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Contents: Volume 2 - 6th Sunday of Easter - A - May 14, 2017


 

 The 6th

Sunday

EASTER

2017

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

6. – (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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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?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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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 God's Spirit.

"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."

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 21, 2017

Acts 8:5-8; Responsorial Psalm 66; 1st Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21

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 ourselves.

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.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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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 14: 16-17a).

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 time.

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 Church.

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 necessary.

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 and support.

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 concern!

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

 

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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 culture.

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 beer.

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.

Dr Paul O’Reilly, SJ

<fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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