Lanie LeBlanc OP
Carol & Dennis Keller
Brian Gleeson CP
Paul O'Reilly SJ
reflection can be here!)
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
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
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!
Dennis Keller, with Charlie (editing)
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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’
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
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
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
Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections,
and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the
preaching you hear. Send them to
email@example.com. Deadline is
Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.
-- Fr. John