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Contents: Volume 2 - Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 2, 2019 and Ascension 2019


 

7th of

Easter

&

Ascension

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

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

 

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Ascension 2019

Our readings this Ascension day remind us of some important things that happened at and after the Ascension. We hear about the "promise of the Father". After that news sunk in, the disciples "were continually in the temple praising God" and began to be Jesus's witnesses "to the ends of the earth".

How fortunate we are! Because Jesus ascended to the Father, we have the continual guidance of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. Because the disciples heeded Jesus' words, the Good News has been passed down to us through all generations, literally "to the ends of the earth."

Our joy should be evident! Sometimes, however, we are a bit like the apostles in other ways. We have been known to stand around, maybe even looking upward, a bit amazed and confused about what we are to do.

We don't usually have two men in white garments gently chastising us into belief and action though! If we allow our steps to be guided by the Holy Spirit, then we, too, will be about praising God and sharing the Good News before long... but not always immediately. I think that sometimes we need some time before we take the next step on our journey to discern the direction God wants us to take.

Perhaps this week is a good time to be still, in wait for the Holy Spirit, just listening!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Seventh Sunday of Easter June 2, 2019

Acts 7:55-60; Responsorial Psalm 97; Revelation 22:12-14 & 16-17 & 20; Gospel Acclamation John 14:18; John 17:20-26

This Seventh Sunday of Easter’s Liturgy of Word and Eucharist is subordinated to the celebration of the Ascension of Jesus, The Christ. We, thus miss out on the message assigned to the celebration of the seventh Sunday of Easter. Numbers in Scripture are mean something. Seven is a number of completion, as on the seventh day God rested from all his work of creation. The Sabbath rest completes a week of work in building up and serving the community of the Law of Moses. Forty, as in forty days of Easter Celebration, was thought to be the length of time of a single generation. Thus forty in the Scriptures signifies a life-time. The Ascension occurs on the fortieth day of Easter. It is the completion of a "life-time" of the Risen Jesus’ Easter presence with his disciples. It is a life-time event, the closure of a life-time of instruction, of encouragement, of explanation, of preparation for what is to come. It is the establishment period of the Kingdom of God. It is a life-time as was the forty years of desert wandering which established the Kingdom of Israel. Following those forty years in the desert, the nation formed in the travails of desert living, entered the promised land and there to establish the Reign of God in the Promised Land.

But let us not forget the liturgy of the Word of the Seventh Sunday of Easter. This day of the thirty-fifth day of Easter has much to tell us. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear the story of Stephen. Stephen was one of the deacons chosen to serve the people called together by the life and work of Jesus. He is called before a tribunal of religious leaders whose objective is to suppress this Jesus movement. Stephen tells them his vision of the "Son of Man" standing at the right hand of God. Jesus is that Son of Man. Those seeking to suppress the message of Jesus couldn’t bear to hear such a testimony and covered their ears. Their reaction was to murder Stephen outside the city gates, thinking his death would end the heresy. One named Saul stood by, watching over the cloaks of those stoning Stephen. With his dying breath Stephen forgave his murders, bringing to this moment Jesus’ forgiveness of those who murdered him. Saul became Paul after he was called and saw the Lord.

What’s in this narrative for us? Not long ago Pope Francis published an encyclical which began with the words "Laudato Si" (On the Care of Our Common Home). His teaching struck many as too radical and clearly impractical in a world dependent for its energy on the burning of fossil fuels. The encyclical was not solely about climate and the changes we are experiencing in our climate world-wide. It was also about human life, its focus on substantive work, and on the dangers to humanity of unbridled capitalism. The push back was to denigrate the Pontiff and the research, study, dialogues, and collection of experiences from around the world. The encyclical asked that attention be addressed to the world and to the culture that is focused on materialism and consumerism. To ignore the welfare of humanity and the sustainability of the world’s ability to support human life is to fail to foresee an impending disaster. The far-reaching teaching of this encyclical goes to the heart of our socio-economic cultures in the developed world. Industrial, political, economic, and even some religious leaders roundly rejected the message of the encyclical as unfounded. Most held this encyclical as silly and impractical. In effect many in leadership and most in our social-economic culture covered their ears. They didn’t and don’t want to hear the message. There was too much uncertainty about how human economic and political energies would survive if Francis’ teaching speaks the truth. The way forward under such teaching is untried territory. The persons of power and wealth think of it as a theft of the sources of their power and wealth. Most could not understand how they would earn a living if fossil-fuel driven economies would give way to an unknown source of energy. Many believe unfettered capitalism is how society progresses. Yet the basis for Francis’ writing is the gospel of the Christ. If we are totally invested in our current culture we can’t see the change necessary in their hearts to embrace the teachings of Jesus. Compassion, mercy, love and respect are not the characteristics of contemporary culture.

We tend to share in "covering of our ears" when our dependencies and way of life seem threatened. We live in uncertain and fearful times. The horrors of our time derive from the darkness in human hearts. We cannot see ourselves welcoming those fleeing untenable situations in the lands of their birth. We tend to guard the cloaks of those who stone with words, economic weapons, and divisive language the needy and persons on the margins of society.

There is a world-wide movement toward totalitarian governments. The victims in such political structures are historically the loss of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of citizens and non-citizens alike.

The gospel for this seventh Sunday of Easter is most instructive. This is the prayer of Jesus that John the evangelist places in the final moments of the Last Supper. The words we should imprint in our hearts are these. "Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." These few words call us to think of our lives differently. We are not isolated. We are not islands in a sea of billions of others. We are invited to share in the life of God. And unity, oneness is the characteristic of that life. That means not only that I am united to God through the Son but that I am united to each and every other person as the Son is united to the Father. There and there only is there peace, life, joy, and freedom.

When we become one in the Body of the Christ our individuality, our unique personhood is accentuated and improved. We become through our choices, through the freedom with which God has endowed us, what we choose. We are created and inserted into a world of change, a world in which we are faced with contingencies, with possibilities. Each choice we make grows our character or robs our character of its potential. When we are one with the Lord, our decisions enhance and improve our union with the course of our life. We are gifted with life itself. And then we are gifted with a faith in the Lord, the Messiah, The Christ. When we are faith-full, our living is energized by the very life of God, that life we call the Holy Spirit. That life is beyond anything we can accomplish, accumulate, or control on our own.

Just as the religious leaders in the time of Stephen covered their ears to refuse a change of heart, so also in order to become united with the Life of God we must have open ears, open hearts, and an inquiring mental spirit to discover the presence of God in the moments of life.


Ascension Thursday May 30, 2019 [celebrated June 2 2019]

Acts 1:1-11; Responsorial Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:17-23; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 28:19 & 20; Luke 24:46-53

The first reading for the Ascension is a wrap up of Jesus’ ministry of preaching, healing, and modeling for us. The disciples were immersed in the religious culture of Judaism. They were listeners to the prophets who over a century encouraged the nation to look for the one who was to come. That one was called the Son of Man, the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, and the one who would lift up the lives of all within the nation. That one sent by God would be a light not only to the nation of Israel, but to all the nations of the world.

There are many who hope and wish deep in their hearts for that promised one to come to us again. The world is suffering birth pangs again. There is terror, despotism, abuse of little ones, economic servitude of families. There are those who prey on the weak to rob them of the last shreds of dignity. There are wars constantly being waged here or there on our home planet. There are those who would use terror to wrest freedom from us. There are religious leaders who use their religion as a wedge to divide peoples one from the other and so gain power and control. There are religious leaders who actively seek to bring to bear the biblical image of Armageddon.

Like the disciples nearly two thousand years ago, we long for the coming of the Kingdom. When will God establish that kingdom of harmony, of justice for all, of an end to violence, and the kingdom in which tears are dried up and death exiled? When will God finish with evil and cast it with finality into the abyss and chain its entrance? So like the disciples in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles we question, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?"

When we look into our hearts, do we see anything that would preclude the establishment of the kingdom? Is there a desire to get even with a neighbor? Is there a long simmering feud with a family member? Is there a basis, a prejudice against another group of people? Do we have difficulty appreciating the diversity God has created on earth? Do we deny the direction of our world that science has warned us about, that our home planet is suffering from our abuse? What are the dark secrets we cling to? Are we truly willing to have the Kingdom on terms that are God’s and not ours?

The fullness of the Kingdom of God is not yet. Like the disciples we’ve got to wait a bit longer. In that waiting we’ve got work to do. We’ve got to clean up the darkness of our hearts. We’ve got to have our eyes examined so that we see clearly. We’ve got to un-stuff our ears so that the Word of God in Scripture can enter our intellects. We’ve got to get massages so that the stiffness of our necks is loosened and we can bend to the will of God. But mostly we’ve got to let go of the hardness of our hearts so that we can love every person, so that we can see the fingerprints of God evident in creation and so honor the earth. If we see a tree only as a tree we miss the message of its creation. If we wonder at the complexity of the tree we discover the Creator.

The image of the disciples gawking at the cloud into which Jesus disappeared has always amused me. They are in awe. They try to fathom what has happened. This was not just Jesus disappearing as did Elijah and Enoch. The experiences, the learning, and the work they shared with Jesus were part of their experience. The final message they received from the angels is that Jesus will return as they saw him going to heaven. When he comes again, God’s work of creation will have been completed. In the meantime they are to wait in the city for a time.

Wait, wait, wait! Those were words we came to dislike as children. Wait until Christmas, wait until school is finished for the summer, wait till next week for a trip to the beach. Of course there was also the "wait till your father gets home!" Our time of wait for the finishing of the Kingdom is not just hanging out with friends. There is work to be done. The message of the Messiah must be spread not only through all the nations, but also through all of time. Thus generation following on generation is to hear and learn. Each succeeding generation is to hear and apply the message of the Christ to the signs of their times. Each succeeding generation is to discover God’s abiding presence in their time and place. Each succeeding generation will experience a growing, expanding faith in God through their experience.

The message this Ascension liturgy of the Word is that we are not left alone. Being left alone would mean the absolute certainty that we would stumble over the issues of our time. Our children and their children and their children’s children would fall astray because of the issues of their time. It is the one promised by the Father that will continue the presence of the Messiah so that we are led toward unity and communion with God. For it is only in God that our hearts can find peace, contentment, and overwhelming joy.

As we wait for the finishing of the Kingdom of God we continue to do our work which we are commissioned to do by our Teacher, our Healer, and our Model. If we desire to live with the life of God, the experiences of our day to day living will intensify our love for our fellow humanity. We will grow in compassion and mercy for others and for the world that is so abused by those who would conquer it.

Let us wait with eager expectation for the celebration next week-end of the coming of the Spirit, the Advocate promised by our brother and redeemer, Jesus the Christ.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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MAKING SENSE OF THE ASCENSION OF JESUS

In our Creed today we will be saying of Jesus: 'He ascended into heaven.’ What picture comes to mind when we think of Jesus ascending into heaven? Do we picture him going up into the stratosphere like a space ship at Cape Canaveral? If we do, we show that we don't realize that the words of scripture about this are not to be taken literally. They are a poetic way of saying that Jesus is no longer on earth in a fleshly, physical and material way. The words of scripture mean that he has gone to God in his risen body and lives with God in light and glory. What they mean is that God who raised him from the dead has therefore honoured and exalted him.

Does his being with God mean he is no longer with us? No, he is with us more strongly, more powerfully, than when he walked the lanes, streets, and roads, of Palestine. He is with us in spirit, i.e. in his gift to us of the Holy Spirit. He acts on us in all the ways the Spirit influences us.

So we don't go looking for him on the clouds or in the sky but in all the down-to-earth ways in which he told us we would find him? We find him in our reading, hearing and heeding of the scriptures, which speak of him. We find him in our celebration of the sacraments. Each of the seven sacraments is a sign of his presence and action. This is especially true of the Eucharist, which is specifically the sign and presence of his now glorified and spiritualized body. We find him in our practical love for our neighbour, and especially for our fellow human beings who are poor, neglected, sad, sorrowing, afraid or despairing.

But if Jesus is no longer visible in the old familiar ways, how will people come to know of his presence? The answer is that he wants to make himself present through his disciples. So on this Feast of the Ascension we also remember the mission he gave his followers, you and me included, before he went home to God. This is to go and tell everyone everywhere the good news that Jesus is alive and that he is our Saviour, the one who changes people for the better through his gift of the Holy Spirit. So, before he disappears from sight he says to his followers in every century ‘You are my witnesses,’ and that in order to witness to him we will be ‘clothed with the power from on high’, the power that is the Holy Spirit.

On the subject of witnessing, it’s worth remembering that Pope Paul VI said that ‘the world needs witnesses more than it needs teachers’. In fact, the world is full of both true and false teachers, but has far fewer witnesses, i.e. people who speak with their lives. Between the two roles there is the same difference as between saying and doing. A well-known proverb underlines this difference: ‘Actions speak louder than words’, more recently put by the rappers as, ‘Walk the walk, not just talk the talk.’

Being witnesses to Jesus is a very important role for parents of children, and especially when they are asked to help with the teaching of their children getting ready for First Reconciliation, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation. The words which parents say about meeting Jesus and belonging to the Church in each of these steps, will mean nothing if the parents don’t practice what they preach. What will the children think if their parents don’t go to Mass on Sunday, don’t ever make the sign of the cross with them, and don’t ever pray with them? The souls of children are like sheets of photographic film. Everything they see and hear in their childhood years leaves a trace, an imprint. One day the ‘film’ will be ‘developed’ and it will have its effects, good or bad.

So, in summary, in ascending to heaven, Jesus has not left us. He has merely disappeared from our sight. This is similar to what happens in the Eucharist. So long as the host is outside us, we see it, we adore it. When we receive the host we no longer see it. It has disappeared from sight, but it has disappeared so that Jesus in the host can be within us, and so that he can be present to us in a new way, and even a more powerful way than when he walked our earth in the flesh. So, like the first disciples, we are not sad that Jesus has disappeared from sight but glad, because he is still with us and still loving us in so many ways.

At our Mass today, then, let’s make a point of thanking God that Jesus is not only risen and exalted into glory with God, but that he is also still with us, in powerful and loving ways through his gift of his Spirit, his alter ego, his second self!

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

 

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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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