Welcome Back! Find the readings here: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050116.cfm
Fun fact: This week’s readings are a set-up The Ascension (May 8). Jesus promises the people the Holy Spirit, which he gives them the following week at Pentecost (May 15).
I had a realization this week about the Easter posts thus far. Maybe you’ve noticed the pattern. In Reading 1, we get about 2 verses, then skip 20+ verses, then we hear the rest of the reading. I’m puzzled by this, but there must be a reason. Interestingly, the portion of the reading that is skipped on Sunday is often one of the daily readings from the previous week. One way to get the “in-betweens” of Sunday’s readings is to download the “Laudate” app to your phone. You can, among many other things, download an audio file of the daily readings and just listen. I highly recommend it.
1st Reading: Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29
Here are the basics of what’s going on for this reading for verses 1-29.
- Problem: What do we do about circumcision? (verses 1-2)
- Council of Jerusalem (verses 3-21)
- The Letter from the Council is read (22-29)
First we hear, “Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic law, you cannot be saved.” Then Paul and Barnabas and some of the others go to Jerusalem about this question. In the missing verses (3-21), the Council of Jerusalem takes place – the first Council of the Church. At this meeting, several important matters are discussed. The Church leaders want to know – what do we do about circumcision? For centuries, circumcision was the rite of initiation into the covenant of Abraham. It was a badge of Jewish identity. It entitled them to share in the blessings of the Old Covenant. So they called a council, invited the Holy Spirit, and He guided them to a resolution.
The Councils of the Church – this one and all that came after it – were established to answer questions like this. Peter – the pope – spoke as the head of the Church. He formed, with the help of the Holy Spirit, a doctrinal judgment about the means of salvation: “Jews and Gentiles alike are saved, not by the flint knife of circumcision but by faith in Christ.” The Council of Jerusalem also forbids the consumption of idol food, which is referred to in the letter we hear when the reading picks up in verses 22-29.
Responsorial Psalm 67
“O God, let all the nations praise you.”
The line I like best that relates to our 1st reading is “May the nations be glad and exult because you rule the peoples in equity; the nations on the earth you shall guide.
2nd Reading: Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
Chapter 21 of Revelation is only about 50 verses from the end of the entire body of scripture. We’re rarely here, so to read from Revelation brings a sense of excitement. Last week John told about the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, and that God would dwell with his people always. This week, John describes that city. He says it “gleams with the splendor of God. It’s radiance was like that of a precious stone, like Jasper, clear as crystal.” These gems, and others like it (e.g. onyx) are mentioned all the way back in Genesis 3 when God describes the Garden of Eden. The same gems with which God created the world will still exist at the end of time and adorn his creation.
We see that there are no more walls, no temple. Walls did not exist in the garden either, not until sin entered. Once the temple was built, the only way to be in the presence of God was to send the high priest, once a year, through wall after wall of the physical temple and into the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of God. Just look at all the walls, physical and otherwise, that were built because of man’s sin. At the second coming there are no more walls, and no more temple. Jesus is the temple, and he died once and for all. For us. It is a beautiful reading full of light, hope, and heavenly images!
Gospel: John 14: 23-29
Jesus speaks plainly today. John’s gospel is different than the others in that he talks at length about his relationship – and yet his sameness – to the Father. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him.” Jesus also offers us a peace that only He can give. This is not worldly peace, but eternal peace. We must guard it carefully, preserve it, protect it. This week a priest said we should imagine the words of the sign “Private Property: No Trespassing.” The peace Christ gives is deep, it is of a divine nature. Nothing should be able to rock it, no matter the storm.
Then we get a preview to next week: “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” This is exactly what we saw transpire in the first reading at the Council of Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit taught Peter the right thing to say, He reminded Peter of all that Jesus had said, and a new doctrine emerged from that Council. The same process happens today, more than 2000 years later, when the Church issues new teachings.
In preparation for His ascension, he tells them plainly “And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.”
Next week we celebrate the Ascension and the week after, Pentecost. Easter officially ends at Pentecost. Since Easter Sunday we’ve been called to be an Easter People. How are we doing? At Pentecost the Church reminds us of the beauty that is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our partner, our Paraclete here on Earth. We’ll soon be called to continue forward after the official end of Easter and march into Ordinary Time renewed, refreshed, and rejuvenated by this beautiful season. Are we ready?