Pentecost Sunday, May 23


Today the Easter season ends with the celebration of Pentecost. The Catholic Church celebrates this feast fifty days after Easter, reflecting Luke’s account of the first Pentecost that we hear in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. But the gospel reading, from John, sets the first Pentecost at the end of the day of Jesus’s resurrection, demonstrating the close connection between these events. Today’s reflection will explore Luke’s and John’s different accounts of the first Pentecost.
The second reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, is part of Paul’s effort to rein in the enthusiasm of that new Christian community—what one commentator calls the Corinthians’ “over-realized eschatology.” Paul asserts that the gifts of the Holy Spirit should not be a source of pride or the basis for claims to superiority; the Spirit’s gifts are meant to unify the community in service to others.
—BJ Brown

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

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, May 16

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Biblical commentators tell us that Luke was one of the most accomplished authors in the early Church. Each of the two books he wrote, his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, begins with a formal introduction modeled on the classical style of ancient literature. In each, Luke addresses a man named Theophilus, which means literally, a “lover of God.” No one knows if this name refers to a real or fictitious person invented by Luke. But Luke was also a masterful theologian and managed to closely connect the ministry of Jesus with the early history of the Church. As we come to the end of the Easter Season, the Church will greatly rely on Luke’s writing to complete for us the full meaning of the story of Easter.
Our second reading presents a profound description of the Father’s work in the exaltation of Jesus. Though the language is dense, and the translation adopted by the Church perhaps not the most advantageous, it is worth reflecting closely on the message of this reading. Today’s reflection will try to provide a context for this reading that hopefully will aid our understanding.
Some background can be helpful for a greater appreciation of our gospel reading. The formal ending of Mark’s gospel strikes one as excessively abrupt. The gospel seems to end almost in mid-sentence. Even in antiquity, early scribes tried to soften this impression by adding alternate endings, mostly borrowed from one or other of the gospels of Matthew or Luke. What we have in today’s gospel reading is one of those “borrowed” endings. The gospel has been chosen for today because of the mention of the Ascension, which of course is recounted both in Matthew and in Luke. 
Walter Modrys SJ

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

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 9

Sixth Sunday of Easter, John 15:9-17

In today’s first reading we hear snippets of the story of Cornelius. This is a turning point for the first disciples; Cornelius was the first Gentile convert to the new gospel of Jesus Christ. Read the entire 10th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles for both Peter’s masterful summary of the Good News in verses 34-44 and for the account of a conversion in Peter’s life that prepared him to welcome Cornelius and his household.
In the second reading, we continue our Easter season reflection on how God’s love is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. The first letter of John attunes our ears for the gospel according to John and its revelation of Jesus’s sole commandment, love one another as I love you.

BJ Brown

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

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 2

Fifth Sunday of Easter, John 15:1-8

Once again, the first reading begins in the middle of a story. This chapter of the Acts of the Apostles began with Saul “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” By the passage read today, Saul has regained his sight and been baptized but has not yet changed his name. He travels to Jerusalem, the heart of the community he so recently persecuted. Not surprisingly, Saul receives a cool reception when he tries to join the disciples of Jesus, who he’d encountered on his way to Damascus. When he is accepted, Saul soon faces persecution in turn. Even so, today’s first reading ends with a description of the church at peace, a testimony to the consoling power of the Spirit whose coming we will soon celebrate at Pentecost.
Behind all that is said about love in today’s second reading lies another conflict with those who do not understand the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God. But as in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the author of the first letter of John looks to the Spirit at work, supporting those who remain faithful believers.
Like last Sunday’s gospel about the Good Shepherd, today’s gospel begins with an “I am” statement, emphasizing Jesus’s unity with his Father—although today’s reflection will consider another image that lies within the invitation to remain united with Jesus, the true vine.
—BJ Brown

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

Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 25

Fourth Sunday of Easter, John 10:11-18

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles takes us into the middle of a story.  The story begins with a healing miracle, when Peter and John in the Temple courtyard cured a man crippled from birth. As you can imagine, this incident causes quite a commotion, so Peter—as he so frequently does in the Acts of the Apostles—delivers a speech explaining by what power this miracle has been accomplished. This in turn attracts the attention of the authorities who immediately arrest Peter and John and put them in jail overnight, awaiting a court appearance the next day. Today’s reading will pick up the story with Peter speaking in court, explaining his actions. Luke sets the stage with his customary description of Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Peter then provides the court with a beautiful summary of Christian faith about Jesus of Nazareth, making a point that will be emphasized in my homily today: there is no other name under heaven “by which we are to be saved.”
Today’s second reading is a beautiful proclamation of Easter faith. Speaking of our future, the author looks forward to the time when we shall see the risen Lord as he is. This is the vision that gives hope to all believers.

Walter Modrys SJ

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