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Contents: Volume 2 - Seventh Sunday of Easter May 28, 2017 -

and Ascension May 25, 2017


 

 Easter

7th Sunday

&

Ascension

 

 

1. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

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

 

 

 

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1.

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Seventh Sunday of Easter – A – May 28, 2017

 

"Now this is eternal life,

to know you, the one true God,

and Jesus Christ, the one you sent."

In his book "Jesus", Marcus Borg points out that this statement is in the present tense.

So perhaps "eternal life", or "heaven", isn't only at some future date, some expected and deserved reward for acceptable behaviour here on earth. It is in the here and now, ready to blossom and bear fruit. To "know" God doesn't necessarily mean to have a Doctorate in theology and lots to discuss with other scholars (although that might be interesting and even fun). To "know" in John's gospel, is to be centered in Divinity with, through and in Jesus the Christ. Notice how often John talks about "being one with God" or of "having eternal life". Not so long ago, in chapter 14, Jesus is saying: "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." Even if there would be no heaven and no hell, no reward and no punishment, would it be "enough" to know we live with Divine love in the here and now? Is it captivating enough to root us in the present? Will we make our home with the One who yearns to make a home in us?

It's worth sitting quietly with John, with the images he presents such as the vine and the branches and with the words of our "one-ness" with God. I think that, over and over, John agrees with the words of Teresa of Avila when she tells us that we don't have to grow wings and go in search of the Holy. We just need to be quiet, and open to the Spirit in prayer. "Remember...that it is most important to understand this truth, that the Holy One is within us, and to remain there with the Beloved"

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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2.

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Solemn Feast of the Ascension May 25, 2017

Acts 1:1-11; Responsorial Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-20

Seventh Sunday of Easter May 28, 2017

Acts 1:12-14; Responsorial Psalm 27; 1st Peter 4:13-16; John 17:1-11

In many dioceses, the Feast of the Ascension is celebrated in the place of the Seventh Sunday of Easter. This is a concession to the demands of our socio-economic culture in which our living is focused on employment considerations and services required for citizens’ routines. Days of the week lack distinguishing significance. Sunday is no different from Tuesdays commercially. Week-ends, for many, are times to catch up with home, with family, and with social engagements. There is less and less space in human living for rest and opportunities for extended family gatherings. With so little time even on Sundays for coming together in faith communities, adding a day of church obligation to stretched schedules adds unacceptable burdens. Thus, moving the important readings for Ascension to the Seventh Sunday is a prioritization demanded by necessary instruction.

Ascension’s readings are essential to Christian life. Those readings complete the narrative of the mission of the Christ. But the seventh Sunday which follows the Ascension, the fortieth day of Easter, contains a message as well. Its message is "wait". This message of wait was also the message to the disciples before the events of Crucifixion and Resurrection. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks his apostles to "watch and pray."

That is the message for us for the 7th Sunday of Easter. The Gospel reading is from John’s very unique and unusual narrative of the last meal of Jesus with the Disciples. We’d expect to discover in that reading a restatement of the institution of the Eucharist. In its place John portrays Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples and insisting they do for each other as he has done for them. It was a mandate to love each other as he loved them. The gospel selection for the 7th Sunday is taken from the so called "high priestly prayer" of Jesus. He speaks directly to the Father.

Many Scripture Scholars insist this prayer is John’s version of the Our Father found in Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels. In that prayer Jesus identifies himself as with the Father and speaks of the Father glorifying him. By glorification Jesus means his sacrificial death and his resurrection. In those actions, God is present with us. We should always think of "glory" as described in the Hebrew Scriptures. In those readings, the Glory of God is visible in a pillar of fire and a luminous cloud that stayed with the Hebrews in the Exodus. Those elements are visible proof to the Hebrews that Yahweh is with them.

Remember during the Transfiguration just before Jesus entrance into Jerusalem before his death, a brilliant cloud overshadowed Jesus and Moses and Elijah. Peter, James, and John understood the luminous cloud was the glory of God.

According to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 11:23) during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. the presence of God moved from the Temple to the mountain east of Jerusalem. That mountain is Mount Olivet. In Luke’s account of the Ascension, that mountain is where Jesus ascended into heaven. But this is not to mean that God’s glory has left. The eleven, the women who followed Jesus, and his Mother, are to wait and pray. The implication is they are waiting for the glory of God. That glory doesn’t return to a place, to a temple. The glory of God comes to rest on the heads of those who follow in the Way of the Lord. What a change! That God comes to reside with those of us who await and pray for the Spirit of God to come to them and remain with them.

Jesus prays: "I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine and I have been glorified in them." Those who follow in the Way of the Lord are the glory of God, the presence of God in the world.

The instruction to "wait" and "pray" to the eleven and to certain women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, focuses them on an event coming that is coming. It is a promise they don’t fully understand. They must wait in patience and with openness. The praying means to make those gathered to be open to what is coming. That waiting will be fulfilled next Sunday when, with a roaring of a mighty wind and tongues of flame, the Holy Spirit comes to them. This is the advocate promised by Jesus. This is God’s abiding presence with his people – forever!

There is a responsibility in receiving God’s gift of His Spirit. Our words and our works give evidence of the Spirit energizing our days. Our responsibility is to carry the pillar of fire and the luminous cloud into the little and great events of our time and place.

Attentive readers may notice there is a difference in various accounts of the ascension of Jesus. John’s Gospel seems to indicate Jesus ascended to the Father on Easter, the first day of the week. When Mary Magdalen sees Jesus he tells her not to cling to him as he has yet to go to the Father. Yet later that day he is embraced by the disciples.

Matthew’s ascension takes place from a mountain in Galilee. Matthew’s focus is on Jesus completing his work where he began, in Galilee.

Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, insists the apostles were not to leave Jerusalem until after the Jewish high holyday of Pentecost. It helps us if we recall the Jewish feast of Pentecost was the celebration of Moses receiving the Law from God. This new Pentecost, this new giving of the Law is the result of Jesus ministry, his healing and signs, his teaching and most clearly his passion, death and resurrection. Jesus’ words and works prepared the way for the coming of the Spirit. The good news Jesus brings is God’s law of love. Repeatedly, Jesus insists we love our neighbors as if our neighbor were us. And our neighbor is every person we encounter. Repeatedly, Jesus insists we are to love each other as he has loved us. Do we need to remind ourselves that his love was unconditional and to the absolutely last drop of his blood? What a difference! What a change for the faithful of the covenant of Sinai! What a revelation is the new covenant of Calvary! What a development for salvation history! This is the new law given with power on Pentecost. The presence of God is no longer localized in a cloud or in a column of fire over a meeting tent or a magnificent temple. The Shekinah – the name the Hebrews gave to the "glory of God" – is no longer limited to a meeting tent or a temple. It bursts out into the streets with a mighty roaring of wind with a cleansing and purifying fire, borne by the words and works of Followers of the Way.

Jesus prays for us. We are still in the world. But he insists we are not of the world. In our reflections written during the Sundays of Easter in these reflections, we focused on the Way of Jesus. Each year, Christians work on becoming more and more in tune with the Way. It’s not easy. We tend to live the way of the world, thinking in terms of winners and losers. If we’re losers we get the short end of the stick. If we’re winners, we tend to take more than we need. Winners in the way of the world are the center of their world. Others are viewed as friends helping or enemies contending with them. They count their worth in terms of power, wealth, influence, and pleasurable events. Those who follow the Way of Jesus may be wealthy. They may exercise power in commercial endeavors, in politics, in military matters, in educational matters. They may be delighted by cultural matters, enjoy fine food and drink. But as they live the Way of the Christ, none of those matters make them better, more important than anyone else. Their personal worth is bound up in the unity of the Body of Christ. The one who follows the Way of Jesus is a person who loves neighbors as if each neighbor were themselves. Any other way of living is not the Way of Jesus.

The Way of Jesus is frightening. Is there nothing in that Way for me? Does it mean abject poverty: do we need to become monks or nuns? Who can live this way? The answer is all careers, all efforts, and all relationships can be lived in the Way of Jesus. What’s wonderful is that we grow into the Way, inch by inch. The moments and events of our lives are moments in which we practice the Way of Jesus. Year after year, reading after reading, homily after homily, success after success, failure after failure we have opportunities to grow. We have possibilities for allowing the Spirit more space in our person to be our Advocate.

This week, let us wait, meditating about our life. Let us strengthen our relationship with God in prayer. Let us pray that simple prayer following the ten days following Jesus’ return to the Father. "Come, Spirit, Come. Reside in us, abide in us!"

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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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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