This Sunday's Gospel

Exegetical notes and homily themes to get you started this weekend:

5/22/2022 – Easter 6
5/29/2022 – Ascension of the Lord
5/29/2022 – Easter 7

6/5/22 – Pentecost
6/12/22 – The Holy Trinity
6/19/22 – The Body and Blood of Christ (ROMAN lectionary)
6/19/22 – Pentecost 2 (COMMON lectionary)
6/26/22 – Sunday 13 / Pentecost 3


May 22 – Sixth Sunday of Easter [C]

“ . . . the Father will give another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it sees nor knows him.”
John 14: 23-29

THE WORD:

In his Last Supper discourse, Jesus leaves his fledgling Church his gift of peace and the promise of the Spirit.  Christ’s gift of peace is not the absence of trouble and hostility (“as the world gives peace”); Christ’s peace is the Scriptural concept of shalom, meaning the pursuit of everything which makes for the highest good.  The peace of Christ finds its core in the Gospel principles of humble servanthood and holy justice.
   
The “Advocate” (or “Paraclete,” as found in some translations of John’s Gospel), who intercedes and intervenes on behalf of good, is the exact opposite of the "adversary," Satan.  The Advocate/Paraclete is that presence of God within us that opens our hearts and minds to the promptings of God's Word as proclaimed by Jesus.

HOMILY POINTS:

The peace the Risen Jesus leaves us is not passive acquiescence or the absence of hostility and conflict; the peace of Jesus is a mindset: a constant seeking out of God’s love, justice and mercy, an understanding of our “connectedness” to God and to one another as children of the same God.       

In sacrament, in Scripture, in community, in our living of the Gospel in our everyday lives, the Risen Christ is in our midst.  In even our smallest act of selfless kindness – prompted by the Paraclete instructing our open hearts and spirit – we reveal the presence of the Easter Christ in our little piece of the world.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises that he and his Father will “make our dwelling” with us when we “keep [Jesus’] word” of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. 

Whenever we act out of compassion, the Advocate is at work in our midst; whenever we put aside our own fears of inadequacy to reach out to someone in need, the Holy Spirit is moving among us.  The Spirit, the Advocate, is present in our care often without our realizing it, enabling us to make the justice and mercy of the Gospel a reality in our own time and place.  

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May 29 – Ascension of the Lord [C]

[In some churches and dioceses: Thursday, May 26]

“ . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  When Jesus had said this, as they were looking on, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took them from their sight.
Acts 1: 1-11

“You are witnesses of these things.”
Luke 24: 46-53

THE WORD:

Today’s readings include two accounts of Jesus’ return to the Father by the same writer:

Reading 1 is the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke's “Gospel of the Holy Spirit.”  Jesus’ Ascension begins the second volume of Luke’s work.  The words and images here invoke the First Covenant accounts of the ascension of Elijah (2 Kings 2) and the forty years of the Exodus:  Luke considers the time that the Risen Lord spent with his disciples a sacred time, a “desert experience” for the apostles to prepare them for their new ministry of preaching the Gospel of the Resurrection. 

Responding to their question about the restoration of Israel, Jesus discourages his disciples from guessing what cannot be known.  Greater things await them as his “witnesses.”  In the missionary work awaiting them, Christ will be with them in the presence of the promised Spirit.

Whereas in Acts Luke places Jesus' Ascension 40 days after Easter, in his Gospel the Ascension takes place on Easter night.  Luke treats the same event from two points of view: in the Gospel, the Ascension is the completion of Jesus' Messianic work; in Acts, it is the prelude to the Church's mission.

HOMILY POINTS:

Jesus’ Ascension is both an ending and a beginning; it marks an absence and a presence.  The physical appearances of Jesus are at an end; his revelation of the “good news” is complete; the promise of the Messiah is fulfilled.  Now begins the work of the disciples to teach what they have learned and to share what they have witnessed.   

Christ places his Church in the care of a rag-tag collection of fishermen, tax collector and peasants – it is not a very promising start for the new Church.  And yet, what began with those eleven has grown and flourished through the centuries to the very walls of our own parish family. 

The Church Jesus leaves to his followers is rooted not in buildings or wealth or formulas of prayer or systems of theology but in faith nurtured in the human heart, a faith centered in joy and understanding that is empowering and liberating, a faith that gives us the strength and freedom to be authentic and effective witnesses of the Risen One, who is present among us always.

The words Jesus addresses to his disciples on the mountain of the Ascension are addressed to all of us two millennia later.  We are called to teach, to witness and to heal in our own small corners of the world, to hand on to others the story that has been handed on to us about Jesus and his Gospel of love and compassion.

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May 29 – Seventh Sunday of Easter [C]

“Father, I pray . . . for those who will believe in me through their word, so that all may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you . . . ”
John 17: 20-26

THE WORD:

In John’s account of the Last Supper, after his final teachings to his disciples before the events of his passion begin, Jesus addresses his Father in heaven.  He begins praying for himself, that he may obediently bring to completion the work of redemption entrusted to him by the Father.  Next, he prays for his disciples, that they may faithfully proclaim the word he has taught them.  Finally (today’s Gospel pericope), Jesus prays for the future Church – us – that we may be united in the “complete” love that binds the Father to the Son and the Son to his Church, and that in our love for one another the world may come to know God.

HOMILY POINTS:

In his “High Priestly Prayer,” Jesus pleads with the Father that the unique sense of “oneness” that exists between the Father and Son might exist among us, as well.  It is a unity of complete love embracing all, from Genesis to the Gospel of the empty tomb to our own parish family. 

Christ calls us to work for that sense of “oneness,” that sense of “connectedness” and “completeness” within our own Church by recognizing and honoring the essential dignity that every one of us possesses as children of God and in seeking ways to tear down the barriers that divide and alienate us from one another.

Christ’s prayer the night before he dies is that we realize his hope for the Church he leaves behind: a Church of welcome and acceptance that refuses to trap one another by labels and categories, a faith that seeks to find and honor what unites and binds us together as the people of God.

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June 5 – Pentecost [ABC]

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Acts 2: 1-11
Jesus breathed on them and said:  “Receive the Holy Spirit . . . ”
John 20: 19-23

THE WORD:

Pentecost was the Jewish festival of the harvest (also called the “Feast of Weeks”), celebrated 50 days after Passover, when the first fruits of the corn harvest were offered to the Lord.  A feast of pilgrimage (hence the presence in Jerusalem of so many “devout Jews of every nation”), Pentecost also commemorated Moses’ receiving the Law on Mount Sinai.  For the new Israel, Pentecost becomes the celebration of the Spirit of God's compassion, peace and forgiveness – the Spirit that transcends the Law and becomes the point of departure for the young Church's universal mission (the planting of a new harvest?).

In his Acts of the Apostles (Reading 1), Luke invokes the First Testament images of wind and fire in his account of the new Church’s Pentecost:  God frequently revealed his presence in fire (the pillar of fire in the Sinai) and in wind (the wind that sweeps over the earth to make the waters of the Great Flood subside).  The Hebrew word for spirit, ruah, and the Greek word pneuma also refer to the movement of air, not only as wind, but also of life-giving breath (as in God's creation of man in Genesis 2 and the revivification of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37).  Through his life-giving “breath,” the Lord begins the era of the new Israel on Pentecost.

Today’s Gospel of the first appearance of the Risen Jesus before his ten disciples (remember Thomas is not present) on Easter night is John’s version of the Pentecost event.  In “breathing” the Holy Spirit upon them, Jesus imitates God’s act of creation in Genesis.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so the disciples’ new life of the Spirit comes from Jesus.  In the Resurrection, the Spirit replaces their sense of self-centered fear and confusion with the “peace” of understanding, enthusiasm and joy and shatters all barriers among them to make of them a community of hope and forgiveness.  By Christ’s sending them forth, the disciples become apostles – “those sent.”

HOMILY POINTS:

The feast of Pentecost celebrates the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives and in our Church: the ruah that animates us to do the work of the Gospel of the Risen One, the ruah that makes God’s will our will, the ruah of God living in us and transforming us so that we might bring his life and love to our broken world.  God “breathes” his Spirit into our souls that we may live in his life and love; God ignites the “fire” of his Spirit within our hearts and minds that we may seek God in all things in order to realize the coming of his reign.

Today we celebrate the gift of God’s Spirit: the Spirit that enables us to love as selflessly and as totally as God loved us enough to become one of us, to die for us and to rise for us; the Spirit that takes us beyond empty legalisms and static measurements of “mine” and “yours” to create a community of compassion, reconciliation and justice centered in “us”; the Spirit that enables us to re-create our world in the peace and mercy of God.

In Jesus' “breathing” upon them the new life of the Spirit, the community of the Resurrection – the Church – takes flight.  That same Spirit continues to “blow” through today’s Church to give life and direction to our mission and ministry to preach the Gospel to every nation, to proclaim the forgiveness and reconciliation in God's name, to baptize all humanity into the life of Jesus' Resurrection.

The Spirit of God enables the Eleven – and us – to do things they could not do their own: to understand the “truth” of God’s great love for his people that is embodied in the Risen Christ, and then to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ.  The Spirit empowers us with the grace to do the difficult work of Gospel justice, forgiveness and compassion.

The miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2) is the Spirit’s overcoming the barriers of language and perception to open not only the minds of the Apostles’ hearers but their hearts as well to understanding and embracing the Word of God.

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June 12 – The Holy Trinity [C]
        
“The Spirit of truth will guide you to all truth.”
John 16: 12-15

THE WORD:

As Ordinary Time resumes, two “solemnities of the Lord” are celebrated on the next two Sundays.  Today’s celebration of the Trinity, originating in France in the eighth century and adopted by the universal Church in 1334, focuses on the essence of our faith: the revelation of God as Creator, the climax of his creation in Jesus the Redeemer, the fullness of the love of God poured out upon us in the Sustainer Spirit.

In his final words to his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus promises to send the “Spirit of truth [to] guide you to all truth.”  The Son has revealed the Father to the Church; the Spirit of truth and wisdom keeps that revelation alive in the Church.

HOMILY POINTS:

Trinity Sunday is a celebration of the many dimensions in which we discover the how and why of God: God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that lives; God, the Christ who became one of us to show us the depth of God's love; the Spirit, the love of God living among us, the love that gives meaning and vision to us, God's beloved creation.

Truth is an ongoing process; God continues to reveal himself in all time.  He is not a silent God who ceased to reveal himself on the last page of Scripture.  Through the Spirit dwelling within us and within the Church, God is still leading us into a greater realization of what Jesus taught in the Gospels.

To be a person of authentic faith means to seek out and face the truth – regardless of the consequences, regardless of the cost to egos or wallets, regardless of our doubts and cynicism and fear.  To live our faith means to live the truth about love, justice and forgiveness with integrity and conviction, regardless of the cost. 

Faith begins with realizing the Spirit of God breathing life into all that exists; faith then compels us to continue the creative work of God, to embrace and be embraced by the love of God that envelopes every wonder of nature and every manifestation of compassion.

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June 19 – The Body and Blood of Christ [C]  

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, Jesus said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
Luke 9: 11-17

THE WORD:

Today’s celebration of the Body and Blood of the Lord originated in the Diocese of Liege in 1246 as the feast of Corpus Christi.  In the reforms of Vatican II, the feast was joined with that of the Precious Blood (July 1) to become the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord.  We celebrate today the Christ’s gift of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life together as the Church.

Today’s Gospel is Luke’s account of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish (the only one of Jesus’ miracles recounted in all four Gospels).  As he does throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus performs a miracle out of his deep sense of compassion for the suffering and needy – but, first, Jesus asks the Twelve to gather up whatever they can from the community; with these few, shared gifts Jesus creates a community of thanksgiving, a community of Eucharist.

HOMILY POINTS:

A sacrament, St. Augustine said, is the visible sign of God’s invisible grace.  The gifts we give to one another are sacramental when they manifest the love and mercy of God; they are Eucharistic when they transform us into a community bound by that love.

In our sharing of the body of Christ, we are called to become the body of Christ for one another: to make the limitless, complete love of Christ reality for all.

Christ calls us to be both guests and waiters at his table.  We come here with our struggles and doubts and pains and sorrows to be fed and nourished; at the same time, the Eucharist should impel us to become Eucharist for others – to make the limitless, complete love of Christ real for all in our own acts of charity and kindness.

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June 19 – Second Sunday after Pentecost [PROPER 7C]     

As [Jesus] stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him.  For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs . . . Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?”  He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him.
Luke 8: 26-39

THE WORD:

Luke seems to understate the eeriness of this scene.  A madman – naked, given to violent seizures, left to stalking cemeteries, deprived of family, friends and identity – shouts at Jesus as he is going by.  When Jesus meets the man, the demons themselves speak.  Once Jesus had subjugated them, they beg to enter into a nearby herd of pigs, which then rush down the hillside into the lake where they drown. 

This story reflects a common theme of Luke’s Gospel:  Jesus’ compassion trumps religious practice and social convention.  The psychotic man, considered “unclean” and ritually impure to religious Jew, is condemned to live among the tombs.  In Luke’s account (unlike Matthew and Mark’s version of the story), Jesus commands the spirits to leave him before the man can ask Jesus for healing.

In demanding to know the name of the demons, Jesus demonstrates his authority over them.  In ancient thought, to know a name was to exercise control, and the demons freely surrender top Jesus’ authority, realizing that they must be obedient to him.  The name Legion is the technical term for a division of the Roman military, usually consisting of about five thousand troops; thus the name suggests a horde of demons possessing the man.  For Jesus’ Jewish hearers, pigs epitomized both paganism and their hated Roman occupiers.  Rather than return to the “abyss” (the realm of Satan), the demons ask that they be allowed to enter the pigs on the nearby hillside; Jesus agrees, but then plummets the herd into the lake, visible proof that the demons have left the man once and for all.

The man, now healed, is sent by Jesus to proclaim the goodness of God throughout the town, becoming one of the first Gentile missionaries.  But those who witness this exorcism are terrified at the power of this Jesus and ask him to leave.

HOMILY POINTS:

We all have our demons distracting us from the things of God; we are all “possessed” by fear, despair and cynicism.  Yet we hesitate to be rid of them – we have become secure and comfortable in our own little worlds, with our demons protecting them.  Christ comes to exercise our demons that we may be made new and whole in the limitless compassion of God.

Jesus and the Gospel he preaches terrifies us.  While we readily embrace the peace and comfort of Jesus’ words, we shy away from the demands of the Gospel: selflessness, humility, detachment from the material.  Authentic faith demands that we be willing to follow not only the good and gentle Jesus but the suffering and crucified Jesus, as well.

Jesus’ authority is not an “authority” constructed of legend and celebrity.  His authority over good and evil is centered in the selfless, limitless and unconditional love of God and the spirit of humility that seeks to put the power of one’s “authority” at the service of others.

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June 26 – 13th Sunday of the Year [C] / Third Sunday after Pentecost [PROPER 8C]

“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9: 51-62

THE WORD:

The journey to Jerusalem is the focus of today’s Gospel.  Jesus proceeds to Jerusalem to take up the cross that awaits him there.

The most direct route to Jerusalem took Jesus and his company through a Samaritan town.  The Samaritans and Jews despised one another.  Their hatred dated back to the eighth century B.C., when Assyria conquered northern Israel (Samaria).  Those northerners who survived the disaster intermarried with foreigners resettled by the Assyrians.  The Jews of Jerusalem considered such accommodation with their hated enemy treason and, worse, a betrayal of the holy faith.  Jerusalem banned the Samaritans from the temple and synagogues, refused their religious contributions and denied their legal status in court proceedings.  The spurned Samaritans would do everything they could to hinder and even attack pilgrims to Jerusalem.  Although it was the most direct route from Galilee, most Jews avoided the territories of the Samaritans.  Jesus, however, proceeds through Samaria, regardless of their inhospitality and responds to their bitterness with tolerance and reconciliation.

Along the way, three would-be disciples ask to join Jesus.  To the first, Jesus asks if he clearly understands the cost of discipleship; Jesus urges the second not to find excuses or rationalizations for avoiding the call of God; Jesus reminds the third that discipleship demands a total dedication and commitment to seeking God in all things.

HOMILY POINTS:

To claim the title of disciple demands that we abandon our own safety and security for the sake of the reign of God.  The call to discipleship demands a total, conscious acceptance of the hard demands of the Gospel. 

Jesus calls those who would be his disciples not to look back with regret or fear to what we leave undone but to look forward to the possibilities we have to establish and build the reign of God in our own time and place.

The Gospel of forgiveness, reconciliation, justice and peace is not a collection of pious words we commit to memory; it is a spirit-centered attitude and perspective to which we commit our lives.

We cannot be disciples by being mere spectators of God’s presence; authentic discipleship calls us to become involved in the hard work of making the reign of God a reality.

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