Fifth Sunday of Easter
Background: For two Sundays the gospel selections are a continuous reading from John, 15, part of what is called the Last Supper Discourse. It would seem odd that in Easter Season we are reading from a discourse given on Holy Thursday if we think only in Luke’s chronology. Remember, though, that in John, not only does Jesus’s resurrection occur on Easter Day but also his ascension and sending of the Spirit.
Gardeners will immediately understand these two selections since they know from experience how important it is to prune plants if they are to be healthy and fruitful. The image of the vinedresser tending his plants is parallel to last Sunday’s image of the good shepherd tending his sheep. God in the risen Christ is always watching over and taking care of us, the people reborn by water and the Spirit.
- When have you experienced the presence of Christ at work within you, changing you? When have you seen him at work in others?
- What do you want God to prune away from you so that you can live more fully I Christ?
- The Holy Spirit is our consolation and reassurance of Christ’s presence. When has the Spirit given made you confident that you were carrying out Christ’s work?
- The good fruit that we are called to bear is a world of justice, love, and peace; but, in building that world, we must always act with respect for the dignity of others. Name at least one concrete way that you can bring greater respect and dignity into our society.
Practice: In Galatians 6: 22 St. Paul lists nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, nine signs that the spirit has been active in our lives. Each day pick one of those fruits, and ponder how it is already embodied in your life. Conclude by praying: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in us the fire of your love.”
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Background: This Sunday’s gospel selection continues the emphasis upon how God in the risen Christ is always caring for us; the other readings remind us that God’s cares for people whom we think are supposed to be outside his love. Christ’s victory is for everyone!
- How do you regularly lay down your life for others?
- When have you found joy in giving of yourself?
- Which people have shown you the power of such self-sacrificing love?
- hat barriers have our society or our Church set up that keeps you from experiencing an all-embracing love? What can you do about that?
Practice: Many call for a greater reverence in our public prayer. If that means we should all be paying close attention, I would agree. If it means that the only proper posture for prayer is kneeling, I disagree. For today Jesus tells us that we are not his slaves or servants but his friends, that sharing his life brings joy. Yet he is also really present in the homeless and the hungry and in them is reaching out to us. This week examine your heart and your behavior. Do you treat the marginalized as your friends, with respect, dignity, and love?
Background: Today’s gospel gives us Marcan tradition’s version of Jesus’s ascension and the Great Commission for the disciples to go forth. Even though Jesus is no longer visibly present to us, he continues his work through us and confirms our “preaching” by our works of healing and deliverance done for others. We are not alone!
- Who are the people in your life to whom Jesus is sending you to bring healing and deliverance?
- The angel tells the disciples to stop staring up into heaven and get busy until Christ comes again. What have we allowed to distract us from our work of building Christ’s kingdom/reign?
- Both the reading from Ephesians and the gospel assure us that each of us has a unique gift for building up the Body of the risen Christ through our service. What do you think your gift is?
- What new opportunities might you see for using that gift for the Church or for the world?
Practice: The prayer for the laying on of hands during Confirmation quotes Isaiah 11 and asks that seven gifts of the Holy Spirit be poured forth. This week take one gift each day and ponder how you might or might not have been given that gift. Conclude by praying: “Lord, send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth!”
Background: In Luke’s chronology Jesus sends the Spirit on the fiftieth day after the resurrection. In John he sends the Spirit on the evening of Easter Day itself. Whatever the chronology, the crucial point is that the Spirit is sent not upon individuals but upon the whole community which is empowered to proclaim the “marvels that God has done,” especially through sharing peace and reconciliation with all people.
- Who in the community has best modeled for you the transforming power of the Spirit?
- How will your special gift help you build up the Body of the risen Christ today?
- What gift(s) do you have to give to the world?
- How might you have to step out of your comfort zone in order to use your gifts?
Practice: Whom do you still need to be reconciled with? To find peace with?
Background: The dogma of the Trinity is not some logical puzzle for our minds to ponder. Instead, the Three-in One has been revealed gradually through God’s gradual self-revelation in the course of salvation history. In the first reading we see how the covenant relationship of love and trust between God and Israel began with the divine initiative. Yet the first chosen people was defined primarily by birth. The second reading points out that it is by the sacraments of initiation that the new chosen people is defined by rebirth. The gospel is Matthew’s version of the Great Commission to the disciples of every generation.
- How have you found God’s love revealed to you in the Church, the community of believers?
- Two weeks ago Jesus called us his friends; today St. Paul tells us that the Spirit makes us the very children of God. How is your relationship with God, not childish, but childlike?
- What title for God do you spontaneously use in prayer? What does that reveal about your relationship with God?
- Matthew portrays Jesus as sending his disciples out to teach everyone to observe his commandments–which in Matthew means love of God and neighbor. How will you fulfill that command of Jesus this week?
Practice: A life of Christian discipleship is not static but needs to be constantly nurtured. There are many Catholic publications available in print or often free online. Find one this week, and begin the practice of reading and pondering at least one article a week. Join a discussion group if there is one available in person or online.