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Contents: Volume 2 - 6th Sunday of EASTER (B)
- May 9, 2021

 

6th

SUNDAY

EASTER

B


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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6th Sunday of Easter

Jesus tells us in today's Gospel , "This I command you: love one another." He doesn't give us just a suggestion. He doesn't say it will be easy because "love makes the world go round."

Love is truly wonderful, but that command is just not so easy to fulfill. I think the universal and unconditional parts of loving are difficult because we are not perfect and neither are those whom we are commanded to love. We all know that sometimes it is difficult to love even those we already truly love!

Perhaps it would be a good idea to think about this command more concretely. What is deep down in the relationship between people who do love one another, not just those who are romantically involved? I think our other two readings give us some clues.

In the first reading, there is clearly admiration (perhaps a bit close to adoration) of Peter by Cornelius, but Peter opts for equality instead. A view of equality is a key ingredient in being able to love as God wants us to love. We are all human beings, with some faults and without other faults, with some gifts and without other gifts.

In the second reading, we are told that love is about God loving us, with the implicit idea of loving each of us "first". In other words, we can love because God showed each of us unconditional love by sending Jesus to redeem us. It seems that any love, therefore, must really flow from the love of God, both emanating from God and by us loving God.

Although that sounds a bit vague, it amounts to treating others as equals, wanting the best for them, and being engaged in making that happen. Setting those parameters makes this command a bit easier for me, though not automatic. It makes it possible... for nothing is impossible for God from whom all love flows!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Sixth Sunday of Easter May 9 2021

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Responsorial Psalm 98; 1st John 4:7-10; Gospel Acclamation John 14:23; John 15:9-17

It must have been a huge shock to Peter. Since the day he was born he had been schooled in Law of Moses with its dietary laws and strict rituals. His circle of friends, his work companions, and all the members of his village practiced those laws and regulations. After the death and resurrection of Jesus Peter had a dream. In that dream, Peter saw a huge tablecloth descending from the sky, loaded with what the Mosaic Law and tradition had considered unclean foods. Three times he rejected the direction to take and eat. Ultimately, an insistent voice convinced him what God had made was not unclean. This dream came to him as large segments of the Jewish community were being baptized. The message, the ministry and life of Jesus expanded the Law of Moses. The history of the Hebrew people was a constant reminder that God had chosen this people. They thought they were chosen at the whim of God. The truth of Jesus was that these people were chosen to be the instrument of God’s love for all persons.

The story in the first reading is about Cornelius. He was a centurion in the Roman military. That military was the enforcement arm of the occupying forces. That military oversaw the execution of Jesus. Their tactics as occupiers was to frighten the subject peoples into compliance with Roman law and its taxation. They were hated and feared and not welcome in the land.

Here is a story of two radically opposed cultures. Peter was an observing Jew. Cornelius was an occupier, charged with maintaining order according to the Roman law. How could these opposites ever be attracted to each other?

Peter had seen the commitment of Jesus to the people. He healed, he preached mercy and compassion. He went willingly to the Cross. That latter act of Jesus became understood as an act of love. He was willing to lay down his life for his friends. Cornelius was known to be a righteous man. He believed that events and actions were either right or wrong. He tried to be honest and caring in his work.

Both men were focused on standards that were often in contradiction to the usual and customary manners of behavior. Both men were searchers for truth, meaning, and purpose. That is the common element here. The meeting of the two men in the house of a Gentile opened the way to a vision of the Kingdom of God that Peter and the people of his faith had not anticipated. It was when the household of Cornelius reacted to the story of Jesus that it became evident that these foreigners were welcomed into the Kingdom of God. What had been suspicion, distrust, hatred, and violence was transformed. These radically different people – Jews and Romans – in that moment became brothers in Christ. This is a recurring theme throughout the history of the world since Jesus. New understandings about God and God’s living presence came about. What was the motivation, the understanding that led to this reconciliation? It was the love of God for all nations evidenced in the ministry and saving work of Jesus. That short public life revealed a God who cared. That story of Jesus and these events with Peter revealed that God was the God of all peoples and reality.

This was a larger than life turning point for the followers of the Way of Jesus. In those early stages of evangelization, the disciples of the Risen Lord went to the synagogues of the Jews to preach Jesus the Christ, the Risen One. Anyone who wishes to join in the Community of Believers of the Way were expected to become practicing Jews. Even though this narrative of Cornelius spread through the community of believers, Paul in later years struggled to impress on Jewish converts that Judaism was not the only doorway to the new way of life. Jesus was not merely a Messiah to the Jews but to all humankind. And so, it remains to this day.

There have been many culture wars in our faith since those days of first century Christianity. In our time Christians have been labeled as either conservative/traditional or liberal/progressive. That labeling, as is the case in socio-economic-political life, is an easy way to build prejudice against others. When we pigeon-hole a person, we no longer need to consider him or her a person deserving of dignity and respect. Cultural conflicts are real and divide us into condemnatory camps.

In the centuries of Christianity whenever the wars become particularly violent and destructive, there is always a movement to seek closure. For that purpose, in our Catholic tradition an ecumenical council is called. The hierarchy, under the supervision of the successor of Peter, discuss the matters most often in the light of the experience of the faithful, the ordinary citizens of the Kingdom of God. In those discussions, the Holy Spirit is called upon to guide and inspire. But councils do not completely reconcile factions. Combatants take one side or the other. In our time this is certainly true regarding the Second Vatican Council that took place in the 1960’s. That seems like a very long time to achieve reconciliation through the work of that council. A review of church history will demonstrate to us that six decades is not out of the ordinary.

Catholics of all inclinations who understand history of the church will know the impact of the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. That council was called to deal with the Reformation that had fractured the Catholic Church. That Protestant Reformation came about as a reaction to abuses and corruption with the Catholic institution. The decrees of Trent took nearly 150 years to be enacted. It takes time within the Church for things to change. That was the case at the time of Peter and his encounter with Cornelius. Perhaps one day we will settle the current culture wars and once again listen to the Word of God. Just as Peter struggled – as did the other leaders of the Christian Community – to understand the Love of God for all peoples, all nations, all races, all languages, and all genders, so also, we struggle now to accept that God loves all humanity. The constant struggle is to accept and live the Way of Jesus in a world that is replete with anger, with lies, with intrigue, with pursuit of power, with violence, and under the influence of those terrible twin sisters of greed and avarice. How do we make sense of Jesus and the faith in such an environment? Is our faith relevant in this age of technology? Are our prayers heard by anyone? Where is the living God in our time? Why do men and women continue to make their own gods, to perform idolatry and sacrifice the innocent to mammon?

The answer is clear. The second reading this Sunday is from the first letter of John. The gospel is also from John. Both readings on this second last Sunday of Easter speak of love as the foundation of a good life. In the letter of John, we read that we are to love one another. In our time and place, that is much more challenging than it was in the first century of Christianity. We have contact with billions more people than did those first century Christians. We know of distant peoples’ struggles, their wars, their great accomplishments, and their abysmal failures. We have been taught to hate our enemies. That is the way of the world. The way of the world is to conquer, to subjugate, to divide us one from another. That is certainly not the way of Love preached and practiced by our Messiah, Jesus, the Christ.

There is so much noise in our lives. There are thousands of persons competing for our attention and for our dollars. How do we know who is preaching and practicing the truth? It comes down to this: those who love others and care for them are the ones we should listen to and follow. Those who divide us, inspire us to hatred and violence we must avoid. No matter what high sounding words the dividers and haters use. We should discern the wolves from the sheep by what they do. We should understand that the wolves are often dressed in the robes of authority and leadership. What is clear is that the venom they produce kills our spirits and turns us one against the other. The good of all is God’s will. It is said that the Justice within God’s heart and hands is more than the justice of humanity. God’s justice always seeks that each person has access to what they need to flourish – not mere survival.

What is difficult is that we must love even those who create wars to divide us. We cannot believe them, and we can never allow their example or influence to convince us to follow in their ways. Their way leads to destruction and death. It has always been so.

I want to see God and to know him. God seems so distant. That distant requires me to use faith to believe that he even exists. Yes, of course there is evidence of a creator – stuff had to come from somewhere: there had to be a beginning. There had to be a force that initiated the material that exploded into the big bang out of which the universe came into being.

But who is God? We have the history of faith from the Hebrews. Their great contribution was that they were the first of all peoples to believe in a God not of their own making. We see them making terrible mistakes that resulted in their enslavement. We see them being released from slavery only to fall back into it once again by turning away from God.

How do we see God? After eight decades of wondering, screaming about it, questioning others, studying, participating in a community of believers, it comes to me that God is best known where there is love. Not the puppy love of immaturity; nor in the self-satisfying love of using others for pleasure or gain or power. It is in unconditional loving of others that we experience within ourselves the living presence of God. It is through faith that we come to know Jesus. His deeds, his words, his healing, his constant loving others have come down to us in the witnessing of a "great cloud of martyrs." That line from our scripture about martyrs is about those who witness to the living presence of God in their lives. We are invited to join that great cloud. Jesus is the expression of God’s love for us. When we experience unconditional love granted to us by a spouse, a parent, a relative, a fellow worker. Even strangers, good Samaritans who care – no, no, not care; ones who love enough to care more about us than themselves – then we experience who and what God is. What is even more impactful, we then experience God present to us through them and in our community of walkers of the Way.

This is no Pollyanna fabrication. To love others the way God loves is not an easy task. It takes years upon years of struggle, of effort, of practice. The symbol of God’s love is the cross endured by Jesus. As we experience our personal sharing in that cross there comes to us the awful and awesome surprise of personal resurrection. This takes constant attention and practice.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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LIVING FOR OTHERS: 6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER B

Along the path of life, we come across both selfish and unselfish people. To which group do you and I belong? Perhaps we are a mixture of both generosity and selfishness. But to the extent that we may still be partly selfish, self-centered, and self-indulgent, we are not living the message of Jesus: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15:12-13).

Jesus lived his entire life for God and others. Speaking God's love to people, showing them God's love, and living God's love for them, that’s what Jesus of Nazareth was all about. He practiced no racism, no apartheid, and no discrimination. To rich and poor, powerful and powerless alike, he reached out with unstinting love. Nobody was excluded from the love burning in his great heart. Then he died just as he had lived - with love and generosity, kindness, compassion and forgiveness in his heart.

Ever since, hundreds and thousands of his followers have lived his example and commandment. I’m thinking of so many good mothers and fathers, who have given everything they could to the care of their children, friends, neighbours and strangers. I’m thinking of so many religious, men and women, who have laid down their lives in the service of others, and even more particularly of religious Sisters. A little while ago in the press and other media both here and overseas, there was an outpouring of love, appreciation and gratitude for the lives and work of religious Sisters. For the ways they have befriended people on the margins! For the ways they have educated, often completely free of charge, a countless number of children of poor families! For their pastoral care and kindness to patients in hospitals! For their visits to lonely and troubled prisoners in jail cells! For their shelter and support to abused and hurting mothers and children! For their outreach to refugees and asylum-seekers! The list of their good deeds is endless. The example of their humble and generous service leaves us in no doubt that the meaning of life is to be a loving, caring person.

Let me illustrate the impact of such persons with two striking examples, one a man, the other a woman. The first is a Polish man, Maximilian Kolbe, who was born in 1894. Killed by the Nazis in 1941, he was canonized as a martyr by Pope John Paul II in 1982. In 1911 he professed his first vows as a Conventual Franciscan friar. After ordination in 1918, he energetically shared his Catholic faith in print and radio. In 1930 he went as a missionary to Japan. On the outskirts of Nagasaki, he founded a monastery (still standing), a Japanese newspaper, and a seminary.

Back in Poland during the Second World War, he provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2000 Jews whom he hid in his friary residence from Nazi persecution. The Gestapo arrested him in 1941 and threw him into prison. In Auschwitz his offer was accepted, to die in place of the life of a married man with a family. After two weeks of starvation, an injection of carbolic acid ended his life on August 14th. He was found sitting against a wall, his face radiant, his eyes open and fixed on a certain spot. John Paul II named him ‘the patron saint of our difficult [20TH] century’. Our Anglican brothers and sisters have honoured him with a statue along with those of nineteen other 20th century martyrs, on the facade of Westminster Abbey, London.

My second example of faithful caring love is the Australian Sister of St Joseph, Irene McCormack. She may be recognised as Australia’s next Saint. On her mission to the Pueblo people of Peru she was martyred by Marxist guerrillas on Tuesday, May 21st, 1991. Irene left Australia for Peru in 1987. Her aim was to keep bringing God’s love and literacy to poor and marginalized persons, just as she had done in Australia. She understood that going into Peru was to go into the unknown, but with trust in God. She noted that her life among the people there was ‘a gift’ from God. In the village of Huasahuasi (population 5000) high up in the Andes mountain range, she ran a simple village school and library for the local children, led prayer services on Sundays when the priest was away, and supervised a community kitchen from which she distributed food to poor families. This helped to supplement nutrition from the potatoes and maize they grew themselves. But the thugs who shot her sentenced her, so they said, for ‘pushing "Yankee" food’ and ‘bringing in books’ ‘to push "Yankee" ideas.’

To know these saints of our times is to be inspired to imitate them in their constant unselfish generosity. This, of course this is a big ask. But with God on our side, surely, we can do better and become better persons than we already are! For this to happen to us, let us make our own again and again St Ignatius Loyola’s famous Prayer for Generosity: ‘Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward but that of knowing that I do your will. AMEN.’

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

 

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Year B: 6th Sunday of Easter

"What I command you is to love one another."

You may know the words of the ‘Desiderata’, "Lord, do not make me a saint. Some of them are so very hard to live with…" Well, my brother in the Lord, Eardley McDonald of the Society of Jesus often liked to say this of his experience of living in community with other Jesuits:

"To live above with those we love

Is full of bliss and glory.

To live below with those we know

Is quite a different story."

Sometimes, it is possible to live a little too close to even the best and saintliest of men, and see rather more than is wise of what they are like first thing in the morning before they have had their coffee. Well I once had the chance to live with a great spiritual guru, Gerry Hughes of the Society of Jesus, British Province – a man with an international reputation for personal holiness and spiritual wisdom. His spiritual guidance helped many, many hundreds of people to come to a real, living understanding of God and their place in God’s world. And his books helped many thousands more to reflect on their personal experience of God and find His truth in their lives. And for three years, I lived in community with him. And so I had the chance many times to encounter him first thing in the morning before he had had his coffee.

One day it so happened that I was taking a train from Euston station back to Birmingham, where our community lives. It was a late evening train and I was sitting comfortably at my table when a young man came and sat himself down right opposite me. Immediately he pulled out of his rucksack a copy of "God of Surprises", Gerry’s best-known book, which has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. And he began to read avidly.

But, perhaps it had been a long day. After about 10 or 15 minutes, the pages ceased to turn, the expression left the face, the eyes began to glaze. Then the eyelids slowly drooped. And then finally, to my great joy, his face fell forward slap onto the open book and he slept soundly. I hugged myself with satisfaction.

He slept almost all the way to Birmingham and probably should have been allowed to sleep longer. As the guard announced that we would be shortly arriving into Birmingham New Street, I gathered my bags and decided that it would not be a kindness to disturb him. But there was then one of those brief unaccountable delays when the train stopped just short of the station and there was a short pause. And in that moment, the devil was stronger than I. So I could no longer resist the temptation to lean forward and tap the young man on the shoulder. I apologized for waking him, but explained that I simply could not resist telling him that the author of his book would shortly be picking me up from the station and that it was going to give me the most exquisite joy to be able to tell him that I spent the entire journey opposite someone fast sleep over one of his books.

The man had the grace to laugh. We shook hands and, as I was just about to go, he looked me very straight in the eyes and asked me, "Is he really like that?"

I looked from his bright expectant face to the book in his hand and back again. There was a pause and then a jolt. The train was moving again into the station. There was no time to deflect the question with a joke or a prevarication. I was forced to answer with the simple truth,

"Yes… Yes, that’s exactly what he’s like. That’s exactly who he is. Because when I tell him this story, he will laugh!"

Now, having had a little more experience, I have come to realise that the reason that saints are so very hard to live with is not generally because they are any less saintly in private, but because of how they make the rest of us feel in comparison.

In the sharpness of the comparison, we know our own inadequacies in following the Lord and we would not be human if that did not hurt a little bit. And they show us also what can be done if and when we are able to practice just a little of what we preach.

Let us pray that we may be given the grace truly to love one another.

And let us stand and profess our Faith in the power of God to make saints of us all.

Paul O’Reilly, SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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