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Contents: Volume 2 - Fifth Sunday of Easter April 29, 2018


 

 Fifth

Sunday

EASTER

2018

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

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

 

 

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1.

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Easter 5 B

 

As our first two readings today tell us, the apostles and disciples of Jesus spoke boldly and with great confidence about Jesus after the Resurrection. They did this through the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel reading from St. John, Jesus reminds us "Remain in me, as I remain in you." It is clear that we, the branches, must remain connected to Jesus, the Vine. The question is how do we do this?

 

I think that the answer is to allow the Holy Spirit to guide each of us, individually. Yes, we are pruned when we veer in the wrong direction or even go astray. We are also nourished and bear much fruit when we "remain".

 

It is difficult to surrender completely to the Holy Spirit because we tend to like to do some things and really try to avoid other things. Some activities are just more difficult than others for some of us, but quite the opposite for others. We are often guided to do what we would never choose ourselves!

 

Staying connected means saying "yes", each day to the Holy Spirit, not to our own inclinations. We can not do anything (really good) by ourselves! We can follow the lead of the Holy Spirit more easily by taking advantage of the ever-present nourishment available to us: the Eucharist, personal prayer time, reading the Scriptures, community building, service to others, a Bible study group, a prayer partner.... the menu can be a long one!

 

Pentecost is on its way. It is time to think about asking the Holy Spirit to rekindle the flame of faith within us. It is about time again to feel the boldness and confidence that we might have felt once when we served the Lord with the boldness and confidence of those first Christians...or to ask to be gifted with those gifts for the very first time!

 

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter April 29 2018

Acts of Apostles 9:26-31; Responsorial Psalm 22 (last half of psalm 22); 1st John 3:18-24; Gospel Acclamation 15:4-5; John 15:1-8

A good friend from Cathedral choir mused with me about the people’s response to the first reading. I assumed the liturgy of the Word would continue with psalm 118. He was wondering what setting our diocesan Director of Sacred Music would choose for psalm 22. In my hubris, I argued with him that we’d be continuing with psalm 118. Sorry, Paul: you were right.

If we’ve paid attention to the psalms we will remember the first verses of psalm 22 for Good Friday. That psalm begins with "My God, My God. Why have you abandoned me?" How strange it is that in this season of great joy, this season of the good news that death itself has lost its sting, that death is not a condition but a transition, a passage way to our completeness that we should use this lamenting, "woe is me" psalm. How do we make sense of this selection? How do the People of God sing this psalm of lament with conviction and faith all the while rejoicing in the Resurrection of Jesus?

That first reading from Acts tells us that Saul of Tarsus – renamed Paul – was not accepted by the church in Jerusalem. He had been preaching the name of Jesus in Damascus and brought many to believe in His name. Even though Paul received his apostleship in a vision of Jesus Crucified and Risen, he was initially rejected by those in Jerusalem who believed in the name of Jesus. After Barnabas vouched for him he was accepted by all but the Hellenists who wished to put him to death.

The second reading is from the first letter attributed to John, the disciple Jesus loved. John tells us that we who believe in the Name of Jesus should follow his commands which are to believe in his Name and love one another as he had commanded us. We are to practice this love of others in our actions and not merely in word or speech.

The gospel is also taken from John. Jesus instructs his disciples in a parable about vines. From the time of Moses, the Hebrew people thought of their nation as a vine which God had taken from Egypt and transplanted in Palestine. There in the fertile valleys and plateaus the nation thrived and grew, as does a vine that is well tended. Every vine dresser knows the importance of pruning away branches that will not bear fruit. Those branches rob the vine of its vitality and diminish the amount of grapes produced.

When we put all these thoughts together in the light of the People’s response from psalm 22, we can come away with a lesson on this fifth Sunday of Easter. Just as psalm 22 begins with a lamentation so also our living often times contains much suffering. Events challenge us: misunderstandings rob our hearts of love for even those closest to us: our hearts can be seduced and rob us of the joy and energy of the Risen Christ. This is very much like what happens to the vines when branches spring out and rob the vine of its vitality and fruitfulness. Everyone from the richest to the poorest, the least powerful to the most powerful encounter regularly pain of separation, of misguided steps, of distrust, of bad fortune and of lost love. At that time we lament – "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?" In our consciousness of the pain of living much of our pride and arrogance are pruned away. Much of our empty dreams of inconsequential longings and pursuits are dashed to the ground. As we think of our grief and attempt to move on, we come to the second part of psalm 22. That second part is about faith, about tapping into the energy and presence of the Risen Lord who has suffered all that can be suffered. Listen to the words of the psalmist as he recovers his faith in the Lord:

But you Oh Lord be not far from me; O my help, hasten to aid me. Rescue my soul from the sword, my loneliness from the grip of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth; from the horns of the wild bulls, my wretched life.

After this prayer for help, the psalmist reaffirms his/her faith.

I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him; revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not spurned nor disdained the wretched man in his misery, nor did he turn his face away from him, but when he cried out to him, he heard him. So by your gift will I utter praise in the vast assembly; I will fulfill my vows before those who fear him. The lowly shall eat their fill; they who seek the Lord shall praise him; May your hearts be every merry."

Amazing! "May your hearts be every merry." On this the fifth Sunday on which we celebrate the raising of Jesus from death, let us remember that the Lord is near to us. In the first four Sundays of Easter we heard that we should not seek the Lord in a graveyard – "He is alive." We heard on the second Sunday about the attitude of the Father toward his creation. We named that Sunday Divine Mercy Sunday. On the third Sunday we learned about a new world order. The message followed the work of Jesus in his ministry, his passion and death, and his resurrection. All relationships were created anew where it became possible for us to love one another just as we loved ourselves. The fourth Sunday of Easter instructed us that Jesus continues with us as a Good Shepherd who tends his flock without concern for his own safety. This Sunday we are taught that we still live in a world that is frequently the scene of awful evil, violence, and conflict. We are buffeted and beaten up and rejected. We have our faith that reminds us of the presence of the Risen One. In that faith and understanding we are connected to the Risen One just as branches are connected to the life flowing through the vine. In remaining connected, even though stressed and persecuted, abandoned and forgotten we can stand in our assembly and praise the Lord who gives us life and energy and leads us to living a fruitful and complete life in his Holy Name.

May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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STAYING CONNECTED TO JESUS: 5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER B

You will have noticed that every time the gospel is proclaimed in church it is presented as ‘according to’. Each gospel writer sees the same Jesus, but with different eyes. Our message about him today is ‘according to John’.

John’s Jesus presents the metaphor of the vine and the branches to describe the intimate relationship between Jesus and us, his followers. He is the true vine, his Father is the vine grower (15:1) and we are the branches attached to him (15:5). Only if we remain connected to him and he to us will we bear fruit, i.e. lead good, meaningful, useful, productive and worthwhile lives (15:4). What counts for John, then, is closeness to Jesus and lifelong friendship with him.

There are all kinds of ways in which this happens, but it’s happening where we are right here, right now. It’s happening in our liturgy, our shared prayer, our Eucharist, the one we are celebrating right now.

It cannot be emphasised enough that liturgy is simply people praying, people praying together the prayer of their Church, i.e. its official prescribed prayer. As such, it’s something we do. But even more it’s something which God does.

What God does in liturgy continues what God has already done in history. This is his work of saving, i.e. of transforming human beings. This work of God reached its climax in the living, dying and rising of Jesus. ‘God so loved the world,’ says St John, ‘that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life’ (3:16).

When God the Father raised Jesus from the dead he let loose among us the same power that animated Jesus from the cradle to the grave. This is the power of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit! The power that enriched his relationships! The power that led him to keep on loving God and God’s people! The power that spurred him into doing good - helping and healing wherever he could (Acts 10:38) The power that brought to people the understanding and compassion, the kindness, the comfort, and the healing of God! The power that forgave their sins, relieved their guilt, and gave them a brand new start! The power and joy of God’s on-going presence, friendship and support!

It’s this very same Spirit of God that Jesus our Saviour keeps giving us when we come together to pray. His Spirit keeps refreshing, renewing and transforming our lives. He does not and will not leave us as we are. Slowly but surely we become more and more like Jesus. So liturgy has been called ‘an encounter with Christ in the fullness of his redeeming activity’.

To speak this way is to speak of liturgy as a gift, as a grace. But what God is doing in liturgy is only side of the picture. There is also our response to the presence and action of God working within and among us – our response of praise, thanksgiving, sorrow, petition, lament and self-offering.

Liturgy as both gift and response takes shape as a dialogue, a conversation with God. On the one hand God keeps assuring us of his presence and love. On the other hand we respond with gratitude and faith, with trust and love.

It may be seen, then, that the pattern of liturgy parallels the pattern of the life, work and prayer of Jesus our Saviour: - To the Father, through the Son, and in the power of the Holy Spirit! As the conclusion of our every Eucharistic Prayer we explicitly acknowledge this as the pattern of our lives, work and prayer as well. So we say: ‘Through him, with him, and in him, O God Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, for ever and ever. AMEN.’

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

 

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4.

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5.

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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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