The bible is the word of God, so try to find out something about the original meaning and context (see my Monday weekly blogs). Then try to express the meaning of the text for yourself and in the present situation.
Become aware of being in the presence of God when reading the text. Think what God might be saying to you in your present situation – what might God be asking of you in your life at this time.
Pause your reading and pay heed to your distractionts which will be something to do with your life at this time. Can these thoughts suggest to you something that you should be considering doing just now?
Keep looking at my Monday blogs about the coming Sunday readings and feel free to comment to me!
I am not continuing my Wednesday ‘homily’ since there is plenty on the web to consider.
May our faith elevate the way we see reality and the actions we take!
In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke is trying to give us a picture of what the earliest Christians were like and how they lived. This description is quite challenging to us and was to his immediate readers in the 80s AD. But the church does develop; for we notice that in this description of the decade after Jesus’ death they are still very close to the Jewish religion, gathering in the Temple together; but also the groups would gather in someone’s home for meals, which as sacred rites were then called ‘the breaking of bread.’ These house churches are referred to in the earlier writings of Paul, whose letters make this quite clear. Incidentally, in parts of China there are gatherings of Christians which are called House Churches because they are meetings of Christians who prefer not to have recognised Church buildings which then need to be registered with the Government. But also as part of our Scriptures, the passage offers us inspiration and challenges us to consider how we live today and how we can apply to our situation and circumstances the central message from Jesus of love of God and of everyone.
The First letter of Peter reads in part as though it is an address to newly baptised Christians; and it was at Easter time that this would be presented, as in many Churches today Baptisms still happen at this time of our Christian calendar. It is part of a letter used as an encyclical, that is, one addressed to a number of different groups of Christians throughout the Roman world – this is clear from the opening verse of the letter: “To God’s elect, exiles, scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” Like many Jewish prayers the Christians here also praise God with the phrase of our reading: “Blessed be God…” It reminds the readers of their Baptism, which is a new birth – the beginning of a new way of living. It gives us a new life that will culminate in heaven and at the end of time when Jesus is revealed in glory, but is already a new way for us to live. The writer reminds us that our new life will not be free from difficulties, and in the early Church particularly, this might have been persecution for not paying homage to the Roman gods. Yet, despite the difficulties it is something to greatly rejoice over – as for the original recipients so also for us receiving these words right now!
The Gospel of John has throughout been written with storylines and records of speeches, but beneath them all and across the arrangement of them, there is a deep meaning; the gospel is addressed to a community of believers in the second half of the first century. We heard the first intimations of the resurrection in last week’s reading from John; where there was a gradual dawning towards the notion that Jesus was risen; but it is only an embryonic notion. Our reading today begins with a crowd of his followers hidden away in a room in Jerusalem, afraid of their fellow countrymen; their belief needs a lot of development yet. Is this what is being said to the original recipients of this gospel, who were perhaps in a difficult relationship with other members of their families, with their circle of friends and with the authorities? But Jesus’ opening words present a whole new beginning; a similar effect came from the first words of Pope Francis from the St Peter’s balcony addressing the huge crowd gathered to greet this new pope – he said “Good evening… pray for me and I will be with you again soon.” Jesus lives, but his presence to us is not restricted by time or place, as the walls and closed doors indicate in the reading. Jesus hands over the Spirit and the command to live as he did, and does.
See Jeffs Jottings – See and Act
Friday is what we call Good Friday. The Gospel is from John – a long reading, but I will only focus on one word in the original (τετελεσται – tetelestai) usually translated “It is finished.” This phrase could mean, “this is the end” – it’s over and done with, but I rather think it ought to be taken as “the task is accomplished” – it’s now been acheived, completed! The human life of Jesus on earth from conception to death and in heaven for ever, was and is to bring about the unity of all creation with and within God. This last word from the cross, reads to me as the beginning of the completion of creation. Our bible begins with the start “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earh…” (Genesis 1:1), and is brought closer to what actually is happening in time with “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word became human (was made flesh)” (Jn 1:1,14). We have a role to play as humans with free will – Jesus’ life exemplified this for us and we celebrate the completion of this in Him “It is completed”( Jn 19:30)
The Holy Saturday evening service begins outside church with a fire and the peparation of the Easter candle. (after the passion and death of Christ there’s light). The procession into church as the lights go on, leads the candle which is put in its stand and the joyful ‘exultation’ begins – this is called the ‘exultet’ from its opening word in latin, meaning ‘Rejoice!’ I love it, and you could listen to it in English here.
After that there is a series of readings relating the history of it all from Genesis, the call of Abraham, the escape from slavery in Egypt etc. The gospel (a word that means ‘good news’) follows. That would be followed by the blessing of water for baptism, the renewal of our commitment and sprinkling with water. Then the rest of the mass rounding off – completing – our celebration. Something to rejoice about even in our present situation.
A Happy Easter to You, my reader!
What Luke has passed on in the Acts will be the sort of message that Peter would have delivered and the style that preaching actually had in those early years. They all contain reliable information about the way the early churches understood and expressed their beliefs. The reading we have today is a sermon that Peter delivered after his understanding had been expanded by his experience with Cornelius. It is significant that the public life of Jesus is referred to and not just the resurrection. For Jesus gave His whole life for others – not just His death. So that’s what we are encouraged to do with our lives as we celebrate the fulfilment of Jesus’ life this season of Easter! Cornelius was not a Jew and Peter came to realise the universality of the redemptive benefits of the life of God in Jesus – for all, not just Jews. In all the centuries since then, Christians, as individuals and as organisations, have often failed to grasp the enormity of this message – the absolutely unlimited range of God’s love for everyone who recognises Truth and does Good! Today we particularly celebrate and rejoice over the achievement of God in the resurrection of Jesus, but it is regrettable that the few verses omitted at the beginning of our reading are the ones that proclaim this universality – “Then Peter addressed them: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right, is acceptable to him.’ “ (Acts 10:34f The Jerusalem Bible 1966).
Paul’s encyclical letter, Colossians, is direct evidence for us of his understanding of the impact of the resurrection which he preached to the Christian communities that he initiated. The second reading makes the same point as the first. We celebrate the success of Jesus, but want this to affect the way we live now! This is utterly apposite for our celebration today of the resurrection. Paul teaches that our humanity is elevated by Christ in terms alluding to the imagery of Christian baptism; this ceremony for early Christians included immersion under water followed by elevation out from it, actions that symbolised a dying to an ordinary this-worldly life and rising into a new extraordinary life in union with Christ and hence with the Life of God, where Christ is now enthroned. He reminds his readers of the consequences of this elevation; their aim in life on which they should set their hearts should be on a way of life like Christ’s; all their thoughts should be on higher ideals. As we celebrate Christ’s victory over death we should let Paul’s words speak to us who are trying to live up to our baptism into Christ.
The gospel we hear today shows us the truth of the resurrection, but also the amazement and confusion about what it really means. It is a new beginning so it starts “on the first day of the week.” It is a transition from an ordinary and even inadequate life – as it says “while it is still dark.” But there is a possibility of something better for those who are kind and gentle and loving, so it is Mary Magdalene who “came to the tomb in the early morning.” She is an important witness and announcer of the physical absence of Jesus’ body. Such a person can notice that there might be more to life – “she sees the stone removed.” But she will humbly seek confirmation from others so she “ran… and told them.” But she can’t yet believe for its beyond belief, so vaguely says “they have taken the Lord.” Peter and the other disciple are in the same state of uncertainty, so she includes them saying “we don’t know…” The two of them run to see, though the beloved disciple runs faster, he only looks “and did not go in.” Peter, the leader seeks out the evidence and sees that rather than a stolen body there are signs of an orderly departure of Jesus, for the burial cloths are neatly arranged. Then the moment of the beginning of the transition of their lives starts with the other disciple for “he saw and believed.” And it is celebrated by us today as we begin to understand the whole story of Scriptures. But we should now realise, as the Church began to, that it is the body of Christians and followers of Jesus’ way of life that comprise the body of Christ here and now.
See Jeffs Jottings – Risen life
Fr Donald Senior CP has written a whole book about the passion. In the Preface he makes this important statement: “Pain touches every human being … Suffering is both individual and communal… The struggle to understand the origin and meaning of suffering is as long as human history. It is not surprising, therefore, that the suffering and death of Jesus should have such a prominent place in the Gospels.” (The Passion of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, Preface).
Creation is not a thing of the past, but is in continual process. So just like when you do a task (cooking /carpentry/sewing/befriending) it is never right until it is quite complete. It’s the same with God creating; we are just now experiencig something of the lack of satisfaction in our world, but God is ‘working on it;’ however He chooses to do it with our cooperation. So this time of difficulty is quite clearly not just of difficulty and suffering (like the crucifixion) but a time of working with God towards the continuing task of creating a better world.
NB if you scroll down you can send a comment.
In the first reading (Isaiah 50:4-7) the prophet is lyrical about his own experience, He has faithfully heeded and delivered God’s word, but it is met with rejection and physical abuse,. Yet he has faith that all will be well in the end. His words are easily applied to Jesus’ life and are appropriate at this season of the Liturgical year. Because God is ‘a stable character’ people are treated in basically the same way by Him in whatever century, though differently according to their circumstances and response; in this way the suffering but faithful life of a past individual, like Isaiah, can be seen as a foretelling of how God deals especially in His Incarnate Son, Jesus, but also with us in our corporate and individual lives. The responsorial psalm shows the same pattern and personal anguish and hope.
The second reading (Philippians 2:6-11) is part of a hymn expressing Christian belief about the Divinity of Jesus. It is difficult to translate the words used to describe this enormous mystery. So the phrase “being in the form of God” (King James Version) is quite a literal translation of the original Greek, but our understanding of the Incarnation is better expressed as “His state was divine”( Jerusalem Bible); it is interesting to look at various translations of this opening phrase. The hymn that this reading is part of, goes on to say that Christ took on human life and became like us; and this meant he was involved in and effected by all the messiness of human life and all the struggles and temptations it brings. But, as He held firm to his calling by the Father in the face of enormous difficulties, so we could expect to be elevated to be with God in glory if we hold to our call as Christians through the difficulties of our lives.
The Passion narrative in Matthew (selected from chapters 26f), generally follows that of Mark. In recent decades the Catholic Church has emphasised the resurrection and the element of joy and glory more than the trials that led up to it. Yet as well as this great message of hope and new life, it is almost reassuring to know that what leads to this is a life dedicated to the good of others and of the world, and this means a life subject to great disappointment and, for many, much suffering both emotional, psychological and physical. With this in mind we follow the story of the completion of Jesus’ life. Passion is not just suffering, Donald Senior points out, that passion is also a great enthusiasm for something you believe in – so each of us can consider, what is my passion?
See Jeffs Jottings – Deadly celebrations
On the left of this website under MONTH BY MONTH you can Select Month to see the notes on the readings for each Sunday in any past month.