05.20.18 – Pentecost Sunday (Year B)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Join us every week for background on the Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Buckle up! Today is packed with meaning.

liturgical calendar

Where in the liturgical year are we?

Today we celebrate Pentecost, which marks the end of the Easter season. In the image above, we are at the black line between “Easter” and “Ordinary Time.” “Ordinary” does not mean plain, it means ordinal, as in, “in a numbered fashion.” After today,  we return to Old Testament readings for R1, and for Reading 2 we will hear from one of St. Paul’s letters. Because we are in year A, we will continue to hear from Matthew.

Pentecost originated in the Old Testament; it was called the Feast of Harvest. “Pente” + “Cost” translates loosely to “fiftieth (50th).” Here’s why that matters:

Fun fact:
For the Jews, Pentecost was celebrated 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits. This is when the people gave an offering to the Lord from their first fruits (from the best, heartiest foods they’d grown).

For us today, Pentecost is  celebrated 50 days after Jesus was crucified. This begs the question, how was Jesus’s death considered a first fruit? Well, if a first fruit is an offering, then Jesus’s death certainly was an offering of his life for our sins.

Reading 1: Acts 2:1-11
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel. During the Easter season the 1st reading is Acts of the Apostles.)

Today we see the gift Jesus left for his people after He Ascends into Heaven – the Holy Spirit. It comes as boldly as ever – in the form of fire. You may recall that in the OT, God’s presence is represented by both Cloud & Fire. Today is all about FIRE.

  • God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush.
  • When Moses led the Israelites through the desert he was guided by a fire at night.
  • God signed a contract with Abraham using fire.

There are many examples. Fire is not always destructive, but as in this case, fire is a sign of God’s intense love for his people.

The reading begins by stating “they were all in one place together.” This is similar to the Feast of Pentecost from the OT, which was a pilgrim feast. Then we hear that a noise like a strong driving wind, and “there appeared to them tongues as a fire which came to rest on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the spirit enabled them.” People from all lands were able to speak their own native languages and yet … understand everyone around them.

This is the complete opposite of the Tower of Babel story from the OT. In that story, God’s people tried to build a tower that would reach the heavens so that they could be more like God. In response to this sinful act, God mixed up their languages so they couldn’t understand each other. Today’s reading is the resolution of that story. The Tower of Babel story is flipped on its head, and now as the Holy Spirit comes down upon the apostles. Everyone can understand one another and there is peace and harmony among the people, as well as great joy. A perfect example of how the OT is the “question” and the NT is the “answer.”

Responsorial Psalm 104:
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

“Lord send out your spirit and renew the face of the Earth.”

For the Lord has indeed sent his Spirit to abide with us on Earth for ever.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
(The 2nd reading is usually one of Paul’s letters. The 2nd reading speaks to how the early church built The Church after the, death and resurrection).

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is written to help the early church understand the need for Unity. Many of the Corinthians used to be pagans and idolaters.

The reading encourages them to remember that despite our differences we are one in God’s Holy Spirit. That Spirit has been poured out upon the apostles today – the Feast of Pentecost. Paul takes note of the differences we all have and says they all are good. Importantly, these differences do not negate our oneness because all of our ministries are inspired and guided by God.

Reflect:

What are your specific gifts from God?
How are you using those to bring glory to God?

(At this point during the mass, many parishes will sing the Veni sancte spiritus which translates Come Holy Spirit. This is also frequently song during confirmation masses.)

Gospel: John 20: 19-23
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.

We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

It begins, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst. He said to them “Peace be with you.’ when he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. He said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me so I send you.’ When he said this he breathed on them and said receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Two things happen in this reading: 1) The sacrament of penance is instituted, and 2) We see a “sending forth” of Jesus’s first priests. The apostles were asked to carry Christ’s message to the whole world, including His forgiveness. These priests and all priests today are ambassadors for Christ in a special way.

I’ve struggled with John 20:23 – the part about retaining sins. Maybe you have too, and maybe this will help. From Catholic.com:

  • “Q: Does a priest always have to forgive a person’s sins?
  • A: No, the priest does not always have to forgive your sins. For example, if you confessed the sin of adultery, and the priest asks, “Have you ended the affair?” If you reply, “No, I’ll continue seeing her,” then forgiveness would not be possible because there is no purpose of amendment. A contrite heart – true sorrow for having offended God – is the key.

The advantages of reconciliation are many. From Catholic.com:

Is the Catholic who confesses his sins to a priest any better off than the non-Catholic who confesses directly to God? Yes. First, he seeks forgiveness the way Christ intended. Second, by confessing to a priest, the Catholic learns a lesson in humility, which is avoided when one confesses only through private prayer. Third, the Catholic receives sacramental graces the non-Catholic doesn’t get; through the sacrament of penance sins are forgiven and graces are obtained. Fourth, the Catholic is assured that his sins are forgiven; he does not have to rely on a subjective “feeling.” Lastly, the Catholic can also obtain sound advice on avoiding sin in the future.

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05.13.18 – The Ascension (Year B)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Image result for image of ascension

Fun Fact:
You may have noticed that the blog border for the Easter season has been yellow. This will change to red when we celebrate Pentecost next Sunday, the coming of the Holy Spirit.

1st Reading: Acts 1:1-11

The book of Acts, as we have mentioned before, is part II of Luke’s gospel. Both books are written to someone named Theophilus, though scholars are not exactly sure who this person was. Today we have the first 11 verses.

In the first verse, Luke tells us that in his gospel (Part I), he dealt with all things Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up (which is today).

  • In Luke’s gospel, Jesus lived, taught, suffered, died and rose from the dead. In Part II (Acts),
  • He is now sending his disciples out to the ends of the Earth to be his missionaries.

There are two main parts to this reading: 1) Jesus tells the disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit and 2) we behold the Ascension itself (the longer version).

  1. Jesus tells about the Holy Spirit: First, Jesus tells them the Holy Spirit will come. He says, wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak. For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The disciples are still caught up in logistics and asked him, “Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” But Jesus basically ignores the question. He says, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my Witnesses a) in Jerusalem b) throughout Judea and Samaria and c) to the ends of the Earth.” The disciples will eventually come to understand Jesus’s plan, but right now they will have to trust Jesus is words.

2. The Ascension. At the end, we watch Jesus ascend to the Father. “He was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” Remember that a cloud was present always during the time Moses wandered in the desert with the Israelites. A cloud signifies God’s presence. Next we see two men dressed in white garments standing beside them. These are angels. They have an important line in this scene. “Men of Galilee why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” What they’re telling the apostles is, don’t just look toward the sky and daydream about the future and about what Jesus meant. He gave you a job to do. Take action and get going on your missionary ways.

Psalm 47:
“God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.”

In this psalm we see the notion of hands clapping. In a website article, I found: “The most natural and most enthusiastic tokens of exultation (clapping hands) are to be used in the view of the victories of the Lord. This joy is to extend to all nations. Israel will lead the way but the Gentiles are all to follow in the march of triumph for they have an equal share in the Kingdom.”

The psalm only increases in feelings of joy as we see more images of the Lord mounting his throne amid shouts of joy and trumpet blasts.

2nd Reading: Ephesians 1:17-23

For the first time in the Easter season, we are not in the 1st letter of St. John for the second reading. Today we are in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The main theme is the mystery of Christ, which was once concealed but now revealed. This is a fitting reading for the Ascension. Jesus, who was once concealed to his followers and so many others, is now revealed as the son of the Father in a most definite and visible way.

Paul provides a prayerful reflection for his readers. “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.” May our hearts be lit up – be aflame with love for Christ. (More on the flame next week at Pentecost…)

Later we hear, “far above every principality, authority, power and dominion in this age and and the one to come.” Everything is beneath his feet. Jesus is head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way. It states plainly in this reading that the Church is his body. Put simpler still, the Church is the fullness of Christ.

This is a beautiful image indeed! Today we are called to act like Christ’s body and show others in our actions and words how Christ lived and loved.

Gospel: Mark 16:15-20

Today Mark answers the question, “what are the effects of Jesus’ Ascension?

These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 

Jesus tells the disciples in the New Testament– on numerous occasions – that he will suffer die and be raised. Now it is time for him to return home. His earthly mission is complete. I suspect this would have been a rough day for the disciples, to see Jesus whom they have come to love and worship, leave them.

But they took the torch. By the end of the reading, we hear that they “went forth and preached everywhere.” The power they were clothed with is the power of the Holy Spirit. It gave them strength to go out and accomplish their mission with great joy.

The Feast of the Ascension is a day for celebration. One of the promises God made to us is being fulfilled. God sent us his only son to save us from our sins. Jesus did that through his death on the cross. He opened Heaven’s gates. God will continue to keep his promise by next week sending us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

This week, perhaps we can simply contemplate where we need God in our lives right now. How can we call on the Holy Spirit to walk with us? We are never alone. Jesus never planned to leave us alone on Earth. He gave us the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Stay tuned for next week’s readings at Pentecost and a Happy Mother’s Day to all!

05.06.18 – 6th Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Background/Fun fact:

Before today’s first reading in Acts, there is a story of a vision Peter had. Important!! This is similar to the vision that the prophet Zechariah had, and may be the perfection or fulfillment of his vision (I’m still researching this). Zechariah saw an enormous scroll flying across the sky in his vision; in his time, it was a scroll to curse the people because of their disobedience. In Peter’s vision, he saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. Perhaps this is the fulfillment of Zechariah’s vision and instead of a curse, it is a blessing!

In Peter’s vision were all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat, but Peter said, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean.”The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” Now the 1st reading makes more sense.

Verses from Acts 10:26-28
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Notice in the reading how Peter refuses to be worshiped by Cornelius. People in the 1st century after Christ continue to be confused about how to respond to God’s holiness which is embodied  by His priests (for priests are still sinners, and this is still an issue today).

– Instead of a sheet coming down over the sea or over the people, we see The Holy Spirit come down and cover the people. Like a security blanket though, not a curse. Peter notes at the end of the meeting that no one should be prevented from coming in and seeking shelter from this “blanket”, the Holy Spirit, through baptism.

When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.”

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said,
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.”

While Peter was still speaking these things,
the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.
The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter
were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit
should have been poured out on the Gentiles also,
for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.
Then Peter responded,
“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people,
who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?”
He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.


Psalm 98 The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.

2nd Reading 1 JN 4:7-10

 This reading reminds me of the film I recently saw called Paul the Apostle of Christ. It tells the story of Paul at the end of his life during his final imprisonment in Rome. In one scene, Christians who are forced to live in a small corner of Rome lest they be burned as torches. They want to retaliate after hearing about all the violence happening outside their compound to their fellow brothers and sisters.  But Paul says NO. We must not retaliate and answer with violence. We must answer with LOVE.  This is what today’s 2nd reading is all about. St. John calls us to love one another IN all things, THROUGH all things, and DESPITE all things (like our weaknesses and sinfulness!).

 

Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

 GospelJN 15:9-17

(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

In keeping with the 2nd reading, Jesus tells the disciples to love. He is giving us a new commandment, and it fulfills and in some respects replaces, or “updates” the 10 commandments of the Old Testament. If we love really well and more perfectly, we can meet all 10 commandments. This of course, is very hard.

A word on stony hearts: God knew the Israelites had hearts of stone, so their capacity to love with hearts of flesh was less. In the Easter season, we know his plan – the passion, death and resurrection of His Son, has come to fruition. And our hearts are made more of FLESH because Jesus came to us in the FLESH to teach us what love is! We once had hearts of stone, but now that we know Jesus, we are called to something higher. LOVE: Simple to hear and understand. HARD to do sometimes, and requires a softening of our HARD hearts.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”

05.22.18 – 4th Sunday of Easter

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday’s readings. 
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Fun Facts
-We are in the Easter season; it’s 50 days. Lent is 40 days. Our joy is greater than our sorrow. Light trumps dark. Life trumps death.
– No more old testament readings during Easter! In year B, 1st reading is from ACTS, 2nd reading is from 1 JOHN, and our gospel is from JOHN or MARK.

 

Acts 4: 8-12
(The 1st Reading during Easter is from Acts of the Apostles.)

Today in Acts, Peter is giving another speech to the Jewish audience. He’s just healed a crippled man – in the name of Jesus – not by his own hands or will. The crowds still don’t believe Jesus can act through other people. He says to them, “You should all know this! It was in the name of Jesus that cripple was healed. Not me.” He goes on. “The stone you all rejected…Jesus? HE IS THE CORNERSTONE. He is the foundation upon which all life, all salvation, all mercy is built. No one else brings us salvation. Just Him.” I’m paraphrasing. Here’s what Peter actually said:
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said:
“Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know
that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.

There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”


Psalm 118:The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st ReadinG)

A familiar psalm below echoes the reading above.

 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.

I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.

1 John 3: 1-2
(The 2nd reading in Year B is from 1 John. It
 speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

In this reading from Saint John, the first word of the reading is SEE. We must see with our eyes, but also with our hearts – what Christ can do in our lives through his LOVE. We know by the end of the reading that it is through US that others SEE and learn about Christ and his healing ways, his powerful love. How can we help others say when they interact with us – “Yes… I SEE!”

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.

John 10: 11-18
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.

We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

Today’s gospel is a familiar story about sheep and shepherds. Remember psalm 23; “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” This is old testament. We see this simple analogy return in the gospel today, showing that we have come full circle, that God’s covenant began in the NEW testament and is fulfilled now in the new. It is easy to see how strong the shepherd is in this story – he doesn’t back away or run away as the hired hand does.
No – he is devoted entirely to the sheep. He never leaves them. He loves them all as his own. He KNOWS them. They KNOW him. They follow him when he calls, they know his voice. And at the end, he reminds us that on the cross? He wasn’t killed. His life wasn’t taken from him without him wanting to give it. He laid it down freely. For us. To save us. To save his sheep.
Do we know his voice? Do we hear it? Where has he spoken to us this past week? Are we following him? How so?
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.”

04.15.18 – 3rd Sunday of Easter (Year B)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Fun (and important) Fact: Today’s 1st reading is Peter’s 2nd big speech in Acts (like a homily). Right before our reading starts, Peter and John had healed a crippled man and said to the crowd, “Why are you amazed at this?” That question changes how we read the first reading. Clearly they still need a reminder that Peter and John relied on God’s power to heal that man, not their own.

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
(The 1st Reading during the Easter Season is from Acts of the Apostles. We’re taking a break from the Old Testament.)

In light of the fun fact above, we see below the continuation of Peter’s talk.

  • He reminds them that they put the author of life to death.
  • He acknowledges (or gives them the benefit of the doubt) that they acted out of ignorance in doing so.
  • He asks the people to repent… to convert – so that their sins may be wiped away.

Peter said to the people:
“The God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus,
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
Now I know, brothers,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

Psalm 4: Lord Let Your Face Shine Upon Us
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Today we are reminded that we must but call on the Lord and He will answer us!

When I call, answer me, O my just God,
you who relieve me when I am in distress;
have pity on me, and hear my prayer!

Know that the LORD does wonders for his faithful one;
the LORD will hear me when I call upon him.

1 John 2:1-5a
(The 2nd reading during the Easter season is from the first letter of St. John.
 Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

St. John’s goal is to help the people (and we listening from the pews) to be aware of sin and to not fall into it. John reminds us that Christ is our advocate for the times we fall short – he sent us an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Christ, manifest as the Holy Spirit and with us on Earth always, has suffered for our sins once and for all. And not just our sins, but those of the whole world. We are reminded to adhere to his commandments and to seek His forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation when we do fall short of the call to holiness.


Luke 24: 35-48
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.

We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

The gospel today is the story right after the Road to Emmaus (where 2 disciples meet Christ on the road and their eyes are opened, but only at the moment of “the breaking of the bread”). Today’s story is similar and has these themes:

  • Jesus appears to his disciples unexpectedly. He extends Peace to them. Not just a wish, but a blessing.
  • He answers their questions through a retelling and interpretation of scripture
  • He proclaims the Good News of His Resurrection
  • They Share a Meal. The disciples watch Jesus eat the fish, proving he is in fact human and in the flesh before their eyes; risen from the dead.

Jesus tells the disciples to take the gospel to all nations. We are called to be witnesses to His resurrection! How have we done being witnesses to this since Easter Sunday? What might we do this coming week to share the Good News with those around us, either directly or indirectly?

Be a light to the world this week!

Divine Mercy Sunday – Year B

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this weekend’s readings here.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

*Today I’ve included some information about how the Liturgy of the Word – the readings – are very different than during Ordinary Time, Lent, or any other Season.*

Fun Fact:
After 40 days of Lent, we now get to celebrate 50 days of Easter! That’s right, Easter will not end for another 43 days on Pentecost, which is May 20th.

Bonus Fun Fact:
Because we are in the Easter season, we take a break from the Old Testament, and in a sense, from the Old Covenant. When Jesus died on the cross, He ushered in the New Covenant. The Church marks this by always readings from the New Testament during Easter. In Year B, we’ll read mostly from Acts, 1st letter of John, and John’s gospel.

FIRST READING ACTS 5:12-16

(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

The book of Acts is written by Luke. It is literally “Part II” of Luke’s writing, (his gospel being Part I). In Greek, “Acts” is “praxis” which means “Acts of.” “Praxis” was a literary genre.  Just as “Sherlock Holmes” is a mystery writing, “Praxis” writing was always about a great figure who built a great city.  When “Acts” was written, one of the other books in circulation was called, “the Acts of Caesar Augustus,” also about a figure who built a great city. Luke is trying to resonate with his audience of that time. Knowing his audience liked “praxis” writing that was about leaders building a great city, he shares a story about another great figure who will build a great city. That could be Jesus building Heaven and/or the Apostles building the Church. A great rhetorical move on his part.

Today we’re in chapter 4 of Acts. We see the community of believer’s being ‘of one heart and mind’. This is God’s ultimate and perfect goal for his people – and has been from the beginning of time, starting with Adam and Eve, then the Israelites, now everyone – Israelites plus Gentiles. It’s also a contrast to the Tower of Babel – when everyone was competing against one another trying to outdo – and outbuild – God. Today’s reading is an image of a world at peace:

Reading 1
ACTS 4:32-35

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

 

Psalm 118:
Give thanks to the Lord, His love is everlasting
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Key notes here are the repeated phrases concerning mercy, as today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Also the well-known verse, “the stone which the builder rejected (Jesus) has become the cornerstone (the Risen One, the Messiah, the King of Kings.)

Reading 2
1 JN 5:1-6
(The 2nd reading for Easter Year B is from the 1st letter of St. John. Its purpose is to combat certain false ideas, especially about Jesus, and to deepen the spiritual and social awareness. Language is simple).

Today in John’s first letter, which is Reading #2, we hear the term “begotten” several times. This is a reminder that although Christ was born to his mother and was an infant, because He is God, he never had a beginning and an end as we think of it in our earthly bodies. In this reading we can see the relationship between Jesus and His Father – Our Father.  We are called to obey His commandments.

Beloved: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.

 

Gospel: John 20:19-31
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

This is the well-known reading on “doubting Thomas.” Poor St. Thomas. He gets quite a bad rap sometimes I think. We shake our fingers at him for having doubted, and yet we doubt so often ourselves.

First, Jesus offers the disciples peace in this reading. He doesn’t suggest it, or say here take peace if you want it, take it if you promise to pass it on to others, he simply says “Peace be with you.”It is a gift He is giving them. I see this as his way of telling us that with closeness to Christ, in relationship with Him, comes certain peace. We will always know peace when we are nearer to Him.

Then we see Thomas put his finger into Jesus’s side so that he might believe. Jesus has been raised from the dead, and yet he still bears the wounds. He bears wounds from his crucifixion, the wounds we created. I find this fascinating, and worthy of time in prayer. The Church teaches that when we die, we go through a cleansing/purifying process in purgatory. This is a “pit-stop” on the way to Heaven. A priest explained it like this: A 2 x 4 piece of wood is your soul. It starts out clean and unblemished. With each sin, we drive a nail through it. When we are absolved in confession, those nails are removed! The sins are forgiven. But the hole remains. Because nothing imperfect can enter into Heaven, we must be fully healed of the holes too, and that happens in purgatory. Once the nail holes are filled in and perfected, off to Heaven we go.

So why does Jesus keep his holes? He’s the son of God, so why didn’t He heal them and close them up? I think it was so that He could show the apostles, of course, that it was indeed Him…but it also serves as a reminder that we put the holes there. We drove the nails in. Our sins put Jesus on the cross, and He embraced death without opening His mouth so that our holes can one day be fully healed. These holes are just one more way we see our Shepherd lay down His life for us. Let us remember to thank God on this Divine Mercy Sunday, for the unconditional love and forgiveness he offers us.  And let us thank Him for sending to us the apostles and priests who stand in for Him here on earth, so that we can keep trying. Keep working. Keep taking the nails out, even though his holes remain.

May God bless your week!

04.01.2018 – Easter Sunday

Wishing you all a Blessed and Happy Easter season! Easter is 50 days long (which is not an April Fool’s Day joke) – so be sure to check back next weekend for more Banquet of the Word – on Divine Mercy Sunday. God bless you and your families!