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Fifth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 14:21-27
Paul and Barnabas proclaim the good news in many places.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 145:8-9,10-11,12-13
A song of praise to God.

Second Reading
Revelation 21:1-5a
John describes his vision of a new heaven and a new earth.

Gospel Reading
John 13:31-33a,34-35
Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment: love one another.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel again comes from the Gospel of John. Like last week, today we hear words spoken by Jesus before his death and Resurrection. Jesus is teaching at the Last Supper.

John’s Gospel does not include an institution of the Eucharist narrative; instead, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. Immediately after, Jesus predicts his betrayal by Judas. Today’s Gospel follows that prediction. It can be read as a continuing explanation of Jesus’ act of washing his disciples’ feet. It begins with the announcement that this is the moment when the Son of Man will be glorified. This theme continues throughout John’s Passion. Jesus will be glorified in his death on the cross and in his Resurrection, and the disciples will glorify Jesus in the love they show.

John’s Gospel does not present a sentimental view of love. This is a type of love that is shown in service and sacrifice. It is difficult to choose to love when faced with hatred and anger. Jesus tells the disciples that all will know that they are his disciples because of the love they show for one another. This description of the early Christian community will be repeated in the Acts of the Apostles: “See how they love one another.” Christian love is the hallmark of Christianity. We see it lived in the witness of the martyrs. We see it in the example of the lives of the saints. We see it in the holy women and men who live and love daily, making small and large sacrifices for others.-loyolapress.com

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 13:14,43-52
Paul and Barnabas preach the good news among the Gentiles and are expelled by the Jews.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 100:1-2,3,5
A song in praise of God who shepherds us.

Second Reading
Revelation 7:9,14b-17
John describes his vision of the praises that the holy ones sing to the Lamb.

Gospel Reading
John 10:27-30
Jesus describes his care for his sheep.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The fourth Sunday of Easter is also called Good Shepherd Sunday. In each of the three lectionary cycles, the Gospel is taken from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. This chapter of John’s Gospel follows Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the rejection of this miracle by Jewish leaders who question Jesus’ authority to heal. Jesus responds to this challenge to his authority by calling himself the Good Shepherd. He is criticizing the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders. Already, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders are so angered that they attempt to stone and arrest Jesus (see John 10:31 and 10:39). This controversy with the religious leaders continues until Jesus’ death.

Set in a moment of tension and conflict in John’s Gospel, today’s Gospel reading is Jesus’ answer to the question, “Are you the Messiah?” Jesus responds by saying, in essence, “If you have to ask, then you are not one of my sheep.” Then Jesus asserts his unity with the Father. At the conclusion of these words, John reports that the Jews intend to stone Jesus for blasphemy, but he escapes arrest.

We may be less familiar with the metaphors of sheep and shepherd than those to whom Jesus spoke. The image of Jesus as Good Shepherd and the community of followers as his sheep has endured over the centuries as a primary image in our faith tradition. Its power to describe the relationship between Jesus and his followers transcends direct experience with sheep. The image speaks to us about the protection, security, and care that shepherds represent for their sheep.

Today’s Gospel speaks powerfully about the familiarity and intimacy between Jesus and his disciples, expressed as recognizing and knowing another’s voice. Today’s Gospel also speaks to the relationship between Jesus and the Father. In the Gospel of John, Jesus identifies so closely with the Father that he tells us that they are one—not just close, but actually one. To know Jesus is to know the Father. Jesus doesn’t just bring us closer to the Father, Jesus puts us directly into contact with God the Father, removing all distance between us. Our relationship with Jesus is an invitation to share in the life of God.– loyolapress.com

Third Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 5:27-32,40b-41
The apostles are brought before the Sanhedrin and ordered to stop speaking in Jesus’ name.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 30:2,4,5-6,11-12,13
A song of praise to God who rescues us.

Second Reading
Revelation 5:11-14
John describes his vision of the praises that will be sung to the Lamb by every creature on heaven and earth.

Gospel Reading
John 21:1-19 (short form:John 21:1-14)
Jesus appears to the disciples for a third time after his Resurrection and shares a meal with them.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In Lectionary Cycle C, our Sunday Gospels are usually taken from the Gospel of Luke. The Gospels for the Easter Season, however, are taken from the Gospel of John. Today’s Gospel is one of the post-Resurrection appearances reported by John. Recall that in John’s Gospel, Jesus appears first to Mary of Magdala, second to all of the disciples except Thomas, and finally to Thomas and the disciples (which we heard last Sunday). After those appearances, John’s Gospel seems to conclude with a reference to other signs that Jesus gave after his Resurrection, which have not been recorded.

Because it follows this apparent conclusion, most scholars believe today’s Gospel passage (and all of John 21) to have been an addition to John’s original text. Because there are significant differences between this report and the other appearances described in John’s Gospel, it is quite likely that this story is from a different source. There are details in the story that recall Jesus’ call to Simon Peter and the other fishermen as well as the miraculous catch of fish (found in the Gospel of Luke, with parallels in the other Synoptic Gospels). The end of the chapter, where Jesus asks Peter three times whether he loves him, most likely is meant to represent the reconciliation that occurred between the community represented by John’s Gospel with the larger Christian community represented by Peter. This Gospel reading is a rich and textured story that speaks of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist and our commission to serve others as Jesus did.

Last week we heard that Jesus appeared to the gathered disciples in a locked room, probably in Jerusalem. In today’s Gospel, the disciples are no longer in Jerusalem; they are in Galilee, returning to their work of fishing. Simon Peter is still presented in the role of leader: when he announces that he is going fishing, the other disciples follow. They spend the night fishing but are unsuccessful.

Jesus calls to them from the shore, but just as when Jesus first appeared to Mary of Magdala, the disciples do not recognize him immediately. Still, they follow the stranger’s instructions and bring in a large haul of fish. It is at this point that one of the disciples (the “disciple whom Jesus loved”) realizes that Jesus is appearing to them. Upon hearing this news, Simon Peter leads the way again, jumping from the boat and swimming to shore. The other disciples follow in the boat, dragging the fish.

The disciples have brought to shore a tremendous catch of fish that Jesus has directed them to find. But once on the shore, they see that Jesus has already prepared fish and bread on a charcoal fire. Jesus directs the disciples to bring their catch of fish as well. Jesus is host at the meal that follows, feeding the disciples the bread and fish. In this detail we see allusions to the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes told in John 6.

There are also allusions in the Gospel to our gathering for the celebration of the Mass. In the Eucharist, we too are fed by Jesus in the bread and wine that have become his very Body and Blood. We also find in this story insight about the Presentation of the Gifts at Mass. The gifts we bring to the altar, bread and wine, are made from gifts that God gave first to us: grain and grapes, the fruit of the earth. God has no need of anything further. Yet God accepts the offering we bring—bread and wine, “the work of human hands”—and transforms our offering into the gift of his very presence.

After the meal, Jesus directs himself to Simon Peter. The community of John’s Gospel probably looked down on Peter because of his denial of Jesus. This dialogue with Simon Peter is a reversal of Peter’s three denials. Peter is forgiven. Having been restored to friendship with Jesus, Simon Peter is sent on a mission. “Feed my lambs . . . Tend my sheep . . . Feed my sheep.” These commands indicate that Peter is to be as Jesus, even unto sacrificing for the flock. As Jesus has fed Peter in this meal and as Jesus feeds us in the Eucharist, so he also sends us to follow him, asking that we offer our lives in service and sacrifice.-loyolapress.com

Second Sunday of Easter, Cycle C (or Sunday of Divine Mercy)

First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 5:12-16
Peter and the apostles perform many signs and wonders.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 118:2-4,13-15,22-24
A song of praise to the Lord.

Second Reading
Revelation 1:9-11a,12-13,17-19
John describes the instruction he received to write down his vision.

Gospel Reading
John 20:19-31
Thomas believes because he sees Jesus.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s reading, from the Gospel of John, is proclaimed on the second Sunday of Easter in each of the three Sunday Lectionary cycles. This should alert us to the significance of the encounters with the resurrected Jesus described in this reading. This Gospel combines two scenes: Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after his Resurrection and Jesus’ dialogue with Thomas, the disciple who doubted.

Part of the mystery of Jesus’ Resurrection is that he appeared to his disciples not as a spirit but in bodily form. We do not know exactly what this form was like. Earlier in John’s Gospel, when Mary of Magdala first encountered the risen Jesus, she did not recognize the figure standing before her until Jesus spoke her. In Luke’s Gospel, the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus until he broke bread with them. We know from readings such as today’s that in his resurrected body, Jesus was no longer bound by space; he appeared to the disciples in spite of the locked door. And yet, on this resurrected body, the disciples could still observe the marks of his Crucifixion.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus greets his disciples with the gift of peace and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun. As Jesus was sent by God, so too does Jesus send his disciples. This continuity with Jesus’ own mission is an essential element of the Church. Jesus grants the means to accomplish this mission when he gives his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit binds us together as a community of faith and strengthens us to bear witness to Jesus’ Resurrection.

Jesus’ words to his disciples also highlight the integral connection between the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness and reconciliation are gifts to us from Jesus. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can share these with others. This is another essential aspect of what it means to be Christ’s Church. The Church continues Jesus’ ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Thomas, the disciple who doubts, represents the reality of the Church that comes after this first community of disciples. All but the first disciples of Jesus must believe without seeing. Like Thomas, we may doubt the news that Jesus, who was crucified and buried, appeared to his disciples. It is part of our human nature to seek hard evidence that the Jesus who appeared to the disciples after his death is, indeed, the same Jesus who was crucified. Thomas is given the opportunity to be our representative who obtains this evidence. He gives witness to us that the Jesus who was raised is the same Jesus who had died. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are among those who are blessed for we have not seen and yet have believed.– loyolapress.com


The Second Sunday of Easter is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.

 

Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

First Reading
Exodus 3:1-8a,13-15
God speaks to Moses from the burning bush and sends him to the Israelites.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 103:1-4,6-7,8,11
A prayer in praise of God’s mercy

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12
Paul teaches that the Scriptures were written to set an example for us.

Gospel Reading
Luke 13:1-9
Jesus preaches a lesson on repentance.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Now into the third week of the Season of Lent, our Sunday Gospel prepares us to hear Lent’s call to conversion and repentance. Today’s reading is found in the chapters of Luke’s Gospel that describe Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. During this journey, Jesus teaches and heals. He must also respond to those who question and challenge his authority and actions. There is no parallel in Mark’s or Matthew’s Gospels for today’s reading from Luke. While Mark and Matthew describe an incident in which Jesus curses the fig tree, today’s reading makes the barren fig tree the subject of a parable.

Luke tells us that some among the crowds report to Jesus a massacre of Galileans by Pilate. The intention of the crowd seems to be to ask Jesus to explain why these people suffered. It was commonplace to render people’s suffering as evidence of their sinfulness. Jesus challenges this interpretation. Those who were massacred were no more or less sinful than the ones who report the situation to Jesus. Jesus replies that even a fatal accident, a natural disaster, ought not to be interpreted as punishment for sin.

Jesus’ words at first appear to have a fire-and-brimstone quality. Jesus says in essence, “Repent or perish as these people did; all are sinful before God and deserving of God’s punishment.” The tone changes, however, in the parable that follows. The parable of the barren fig tree contrasts the patience and hopefulness of the gardener with the practicality of the property owner. When told to cut down the fig tree because it is not producing fruit, the gardener counsels patience. If properly tended, the barren fig tree may yet bear fruit.

Throughout his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus has been teaching about the Kingdom of God. In this parable, we find an image of God’s patience and hopefulness as he prepares his Kingdom. God calls us to repent, and it is within his power to punish us for our failure to turn from our sinfulness. And yet God is merciful. He delays punishment and tends to us so that we may yet bear the fruit he desires from us.

This, then, is our reason for hope: Not only does God refuse to abandon us, he chooses to attend to us even when we show no evidence of his efforts. Next week’s Gospel will give an even clearer picture of the kind of mercy that God shows to us.-loyolapress.com

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