Third Sunday of Easter
Background: Each year this Sunday has as its Gospel selection a description of a meal that the risen Jesus shares with his disciples, reminding us that the repeatable sacrament of initiation is the Eucharist. In this year’s passage Jesus first shows the disciples how to make a great catch, reminiscent of how he promised them at the beginning of his ministry that they would end up catching not fish but people. Then he plays the role of host, and—as at Emmaus—they recognize him in the sharing of the meal. We today are called to recognize his presence not so much “out there” but in the living Body of Christ being formed as every member shares in communion.
The reference to the Lamb slain yet triumphant reminds us not only of the Passover meal of the New Covenant which we share but also that we, like Jesus and Peter in both the Acts reading and the longer Gospel, will endure suffering “for the sake of the Name.”
- When have you experienced yourself as sharing in the victory of Jesus?
- When has being faithful to him hurt?
- How does sharing in the Meal with your brothers and sisters in Christ nourish your life?
- With whom could you share the Good News that you have experienced? Actions are important, but words are crucial too.
Practice: Our lives are often sheltered; we live in our neighborhood bubble and judge others by stereotypes and not by taking the risk to encounter them. We share the bread of eternal life, and others don’t even have “daily bread.” And we too often seem to say that it’s their own fault. What opportunities for better understanding and for service to the homeless exist in your area?
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Background: The risen Lord is also the Good Shepherd; by conquering sin and death, he keeps the members of his flock safe in every generation. And even outsiders like the Gentiles who receive the Good News with joy are part of that flock.
Notice the references to Christian initiation, to those rites that make us members of Christ’s flock: the robes made white in the blood of the Lamb, the joy of the Holy Spirit, and springs of life-giving water. (The promise made to the Samaritan woman at the well has been fulfilled for all of us.)
- What has been the most important moment in your life when you have experienced Jesus as guiding and guarding you?
- What is the “great trial” that you have passed through to reach the “spring of living water”?
- For whom have you been the good shepherd? How did you show your care for them?
- Which outsiders need you to bring them the Good News?
Practice: We are used to Ps. 23 in picturing the Good Shepherd; today’s responsorial, though, is Psalm 100. Pray it each day this week, and let its images open up your image of Jesus as shepherd and of ourselves as his flock.
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Background: In John’s Gospel the glorification of Jesus begins with his being lifted up on the cross, taking all of humanity with him as he returns to the Father. And so, for the two Sundays before the Ascension we read from his farewell address, delivered at the Last Supper. And we are reminded that the paschal mystery which leads to life and victory begins with suffering. Jesus’s words today are spoken just after his betrayer Judas has left the meal; Paul and Barnabas remind us that “we must undergo many trials if we are to enter the reign of God.” Yet in the church, the New Jerusalem, God is wiping away our tears and making everything new! Our love for each other is Christ’s final victory present now.
- What trial have you been passing through?
- Whose love has been with you in that experience?
- Whom have you supported in their trial?
- What change in our church would make the world new in the love of the risen Jesus?
Practice: In the first thousand years of Christianity almost every portrayal of Jesus’s crucifixion included as well some revelation of his ultimate victory. Find a copy of the well-known San Damiano crucifix—which has in its upper bar a depiction of the Ascension—and each day ponder not only the image of Christ but also what the other people portrayed are experiencing. Why are they in this scene? What are you learning from this portrayal?
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Background: In the New Jerusalem there is not separate Temple since all the inhabitants, because of their Baptism, are a “royal priesthood,” daily offering their “spiritual sacrifices” to God. And each side of city has three gates for easy access for anyone who can tell the angel the simple password: Love.
In the reading from Acts we see how the early Christian community had to struggle to live out Jesus’s commandment of love. Did the Gentiles have to become Jews in order to become Christians? Under the Spirit’s guidance the decision was made: no, they did not for God was doing something new. Yet the Gentiles still should observe the rules of kosher when eating with their Jewish brothers and sisters out of respect for their generations of fidelity to God’s covenant with Israel.
- When does Jesus feel absent from you? When do you miss his presence?
- When is Jesus most really present to you? In experiences of love? Joy? Peace? Fellowship?
- When does our Church seem not to show respect for certain members of Christ’s Body? What can you do about that?
- When does our society seem not to respect the human dignity of everyone? What can you do about that?
Practice: Again, we can get caught in our own bubble, especially in these days of social media. This week pay attention to how much time you are spending in that world. Ask yourself as well how much you have restricted your sources of information. Ask Jesus to guide you in listening to new voices.
Background: Today, with the alternate second reading, we get both Luke’s long description of the ascension of Jesus in Acts and the short version in his gospel. Both end with prayerful expectation, with a portrayal of a community in prayer waiting for the Holy Spirit to empower them for evangelization and ministry.
And in the Letter to the Hebrews we see how in the ascension Jesus is understood as being the great mediator between God and humanity; yet we too ascend with him and our lives of baptismal priesthood daily mediate between God’s love and the world’s needs.
- The angel tells the disciples to stop staring up into heaven and get busy until Christ comes again. What have you allowed to distract you from the work of building Christ’s kingdom/reign?
- How persistent is your prayer? Do you find yourself telling God the way you want things to be? Or do you try to discern what God’s will might be?
- What would make your prayer and the common prayer of your community more joyful? A more joyful witness to the Good News?
- What new way of witnessing to the “power from on high” might God be asking you to consider at this time in your life?
Practice: Find the prayer “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,” and pray it each day this week. Before you pray it, ponder how God might want to use you to bring joy and peace to a different part of your world.
See also these related articles:
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The 18th-21st Sundays in Ordinary Time
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The 13th-17th Sundays in Ordinary Time
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – Pentecost through the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The Third Sunday of Easter through Ascension Sunday
- Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The Fifth Sunday of Lent through the Second Sunday of Easter