5th Sunday of Easter, May 15

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Last Sunday our reading from the Acts of the Apostles recounted the beginning of Paul’s first missionary journey. Today’s reading tells us how that journey ended.
Paul and his companion, Barnabas, have traveled through the southern part of present-day Turkey. Their usual strategy on entering a town is to begin by speaking in the synagogue, the worship space where Jews and even some Gentiles gather. A general pattern soon develops. Many Gentiles tend to be more receptive to their message.
In the face of resistance and persecution, Paul and Barnabas move from town to town. In today’s reading, they are backtracking on their way home, retracing their steps, revisiting the towns they had earlier passed through. This time Paul begins to put in place an organizational structure in each town that would later develop into a hierarchical leadership in Christian communities. 
When they finally arrive back home in Antioch in Syria, they are warmly received and all are amazed at their reports, especially how the Gentiles are open to Christian belief.
Our second reading offers the beautiful image of the heavenly Jerusalem. All through the bible, Jerusalem is a symbol of the true home for God’s faithful people. Finally, at the culmination point of all human history, Jerusalem will be freed from all its unfaithfulness and the tragedies it has had to endure. This restored, heavenly Jerusalem will be the place where God dwells among his people, with “no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.” It is a spectacular image of the future that God’s grace will usher in.
Finally, the gospel verses record Jesus speaking at the Last Supper.  Keep in mind as you listen to today’s reflections, that these verses are preceded in the gospel by Judas’ departure to initiate his plot against Jesus and followed by Jesus’ foretelling the threefold denial by Peter. Still Jesus can speak about his Father’s glory and the mandate to love.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

3rd Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter

All during the Easter Season, the first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, which tells the story of the early church. Unfortunately, the lectionary breaks up the story into bits and pieces so that it can be difficult to follow what is happening. Today’s reading is a case in point.
Last week we heard how successful the apostles were in preaching the good news about Jesus. This alarmed the religious authorities. In order to silence the apostles, they had them arrested and held them in prison overnight for a court hearing in the morning. But an angel of the Lord broke into the prison and freed them. It wasn’t the only time in the Acts that the apostles were to be part of a jail break. According to the plan, the next day the court ordered the prisoners to appear, but the prisoners could not be found. Then a few minutes later the court was told the prisoners were once again in the Temple courtyard preaching up a storm. So the court sent the police to apprehend them. That’s where today’s reading picks up.
But the reading unfortunately skips reporting on the court’s deliberations. One of the Sadducees objects to overly hasty legal action. Let’s see what happens before we pass judgment, he advises. So the court orders the apostles to be flogged, which was a very brutal punishment and then releases them with the warning that they cease and desist preaching anymore about Jesus. Well, what do you think the apostles are going to do with that court order?
Our second reading continues our Easter reflections on the Book of Revelation. A central theme of this book is worship. Today’s reading pictures all the angels of heaven and all the creatures of the earth praising the Lamb of God, which of course is an image of Jesus as the crucified and risen Lord. This reading should remind us how at Mass, at communion time, we hold up the eucharist and proclaim: This is the Lamb of God.
The gospel recounts another appearance of the risen Lord to the disciples and can serve as a beautiful summary of the entire gospel.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.