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6 EASTER A

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Contents: Volume 2 - The 6th Sunday of EASTER (A)
May 17, 2020


 

 The

 SIXTH

 Sunday of

 Easter

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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6th Sunday of Easter 2020

The second reading from the first letter of Peter gives us an admonition, "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope". Many of us are in a prolonged time of "stay at home" with life turned upside down and the unknown still very much present and, well, seemingly never ending. In order to survive emotionally and also to nurture our spirituality, I think we must ask ourselves some important questions.

1. What explanation do each of us give when we ask our inner self the reason for hope?

My personal response is based on today's reading from the Gospel according to John. This is a selection that describes lots of promises from Someone trustworthy, the kind that foster an abundance of hope. Jesus tells the disciples (and us) that Jesus will send us the Advocate to be with us always, that Jesus will never leave us orphan, and that Jesus, too, will come to us. We are also told that this Advocate will be in us, that we will see Jesus, that Jesus loves each of us, and that Jesus will reveal himself to us. Lots of promises from the Someone who is the Promised One. I believe in the promises of Jesus. The hardest one I think, is the "seeing Jesus" one, but I often see Jesus in other people and trust I will see Jesus face to face in eternity.

2. How do we maintain that hope?

I maintain my hope in those promises by reading them and reflecting on them. I also recall when parts of them have come true for me in my personal life and through struggles and seemingly impossible challenges. I recall how belief in Jesus has changed people like St. Peter and St. Paul and the many known saints who have overcome struggles. I recall how those I know have leaned on those promises and have met their challenges with the help of the Holy Spirit. And I pray. I pray a lot!

3. How can we share that hope with others "with gentleness and reverence"?

I share my hope by writing . I share my hope by giving extra time and attention to my grand daughter, someone who developmentally deals with pre-teen (now called tween)/ teen angst along with the general angst we all feel about this pandemic. Trying to just listen (mostly remotely now) to people about the things in their lives that bring hope into question helps them not find "solutions", but relief from some anxiety while, at the same time, oddly increases my own sense of hopefulness. connecting with others reminds me that the Risen Lord is alive and the Holy Spirit is within us and amongst us!

It is soon to be Pentecost, the Church's main celebration of the outpouring once again of the special gifts of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Once received in Baptism, the Advocate already supplies abundant graces; we, asking for graces rather than "solutions", not so abundant these days. As we prepare for Pentecost, let us reflect on the Reason for our hope. Let us reflect on what is it that each of us should ask the Advocate to plead for, for us to have and to us to receive. Let us revisit the 3 questions I asked as often as we need to do so. We do have the reassurance that the Holy Spirit will nudge us or push us or even occasionally drag us, in the direction of hope once again should we wonder or wander or even falter. Come, Holy Spirit!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter May 17, 2020

Acts 8:5-8 & 14-17; Responsorial Psalm 66; 1st Peter 3:15-18; Gospel Acclamation John 14:23; John 14:15-21

The gospel this Sunday – as well as the Sundays of Easter before this one – lack context. When we read this gospel, it sounds as though it speaks of a meeting with Jesus after the Resurrection. We would be led to think this because, after all, this is the sixth Sunday of Easter. Jesus’ teaching and encouragement in this gospel makes more sense when we realize that John places this instruction at the supper before Jesus’ capture, judgement by the Sanhedrin, torture, death on the cross, and his resurrection. John uses the last supper not so much as the institution of the Christian priesthood and the Eucharist, but as a final summation and expansion of Jesus’ teaching. So when Jesus tells them he is not leaving them orphans – literally in Greek, without a dad, without a master teacher, he tells them he is leaving them shortly. But he is coming back. He foretells his death. However, that will not be the end of it. Jesus speaks of the Resurrection. But more than the return after the Resurrection, he tells of the totally unexpected work of God’s presence among his disciples – then and now. Jesus commits to being present even after his return to the Father when he disappears from sight.

Shortly we will be celebrating the Ascension – forty days after Easter. Well, we have lost the sense of forty days since we celebrate Ascension Thursday on the Seventh Sunday of Easter for the convenience of the faithful whose lives are too busy to take a day off during the week. We should recall that forty is the number of completion. That is the Hebrew calculation of the life span of a single generation. That is the number of years the Hebrews wandered in the desert before they came into the Promised Land. It is the number of days Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert before he began his public ministry. So, the forty days from the Rising to the Ascension signifies that Jesus has completed his work. The journey he began has been completed.

In this gospel we are told by Jesus that he remains with us. In that greatest mystery, that most difficult and rich teaching of Jesus - God is Three in One - we discover Jesus still with us. For most of us, discovering his presence is a problem. We do not actually see him. We do not hear his words of instruction, of encouragement. We do not experience his healing when he reaches into our hearts to cleanse what is unholy. We cannot embrace him and hold him tight when we struggle with difficulties. How is it true for us of little faith that he is here? We recall Martha returning from meeting Jesus who came to console the two sisters. She says to Mary, "the Master is here." Jesus is with us even when death visits and takes one of our own. His coming tells us, no, better said, insists that death is no end but only a start of more.

How do we realize he is present? Our blindness is removed just as the blindness of Bartimaeus and the man born blind. We cannot see because we look with eyes of flesh. That is what we have been trained to do, that is what we learn as children. We trust our eyes. How quite different and difficult it is to see with eyes of the heart. Faith, as we all know, is more a matter of the heart than it is of the mind which knows through our senses. How, do we see the Lord, our Master? Jesus tells us in this gospel how we come to know him. John is clear about that in the final words of this Sunday’s gospel. "Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him."

The starting point to seeing and knowing Jesus – and the Father, the Creator God who is Dad to us – we need to know Jesus’ commandments. Those commandments are given to us in the Beatitudes. They are given to us in the story about the young man who wanted to know how to be perfect. "Love the Lord you God with your whole mind, your whole heart, your whole self. The second commandment is like this. Love your neighbor as yourself." In loving completely, we discover Jesus and in knowing Jesus we know the Father as well. And in that knowing we discover our true selves in experiencing Jesus. Again, here is that pesky word, "truth." Why is truth of such importance? Discovering Jesus and truth are matters of the heart. This obedience of which Jesus speaks, he demonstrates after he completed his discourse and his prayer at the last supper with his disciples before his passion and death. These are matters of the heart. When we are truly in love, it is our heart that gives direction. When we rationalize our love for another, we eeks our advantage, that gives birth to competition, that is about ourselves rather than the beloved. When the heart reaches out, when the heart is attracted, when the heart is the source of our choices, then we come to know Jesus. John insists that God is love. If we experience true love, then we are experiencing the life with which God lives. When we are obedient to the truth of reality, we love reality for its own sake. When we love another with great intensity, complete, and unconditional love, we have strength to do and be for the other in ways incomprehensible to those who relate to another or others because it is for their benefit. God’s love seeks no reward. When we in turn love without expectation of gain, then we share in the life of God.

The trouble with the matters of the heart is that love always begins in the mind. The more we come to know, understand, and appreciate the other, the more our love moves to the heart. When that energy comes to completion in the heart no pain can dissuade us. There is no force capable of making us stop loving. But we are more than foolish if we believe we love as much as Jesus loves us. It takes an entire lifetime for us to practice love that lacks selfishness and rewards.

In the message this Sunday, Jesus promises he will stay with us. The Advocate the Father sends us is the Spirit of Truth. The word "Advocate" is a weak translation of the Greek. The Advocate is one who comes to defend us in the court against the ways of the world. Do we not appear foolish when we walk the Way of the Christ? How can we continue on that Path when we are derided, when culture demands that we seek wealth, power, and influence more than love of others and creation? The Advocate is a witness in our hearts of the Truth of how the faithful seek to live. But even more relevant, especially in this time of great suffering and fear, is the meaning of Advocate indicating a person who comes to us in time of great need. The Holy Spirit deals with our inadequacies and enables us to cope with the difficulties of relationships and in life’s events.

The Spirit of Truth is available to us because we are persons of faith. We pray -- speak with the Spirit -- wait for the Truth of the Spirit -- because Jesus told us the Spirit has been sent.

Unfortunately, technology and the speed of life insist we must have it all right now. But the Truth of human life is that we continually learn. When we close ourselves to the possibility of more faith, more hope, more charity, we close ourselves to personal growth. That is a tragedy.

Love is truly the answer. Jesus’ preaching the beatitudes takes place on a mount -- that is the "sermon on the mount." That is in imitation of Moses going up the mountain to receive the commandments. Only it is not Moses who ascends; it is Jesus, the Son of God/Son of Man who reveals the truth of human existence. The beatitudes are the commandments of the New Covenant -- the deal between God and Humanity. "I will be with you and you will obey my commandments." Jesus summarizes the whole of the law and the prophets of the former covenant in his answer to the inquiring young man. "Love God above all things and your neighbor as yourself." This is a challenge. It is not an easy task. The untruths of the world’s culture, leadership, and goals are constantly marketed with compelling energy. These are how the culture of death gains a foothold in our hearts, replacing the faith that depends on love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus went through death, taking on his shoulders all that is evil. He conquered it with the relationship of love he shared with the Father. He is the source of a culture of life.

On this Sixth Sunday of Easter, when we are still reduced to watching from a distance, absent from the food that nourishes and heals, we have a great opportunity to obey, to love others and God more completely. Since everything is out of the ordinary, we should use this confusion to listen more closely to Jesus’ parting words to his disciples. Our ears, our eyes, and our minds come to a fuller relationship with our Father, our Brother, and our Advocate. As we put on masks to protect others, as we stay apart, we do this as an act of love for others. Our inconvenience and suffering are an act of love for others. We must pray for those who reject their opportunity to show compassion and love for others in their demands for an openness which will increase sickness and death. If we love one another, we will seek their safety, their benefit, and their grace. May the Spirit of Truth find a welcoming home in our hearts. Let us pray for the Spirit’s inspiration, consolation, and wisdom. Let us join with those who help!

Carol & Dennis Keller, with Charlie (editing) dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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TRUTH MATTERS: 6TH SUNDAY EASTER A

It’s often said: ‘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 secretly gave birth to a black daughter, and who was kept from seeing and sharing with her daughter all through the child’s 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, e.g. 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'. For facts are very important. It’s equally important to us that we be known as honest, sincere, genuine, trust-worthy people, who don’t deceive, mislead, or cover-up. We know from experience that to sustain and develop our relationships, openness, honesty, and transparency are not 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 who blurts out our faults and failings to our face, who attack and abuse us, even though they may be telling the unvarnished truth. For the sake of our self-esteem and self-respect, something more than telling the truth to one another is needed. 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’, tells his friends, including us, that he has to go away. This is the truth. But some day he will come back to earth, and we will see him again. That's the second truth. And there is a third truth he tells. For the time in-between, he is sending us the Holy Spirit, his second self, to be our adviser, advocate, comforter 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’ (F. Scott Peck), living lives of spin, hypocrisy and deception. That same Spirit of Jesus is available to us 24/7 to empower us to be as truthful as Jesus. He also assures us that the Spirit of truth given to us is also the Spirit of love, empowering us to be like Jesus too in the way he communicated the truth. This was with courtesy, politeness and gentleness, and with patience, understanding and tact.

The importance of ‘telling it like it is’ to our fellow-human beings applies also to what we say and how we say it, when we pray to God. When we are thanking God for gifts and blessings, we do that easily enough. But many of us are not good at telling God just how we feel, when life is tasting more like lemons than lemonade.

This is particularly so at the present time, when we find ourselves cut off from others, even our nearest and dearest, because of the restrictions imposed by the ravages of the corona virus. We are quite ready and even eager to thank God for the good and heroic people around us keeping our communities going, such as doctors, nurses, shop assistants, bus and train drivers. But we are not so ready to pray prayers of lament to God, prayers in which we complain to God, even quite vigorously, for the death and destruction happening around us and around our world. We don’t find ourselves praying, like the Jewish people of old: ‘How long, O Lord, will you let this happen? How much longer must we wait for you to step in and deliver us from this pandemic scourge?’

For many if not most of us, there is a block to praying such open, honest, and heart-felt prayer. We have been raised to speak only politely to ‘Almighty God’. Our sense of reverence and respect simply stop us from ‘letting it rip’ with what we ask of God and how we phrase it. It may help us to remember, then, that in the Psalms, the Jewish Prayer Book Christians have inherited from our Jewish ancestors, about two-thirds of the 150 psalms are laments, pleading for the Lord’s help in situations of desperation. Their confidence in God’s nearness to his beloved people, keeps them moaning and groaning over and over again: ‘Why? ‘Where are you, God? ‘How much longer will we have to endure this?’

 

Jesus has promised to provide his gift to us of the Holy Spirit, as the Comforter, the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of love, given for our dealings with God and with our fellow-human beings. So, in the rest of our prayer together today, let us ask that when we need to speak the truth to others, that the Spirit of God will empower us to also speak it with respect, care, concern, and love! Let us pray too that our reverence and love for God will not block us from saying to God just how down and depressed we may be feeling, about the situations for which we are seeking God’s loving care and God’s powerful intervention!

"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 wondering how a man could get to the age of 30 and not know that 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 5,000 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 people 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 everybody feels very welcome!"

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 neighbor 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.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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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.

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