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Contents: Volume 2 - The 5th Sunday of EASTER (A)
May 10, 2020


 

 The

 FIFTH

 Sunday of

 Easter

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

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

 

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1.

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5th Sunday of Easter 2020

In our Gospel reading which takes place at the Last Supper, Jesus tells the apostles, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." He also tells them that they will do greater works than he has done because he was going to the Father. He tells them this, just before he dies, so that they will be able to look beyond the unbearable "unknown" he knows will affect them.

These words are very applicable today because our hearts are also troubled. In whatever stage your place of residence is, you are still in the "now normal" due to the pandemic. We have all become accustomed to many changes, some I absolutely refuse to call the "new normal". ..they will pass.

I think that we, too, must turn our understandable tendencies to mope and grieve into hope. In our readings, the psalmist tells us that those who hope for the Lord's kindness will be preserved from famine. In today's extra hard times, many are hungry for the staples of life, truly starving due to chronic homelessness, loss of employment, and cutbacks in services to the poor. We all are still enduring various kinds of other famines too because of needed restrictions for our own health and safety and that of others. Our strength is just zapped, our motivation is really sporadic if not completely gone, and so we occasionally succumb to being just plain listless.

That's OK, but it is not OK to stay listless. We, too, are supposed to do greater things in our lives than Jesus did through the power of the Holy Spirit. In our first readings, the Twelve and the disciples had a serious problem to resolve. They prayed and chose to divide the tasks of ministry about which they were arguing in a way to insure that all were receiving proper attention.

I think that strategy shows that these early community members were also not perfect but they, led by the Spirit, could begin this work of "doing greater things". So for us, we need to ask where can our current energy level meet the grace of the Holy Spirit to DO something? Praying is a great thing to do, for the needs are many and the hours at 2 or 3 am seem very long anyway. Sharing hope through the Scriptures revives one's own hope. Serving others involves a list of opportunities that will certainly outlast this pandemic.

We will outlast this pandemic. The spiritual house of which Jesus is the cornerstone and of which we are a part will outlast this pandemic. The promised place Jesus has prepared for each of us will outlast this pandemic.

It is our task to see that hope outlasts this pandemic. Let us begin by getting off our couches during our virtual Mass this Sunday and "Exult" along with the psalmist and Christian communities throughout the world. For the musically inclined, do sing very loudly: "Exult you just ones in the Lord....." !!!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Fifth Sunday of Easter May 10, 2020

Acts 6:1-7; Responsorial Psalm 33;1st Peter 2:4-9; Gospel Acclamation John 14:6; John 14:1-12

The culture of the Jews included a strong sense of responsibility for the poor, orphans, and widows. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles this Sunday indicates that the Christian Community took on this responsibility. Jewish Synagogues enacted a routine custom. Each Friday two collectors went round to markets and to homes to collect both money and goods for the needy. These would be distributed before the Sabbath observance began. Those with a temporary need would receive enough to tide them over. Those who were permanently unable to support themselves and their families would receive enough for fourteen meals – enough for two each day. To handle sudden emergencies there would be a daily collection from house to house for those in immediate pressing needs. It is evident the early Christian Community continued this practice.

What complicates this collection and distribution process was a certain aloofness of those Jews who lived in Palestine, spoke the Aramaic language, and abstained from living under the influences of Greek and Roman culture. This naturally created a division among the Jews. This division carried over into the Christian Community. The orphans, widows, and poor whose language was Greek were considered less then those who spoke Aramaic. As a result, there was an inequity in the Community. The apostles decided to subordinate the problem to practical persons who could sort out the issues and bring about equitable solutions. At this time, yet, these deacons were solely for the purpose of service. In short order both Stephen and Philip began preaching. That preaching got Stephen stoned, making him the first witness to the Christ to witness up to and including the loss of his life.

Fairness, unity, community were the concerns of the Apostles. Division had no place in this community brought together by the ministry, the passion and death, and resurrection of the Lord. In truth, the goal of this community was the will of God. And God’s will was clearly and unequivocally stated by Jesus in the gospel last Sunday. "I’ve come that you may have life and have it fully." While typically think of this life as life after we die, Jesus means it to include this our time on earth. Our current life is enriched and amplified by Walking in the Way of the Lord.

In the back of my mind there is an anxious question. There is a global pandemic ravaging the nations – all nations. The insidious virus chooses unwitting carriers who show little to no symptoms but who give the virus to those they meet. The need to stay away from others – the buzz word is "social distancing – is troubling. As Christians we are called to community. We come together to learn how to live and we come to the table to receive what we brought to the altar as our gifts and which the Spirit has transformed into the Body and the Blood of the Lord. Just as Jesus took with him our suffering, our sinfulness, our inability to live fully to his Cross, so also the Spirit takes the gifts we bring at offertory and transforms them into food that nourishes us, heals us, and makes us one with each other.

In this terrible time, there is an expanding conflict between economic stability and the life of thousands of others. Many are confused. Shouldn’t the weak, infirm, aged among us be willing to accept death by virus so that others might enjoy financial security? In the politics of the United States, one party has sought to gain political power by claiming to be "Pro-life." Yet it is that same party that pushes for "return to normalcy." Return to normalcy will – according to credible scientists – result in significant numbers of casualties. How "Pro-life" is such a policy? Is not "Pro-life" in favor of all life – from conception to natural death? Are we allowed to hasten natural death by encouraging a plan of action that will certainly shorten lives? In the first place, the Evangelicals embraced anti-abortion policies because it provided a unifying principle that could be formed into a voting bloc. Catholics have always viewed abortion as part of a culture of death. So, the voting bloc people could count on the support of Catholics in their pursuit of political power. But doing so is contrary to a culture of life that embraces and supports all life. Catholics by their baptism embrace the words of Jesus last Sunday. "I’ve come that you may have life and have it more fully! The pursuit of power is a seductive siren song that can make us forget the Will of God applies to all. We pray in the Our Father – "thy will be done." And the will of God is very straight forward – that all may have life and have it fully.

How can we support a "return to normalcy" that threatens the lives of tens of thousands of persons? Surely our God given abilities to think, to search for solutions, to work together to discover new ways forward should be our crusade in efforts to revive economies. Choosing death for some for economic reasons is not morally acceptable. A culture of life does not seek certain death of thousands no matter their age, their physical condition, their race, their nation of origin. All life is precious in the eyes of God. If we are followers of the Way of the Christ, then all life must be precious in our thinking and choices as well.

The gospel this weekend presents us with two great thoughts. First, Jesus claims he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Secondly God is presented to us as a Community of Three distinct persons.

The disciples in this segment of John’s gospel are confused and distressed. They witnessed Jesus’ healings, his liberating teachings, and his power over the elements of nature. Yet he has been telling them that he is going to suffer and die. He also says he will be raised up on the third day. This latter statement seems to be lost in the thought of pain and suffering leading to real death. The disciples must be wondering why he was speaking this way. He was at the top of his career and it looked as though he had won over the people. In answer to Thomas’ questions, he says, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life." What is this Way? What on earth is this about? A way is a path, a roadmap for a pilgrimage to an important destination. Jesus claims he is the way to that destination. He demonstrates the way to the goal. He is not just a guy standing on a street corner who responds to our question of how to get somewhere. Jesus is the guide who takes us there. He walks with us making certain we arrive at our destination. He is the road, the guide, and the destination.

"I am the truth." Human experience of the places and circumstances of our living reveal that truth is subject to the eyes, the ears, the touch, the taste, and the smell of the person who encounters reality. What is the truth of our lived experience? Thieves and charlatans, manipulative marketeers and salespersons point out one value. In their proven method of seducing us, they downplay what is lacking in their wares. What is the truth of our living? Where is the substance of life that makes it worth the effort to live it well? In Jesus we come to know, understand, and appreciate the source of reality as the necessary object of our endeavors. To discover the truth of life we have got to learn how to love. That is the message of the Person of Jesus. He is God, but not God so far removed from us that he is irrelevant to our living. In his person, in God incarnate we discover what is real. That includes suffering that is a dying to self-centeredness. That process of growth – new life through suffering what comes our way – is the truth of human existence. We need not search out suffering. It comes with the territory of our pilgrimage.

"I am the life." This life is not mere existence. Even rocks have existence. But we would never consider them living beings. This life of which John speaks in his gospel and his letters is a sharing in the life of God. It is through the way of Jesus; it is through the truth of God’s love for us that we begin to accept who we are to God. In that acceptance we have room for the life of God. This happens within us as growth happens to plants. It is measured, it is a process, it is God’s constant presence within us. Thus, Jesus can say to Thomas and to all of us: "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

The second theme in this Sunday’s gospel is about the Trinity. Throughout this reading, Jesus refers to the Father. In the beginning of this reading, Jesus tells his disciples he goes to prepare a place for them. His going is his willing acceptance of suffering, the suffering in which we all share as persons of flesh. The place is in the Kingdom of God. For John, that Kingdom is here and now but not complete till Jesus comes to collect each of us. The church is that place. There is room for each one of us.

If we think of the church as an institution, we are correct. But that is such a small aspect of our church. Our church is a call of truth that brings us together to share in the living of God. For the life of God is a life of community. There are three persons in God bound together in such unity that they are in effect one. To live sharing in the life of God is the ultimate goal of human life. It is why we were created. The way to that sharing is through the ministry, the revelation, and the suffering and rising of Jesus. He became the anointed one, the Christ, by his life and suffering and rising. As the Anointed One, the promised one, the Kingdom of God has been established.

It is for each of us to live in the times and circumstances of our life. If we can live according to the revelation of Jesus – the Way – we will come to the truth of our existence, its meaning and purpose. If we work to know, to understand, to appreciate, and to apply the revelation of God’s love for all of us, then we will have life and have it in abundance.

This is not just a Sunday thing. This is not just a bit of living for which we allot a moment or two. This is a way of living. In this terrible time of pain and suffering, of fear and doubt, how do we listen to and embrace the Way, the Truth, and the Life? That question cuts through the fog of fear, of unbridled arrogance, and of deceit and profiteering. We are followers of the Way: we search out truth: we live our gift of life with fullness of knowledge, understanding, and love. At this moment in time, this is our challenge. Will we measure up to it? We move beyond selfishness only if we turn to the Anointed One as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Carol & Dennis Keller with Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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OUR NEED TO BELONG: 5TH SUNDAY EASTER (A)

Marshall McLuhan, commentator on means of communication, once wrote: 'We drive into the future looking through the rear-vision mirror.' The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, once said: 'We live forward, but we understand backwards.' So, on Sundays and at other times, we go backwards to the life of Jesus, so that for now and for the future, we might become better people, his kind of people.

Today we find ourselves tuning in to the start of the conversation between Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper. But before we do that, I'd like to start with something sad and disturbing that is happening in Australia, in order to highlight the need to belong and to feel at home, which Jesus emphasizes so strongly today.

On the edge of Melbourne’s suburbs, the bodies of more than one hundred 'street kids' lie under mounds of red earth at the Bulla cemetery. Only one young person has been identified by a gravestone and a name. Nothing marks the graves of the others, not even a simple cross. The only other signs there warn of snakes and rabbit burrows in a stretch of dry, cracked earth.

The Herald-Sun newspaper has described this place as 'Melbourne's saddest cemetery'. For whatever reason, those buried there, homeless in death, were also homeless in life. They were found dead in dark alleys and ‘squats’, unnamed and unclaimed by any relative or friend. For them 'home' was never home at all. It was about broken homes, about relationships deprived, denied, or abused. We can at least trust, as Jesus has asked us to do, that they have finally found a home with the risen Lord in his Father's house, where there are more than enough rooms to go around.

All of us need to belong and feel at home. All of us long for a haven of peace and rest, a kind of oasis where we can recover from the storms of life. Jesus was aware of this human longing, and found it himself in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, his friends at Bethany. He tells his followers, ourselves included, that he is going to prepare for them a home for their journeys’ end.

He says too that no map is needed to get there. For he himself is the way, the way to the destination, which is the company of God forever.

Not only is Jesus the way to living with God, he is also the truth about God. For he himself is God embodied in a human being, the flesh and blood mirror of God, the human expression of God, the human face of God, God’s body-language.

He is also the life of God. By his being present to us, and our being present to him, we live in God and God lives in us. Though he is no longer with us on earth as a physical person, whom we can look at, listen to, and speak to face- to-face, he is always with us just the same, always with us as our way, truth, and life. 'Believe in me,' he says. 'Trust me,' he says.

Not to do so is risky. For out there in our complex and difficult world, it's just too easy to become puzzled, confused, and distracted, about the ultimate meaning of life and about our final destiny, and just too easy to get lost in all our searching and exploring of the meaning and purpose of life.

So today, wherever we are, let us acknowledge Jesus Christ as our way, our truth, and our life, and let us re-commit ourselves to being with him in life and in death. And today too, let us ask him to help us recognize his face in the faces of fellow human beings, lost and broken, and to do all we can to wipe away their tears and comfort them in their distress, brokenness and bewilderment. Many asylum seekers languishing in cruel and hard-hearted situations, and the more so during this current global pandemic, come to mind immediately.

By continuing the work of Jesus on earth - seeing his face in the distraught or disfigured faces of fellow human beings, and relieving his sufferings in those whose lives are wracked with physical, mental or emotional pain - we will keep up with Jesus, as we journey with him along the road that leads to God.

This road, his road home, leads to peace, a fulfilling and satisfying peace, a peace that is unavailable in any other way!

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

 

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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.

-- Fr. John


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