Sunday by Sunday

FAITH Magazine May-June 2007
Our regular guide to the Word of God in the Sunday Liturgy

Fr Mike Dolman, Assistant Priest in Redditch parish in the Diocese of Birmingham

5th Sunday of Easter Year C

6 May, Jn 13:31-33a. 34-35

1. As Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with his disciples he gives them a New Commandment, “love one another, just as I have loved you”. This is not an option for the disciple: Love can be demanded because it has first been given by Jesus through his incarnation, his teaching, his healing, his preaching and all other aspects of his public ministry. This complete self-giving love is fulfilled in his passion and death upon the cross. “Man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends”.

2. Through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, Jesus anticipates his death and resurrection by giving himself to his disciples under the form of bread and wine. “This is my body, given for you; this is my blood, poured out for you”. Jesus continues to give himself to us his disciples when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist. His perfect love for us is made manifest body, blood, soul and divinity as real food that we may be able to love others “as (He) has loved” us.

3. In the parable of the Last Judgement Jesus identifies himself absolutely with those who are in need. “In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me”. Our lives will be judged according to how we have loved. This means our communion with Christ in the Eucharist, where we encounter the full depth of his love, should lead to the practice of loving others and accepting their love for us. When this happens we are more readily able to recognise God’s presence and love in our lives.

6th Sunday of Easter Year C

13 May, Jn 14:23-29

1. “If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him”. For many people today, it seems that God is very distant. These words of Jesus speak of an intimacy with himself and the Father that will be made possible for the believer, once the Holy Spirit is sent. There is no longer to be separation between God and man but a deep personal communion. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives allows us to know Jesus, to love him and to keep his word. Let us hope and pray to know this reality more deeply and so become more attentive to the closeness of God.

2. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you”. There were so many things that Jesus said and did during his public life and ministry on earth, but so many more things that he was not able to speak of within the limits of that time and place. Jesus promises his disciples the gift of the advocate. It is through the Holy Spirit that this community of followers, the Church, gradually remembers all that Jesus did and said. It is through the Holy Spirit that the Church gradually understands these things in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit animates the Church so that her Tradition is able to mature as she reflects upon the Gospel message. It means that theChurch is able to speak with the confidence and authority of Christ as she encounters new situations that challenge humanity.

3. “My own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give”. We live in a world that strives for peace: peace in our world, peace in our communities, peace in our homes and peace in our hearts. Is it possible for us to have true peace when our hearts and minds remain closed to God? It is Jesus who is the Prince of Peace. During this Easter season we sing “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth”: The message of the angels to the shepherds at Christ’s birth reminds us that it is only in giving glory to God that humanity can come to know true peace on earth.

Ascension

20 May, Lk 24: 46-53

1. On this feast we celebrate the joyful return of Jesus to his Father in heaven. The Word that took flesh now returns, taking our humanity – victorious over death, gloriously Risen, making our way to heaven possible. Therefore his disappearing from our sight is not a source of sadness but of hope for us who seek to follow him. In baptism we have become a member of Christ’s body, in faith each day we endeavour to live out the baptism we have received. Where he, the head has gone, we, the body, hope to follow.

2. In the post resurrection gospel narratives describing Jesus’ appearance to his disciples we notice again and again that the accounts speak of him in terms of the solid bodily form of Jesus: He eats with them, invites Thomas to place his hand in his wounds, he breaks bread with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he eats breakfast by the lakeside. For the Jewish people, in contrast to the Greek mindset, reality was to be identified with the material and the particular. Jesus, now raised from the dead, is not a phantom. His physical ascension into heaven underlines for us that it is the same Jesus of Nazareth, truly God and truly man who now returns to his Father – and because of this each of us, body and soul, can follow.

3. After Jesus had been carried up to heaven the disciples worshipped him and on returning to Jerusalem they continued to praise God in the Temple. Their joy and praise echoes that surrounding the infancy narratives. They are to be witnesses to all that Jesus has accomplished; the salvation that was heralded by the angels has now been won for all nations.

Pentecost

27 May, Jn 20:19-23

1. “He breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”. We are reminded of that first divine breath given at the creation of man out of the dust of the earth. That breath which infused man with a living soul now invests the disciples with the Spirit that makes them a New Creation. It is this life giving Spirit that will fill the hearts of the faithful and renew the face of the earth.

2. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you”. Filled with the Holy Spirit the disciples are commissioned to go out into the world carrying the Word spoken by the Father: The Word who teaches truth, who forgives sins and heals, who loves perfectly and calls to unity. But these great men are such frail vessels, these eleven who have been entrusted with so much. Still fresh in our memories are the arguments about who is the greatest; the weakness of character exposed on that recent dreadful night and their slow wit in so many situations. Yet these are the men chosen by Jesus to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus has chosen us too and he assures us that he will be with us his Church always, even though we muck up, even until the end of the world.3. Through Jesus’ life, passion, death and resurrection he has won victory over sin and death opening up for us the promise of life eternal. In baptism we receive the same Holy Spirit that animated Jesus throughout his life and mission. It is the same Holy Spirit which Jesus breathed upon his disciples in the upper room and which enables Christ’s mission to continue through the life of the Church. The pattern of Christ’s living , suffering, dying and rising becomes the pattern for our lives, as we are members of his living body. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”. Our salvation is worked out through the details of our daily lives as the Holy Spirit dwelling within us allows us to die to our self-centredness and to live lives centred upon Christ.

The Holy Trinity Year C

3 June, Jn16: 12-15

1. When we think about God, we can sometimes speak of him generically as if there were no Trinity. In our prayer we may be careless, despite perhaps beginning with the Sign of the Cross. Today’s feast reminds us that God reveals himself as three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that in our life of faith we are called into relationship with the one God who is three persons. In our prayer, let us always be attentive to this remembering that we always live and love in the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

2. “Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said: All he tells you will be taken from what is mine”. The Holy Spirit is sent to lead the community of Christ’s followers, the Church. In the person of Jesus, God fully reveals himself to humanity. Jesus tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit is not coming to speak something new on his own. He proceeds from the Father and the Son. He comes to “glorify” Jesus by revealing to the Church all that the Father has given to Jesus. There is a perfect knowledge and love expressed between the persons of the Trinity, a single mission that the Holy Spirit continues to unfold and communicate to the Church in every age.

3. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Our relationship with him is a fundamental aspect of our salvation and our hope of eternal life. Yet we can no longer see Jesus and the gospel accounts are written in a language that he never spoke. It is the Holy Spirit who guides us and makes Christ truly present to us through the life of the Church. In this way we enter into the mystery of the Holy Trinity through the ordinary events of our lives, led by the Spirit of truth into the fullness of truth.

Corpus Christi Year C

10 June, Lk 9: 11-17

1. We cannot fail to hear the Eucharistic overtones in the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, particularly as we hear it proclaimed on this feast day. We acknowledge the Eucharistic celebration as the source and the summit of our Catholic lives: Here we are nourished not with bread and fish but with Jesus Christ himself, veiled beneath the outward appearances of bread and wine. Not food for the health of the body but a remedy for the whole of our being. Words, gestures, signs and symbols: a ritual that draws us into the very life of God. Jesus Christ is the only one who is able to satisfy the deepest hungers of the human heart, to bring us life to the full, both here on earth and in the life to come and he has chosen to do this mostprofoundly through the celebration of the Mass.

2. “We have no more than five loaves and two fish”. When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, to offer praise and thanksgiving to God Our Father, we too are aware of our inadequacy, of the imperfections and failings in our lives. Yet like the Twelve in today’s gospel, we bring to Jesus all that we have; all that we are and place it in his hands. At the offertory of the Mass Jesus in the person of the priest receives this our offering, the bread and the wine. The humble offering of our lives is united to the one perfect offering of Jesus to his Father. In the Mass we offer the divine victim to God, and offer ourselves with him: “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever. AMEN”.

3. We see in Jesus’ actions a concern and compassion for all of the people who sought him out. Putting his own needs and intentions to one side, he sets about addressing the needs of the crowd: spiritual and physical. He welcomes them, teaches them about the kingdom of God, cures those in need of healing and provides them with enough food to satisfy them. This remains Christ’s mission through the Church in the world today: To provide for humanity all that we require to have life in its fullest sense. As his disciples we give ourselves in some small way to cooperate in his mission. “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.

11th Sunday Year C

17 June, Lk 7: 36 – 8: 3

1. Jesus invites us to reflect upon the two ways in which he is greeted by Simon, the Pharisee and the woman who had a bad name in the town. As a Pharisee inviting Jesus to a meal, Simon would have observed all of the appropriate laws and customs so as not to cause offence to his guest but it is done more out of duty than with generosity and warmth. Simon poured no water over Jesus’ feet; he did not greet him with a kiss or anoint his head with oil. In contrast, the woman with a bad name demonstrates deep devotion and affection for Jesus in her encounter with him: Washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair; covering his feet with kisses and anointing them with ointment. We are called to imitate the example of this woman in the many differentways we meet with Jesus today: in our celebration of the sacraments, our love and care for those we live with, work with and meet each day, in the time we give to personal prayer – demonstrating her generosity and devotion, her deep love and confidence in him.

2. “They were unable to pay so he pardoned them both”. None of us are able to pay or make up for the sin of our first parents, or the sins we ourselves have committed. In Jesus Christ we experience the depth of God’s love for us and the fount of his unfathomable mercy. We rely completely upon God’s forgiveness that is freely offered to each and every one of us in Jesus Christ. Recognising our sinfulness and the need we have for God’s mercy and forgiveness is itself a gift of grace from God. The Holy Spirit reveals these areas of our life to us and fills us with confidence to approach Jesus. 3. “Your sins are forgiven”. It was not the love that the woman lavished upon Jesus that was the ground for her receiving forgiveness. Jesus tells her that it is herfaith that has saved her. This woman approaches Jesus with the confident faith and with the unshakeable hope of the Woman with the haemorrhage and of the Publican in the temple. It is because of this great faith in Jesus that her many sins are forgiven her.

The Birth of John the Baptist

24 June, Lk 1: 57-66. 80

1. In one sense the birth of every child is a miraculous event: a new and unique person brought into the world – man and woman participating in God’s creative work. The birth of John the Baptist is truly miraculous: given the great age of both Elizabeth and Zechariah and the fact that Elizabeth has been barren throughout her life. The joy that is shared by neighbours and relations has recognised the wonderful mercy that God has poured upon this elderly couple who had previously laboured under the divine stigma of an unfruitful marriage. Joy fills this moment as the promise handed on by previous generations draws so close to its fulfilment and the words of the angel Gabriel spoken to Zechariah are realised, “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoiceat his birth”.

2. “His name is John”. According to the Jewish tradition, the child is circumcised on the eighth day and is named. The name carries significance for the bearer: what sort of person will he be? What is God calling him to be? What hopes do his parents have for him? To the surprise of everybody Elizabeth is adamant that he is to be called John, a name that means ‘God’s gracious gift’ and is new as a name in the family. Zechariah is asked independently and gives the same name. There is amazement among all the people who have recognised God’s hand at work. It is God himself who has given this name through the angel Gabriel, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John” and he is destined for a great mission.

3. “And he lived out in the wilderness”. In the bible the desert is understood as a place associated with prophetic inspiration and preparation. It is the place where for forty years the people of Israel learned to trust in God, the place where Jesus prepared for his mission and it is the place where people will arrive in great numbers to respond to John’s call to repentance and to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah.

Faith Magazine

May - June 2007