point of the Incarnation! All we encounter, good, bad,
wonderful, terrible – all is part of our lives and all leads to our
resurrection. And through our choice and participation collectively
and individually, it brings about the resurrection, the rebirth of
all creation. This is about bringing God’s creation to completion:
this is bringing about the fullness of the Kingdom of God in the
universe. It is the job assigned to humanity at God’s creation. We
have purpose, we have meaning: it is God’s gift to us, it is our
honor: it cannot be taken from us except by the evil that thrives in
the way of the world.
It is the commandments of Jesus that bring us to the place
ancient peoples found so attractive. Christianity exploded at the
end of the first century. It spread rapidly, often because of the
blood of martyrs. Whole nations asked to be baptized. And when they
were baptized, when they committed to "The Way" of Jesus, the
apostles and their successors came and laid hands on them. The
Father sent the Spirit, the promised Advocate. That Advocate is the
constant source of energy, enlightenment, and inspiration for those
who follow "The Way of Jesus".
In our day there is a heavy sadness among church leaders. So many
are leaving the practice of Faith and falling into a sort of
materialistic religion of achievement, consumerism, of rugged
individualism. Perhaps we’ve been preaching the wrong message. For a
moment, let’s consider the struggle against abortion. In the United
States church men and women have make it a matter of politics. In
the 1980 presidential cycle, the Evangelist Jerry Falwell approached
candidate Ronald Reagan. Falwell guaranteed the votes of the
southern states if Reagan would promise to work to overturn Roe vs
Wade. That ruling of the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the
U.S. That was in the 1980 election cycle. That was thirty seven
years ago. In every election since that time, it was been a talking
point by one party. The other party is portrayed as murderers of
babies. It is an issue politicians use to gain the vote of
Evangelicals and Catholics. Yet in thirty seven years little has
been done legislatively about Roe vs Wade.
In our recent election, many among Catholic hierarchy implicitly
endorsed a candidate because of an anti-abortion campaign promise.
If history is a predictor of future, the status of abortion will not
be changed legislatively. Why would we depend on congress for
address something that must rise from the heart? Why do preachers
rant against abortion, when "The Way" of Jesus asks to focus on love
for the unborn child? Most such rants are addressed to those who
already believe in the wonder and magnificence of human life, born
or unborn. Sentiments toward the unborn rarely make it into
legislation that protects, and supports the child after birth. It is
a mistake to depend on the state to do the work of Christ. Such
dependence is a failure to understand "The Way".
Loving our neighbor as ourselves includes loving the unborn, the
aged, the prisoner, the refugee, the immigrant, the irritating
neighbor. The test of that love is achieved only when we look upon
those persons as if we are them. Are we capable of that? Ours is a
gospel of life not death. When we allow ourselves to be distracted
from "The Way", we cease following the commandments of Jesus.
Perhaps this is why so many find our Faith unattractive. Perhaps
we’ve watered down the message into a set of rules and regulations.
Paul tells us those rules, laws, and regulations can only offer
condemnation. Life is not in the law. Fullness of life is discovered
and grows only in "The Way" of the Lord.
BEING TRUE TO OURSELVES AND OTHERS: 6TH SUNDAY EASTER A
Truth matters. So much so that Jesus says to us today: ‘I shall
ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you
forever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive...’ (Jn
There’s a well-known saying: ‘Honesty is the best policy!’ I tend
to agree. Some time ago, I saw a very touching movie, one of the
best I’ve ever seen, called Secrets and Lies. It's about a white
woman who gave birth to a black daughter, and who was kept from
seeing and sharing with her daughter all through her growing-up
years. The story unfolds and undoes the secrets and lies that had
kept mother and daughter strangers to each other during that long
The movie illustrates just how much the truth matters. So we want
the facts and nothing but the facts, we call for truth in politics
and truth in advertising, and in a court of law, we are expected to
swear to the truth of what we say - 'the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth'. We experience more and more protesters
calling on us to ‘speak truth to power’, in both civil society and
The actual facts tend to speak for themselves. Just as important
as sticking to the facts and telling it like it is, however, is to
be known and valued as honest, sincere, genuine, trust-worthy
people, who don’t deceive, mislead, or cover-up. Experience too
tells us that to sustain and develop our relationships, openness,
honesty, and transparency are not simply optional but absolutely
It's also a fact of life that we human beings cannot cope with
too much reality. So we don't take kindly to anyone blurting out our
faults and failings to our faces, attacking and abusing us, even
though they may be telling the unvarnished truth. For the sake of
our self-esteem and self-respect, something more is needed than just
telling the truth to another. That something more is courtesy and
politeness, patience and gentleness, understanding and tact. While
deep down we want to face the truth for the sake of our integrity,
we will take it much more readily from those who show they are on
our side - people who care about us, people who support us.
What's all this got to do with the teaching of Jesus today? A
great deal, I suggest. Jesus, who has just called himself ‘the
truth’, as well as ‘the way’ and ‘the life’, is telling his friends,
ourselves among them, that he has to go away. That’s the plain
truth. But some day he will come back to earth, and his followers
will see him again. That's the second truth he tells. He goes on to
share a third truth. For the time in-between, he is sending us the
Holy Spirit, his second self, to be our adviser, mediator, advocate
We rejoice, then, that the same Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth,
who was the source of Jesus' own honesty, truthfulness and
integrity, is given to us and stays with and among us. Unless, of
course, we deliberately decide to be ‘people of the lie’ - an
expression of the writer F. Scott Peck - living lives of spin,
hypocrisy and deception! To illustrate! The Nestle food company
recently claiming that the gift of water belongs to corporations and
not to the whole human race! The slogan of those clamouring for
abortion on demand – ‘my life, my body, my choice’! The advocates of
so-called ‘clean coal’! The ‘trickle-down’ theory of free market
economics! The recent line – or is it a lie? - that 65 billion
dollars of company tax cuts will benefit low and middle income
earners, and not just company millionaires! The problematic claim of
the Australian National Anthem that ‘for those who’ve come across
the seas we’ve boundless plains to share’! True for some, no doubt,
but not for all! Definitely not true for those thousands of human
beings who arrived by boat seeking protection from persecution in
their homelands, but who today find themselves languishing in
indefinite offshore detention!
That same Spirit of Jesus that animated him ‘to go about doing
good’ (Acts 10:38) and only good, is available to us 24/7 to empower
us to be as truthful as Jesus. Jesus is also assuring us today that
the Spirit of truth given to us is also the Spirit of love,
empowering us to also imitate Jesus in the ways he communicated the
truth. This was not only in straight-forward ways, but also with
courtesy, politeness and gentleness, along with patience,
understanding and tact.
For that gift of Jesus to us of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of
truth and the Spirit of love, given for our day-to-day dealings with
our fellow-human beings, let us give thanks in the rest of our
prayer together today! And let us pray that when we need to speak
the truth to others, including speaking truth to power, that
supported and guided by the Holy Spirit, we will always speak it
without fear or favour, as well as with respect and love, care and
Gleeson CP" <email@example.com>
Year A: 6th Sunday in Easter
"If you love me you will keep my commandments."
To be honest, I’m not generally the best with commandments,
either at giving them or keeping them. But two experiences have
really changed my understanding of what they are.
The first was a time in my life before I became a priest when I
was sent by my Jesuit superiors to be a teacher. I was not good at
it and I did not enjoy it. My big problem was that I just could not
keep order in class. One word from me and the children did whatever
they wanted to do. I tried everything I could - I tried being nice
to them - didn’t work. I tried being nasty to them. - didn’t work. I
tried everything in between. None of it worked. In despair, I
brought my problem to another teacher who never seemed to have any
trouble in her class. I asked her how she did it. She simply said:
"Well I love them and they love me. And because they love me, they
trust me and they do what I ask them to do because they know that I
wouldn’t ask them to do something that wasn’t right." And then she
just looked at me as if this was obvious and that creating that sort
of trust was just the easiest thing in the world.
I found that deeply inspiring, but not immediately helpful. But I
think that is exactly what Jesus means when he says: "If you love me
you will keep my commandments." If you really love me then you will
trust me that what I ask of you is for your own good and then you
will do it not because you have to; not because you’ll get in
trouble if you don’t; but because you want to; because you know it
is what is good for all of us. It is by living in this way that we
will become the best that we can be, both for ourselves and for
those who depend upon us.
The second was more recently. When I worked with the Wapisana
tribe - an Amerindian community in the Amazon, we once had a meeting
with some of the lay church leaders about how we could make the
Sunday service reflect more closely their particular Amerindian
I should explain: the Rupununi is a parish the size of Wales –
about 25,000 square miles. And in that parish, there are about
15,000 Catholics spread over 53 small villages, each with their own
little church and their own lay Church leader. Obviously, with three
priests spread over 53 communities hundreds of miles apart, a priest
can only visit them at most once a month. So it is really important
for the people that when they come together on a Sunday morning,
they really feel that God is present among them. So we really wanted
to work with the lay leaders on making the Sunday prayer services
really express the life and presence of God within the community.
So one of the first questions that came up was how to perform a
welcoming ceremony at the start. What would – within that particular
culture and that particular context - be a meaningful expression of
God’s welcome to His People?
So, to keep it local and relevant, we asked them: "What does the
Touchau - the village chief - say when visitors from another village
come to see him."
And they thought about that for a little while. And the answer
came back: "He says: ‘Kaimen’ - a word that means ‘Hello’."
And we asked: "But, doesn’t he say anything else?"
And they talked for a little while among themselves and the
answer came back: "No, not really. He just says ‘Kaimen’ - ‘Hello’."
But we felt we needed something more to start a Sunday service
with than just "hello". So we talked a bit more and we got nowhere.
Eventually - at long last - one of my brother priests asked the
right question: "When visitors come from another village, what does
the Touchau do?"
They said: "Oh well! He gives them water to wash, and he gets the
women to come and massage their feet and then he brings in a big
bowl of Casiri to drink." - that’s the local traditional cassava
And then we had a long and lively discussion of whether or not it
was a good idea to start the Sunday service by having a foot massage
and sharing around a large bowl of cassava beer. And in the end we
decided it probably wasn’t. I leave aside the question of whether or
not that was the right decision (you’ll not be surprised to hear
that I was in the loudly dissenting minority). But that made an
important point - the welcome is not in the words. Words are cheap.
The welcome is in the action. We welcome Christ not by faith alone -
not just by saying that Jesus is Lord. We welcome him by keeping his
commandments - by living our lives as he asked of us and by sharing
his body and blood as he told us.
Catholic Christianity is – at least on its good days - a faith of
action, not of words. We do not remain in Jesus’ love by sitting and
doing nothing - not even by prayer and reading the scriptures. Not
even by believing in our hearts and confessing with our lips that
Jesus is Lord. We remain in his love by living in his commandments.
In the gospel, he tells us what they are: they are not many; they
are easy to understand; but they are not easy to keep.
- - to love the Lord our God with all our minds and all our
soul and all our strength.
- - to love our neighbour as our self.
- - to love one another as He has loved us.
- - to be perfect as God our Father is perfect.
- - and finally, to do this, the Eucharist, in memory of me.
- Let us pray that our love may always show more in actions
than in words.
Let us stand and profess our Faith in the love of Christ and the
power of the commandments he taught us while on earth.
Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights
on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear.
Send them to