Reflections on the Daily Readings

May 19 - 25, 2019
The Season of  Easter - The Fifth Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle C; Weekday Cycle I.
Divine Office - Psalter Week I.

Sunday 19:          Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 14:21-27; Psalm 144; Revelations 21:1-5; John 13:31-35
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see Saints Paul and Barnabas going back to some of the places where they had earlier visited and been expelled for preaching about Jesus as the Christ and of his resurrection. As they travel they encourage the people to remain faithful to the message they had given them and help to organise the local communities. The news of the faith of other groups encouraged the faithful who received the report of the two apostles, and these places in turn remained faithful. It is obvious that the pagans are the ones who are accepting the message rather than the Jewish faithful.
In the second reading from St John’s seventh vision, we read that creation is re-formed. In this new heaven and new earth there is no sea which means that chaos and death (represented in ancient custom by the sea) are now destroyed and peace and wholeness reigns. The New Jerusalem represents a kingdom that cannot be destroyed and is the dwelling place of God. This is heaven and the city to which all the faithful are invited to dwell forever in peace and harmony in the presence of God himself.
In our gospel text we go back to the scene on Holy Thursday night just as Judas leaves the upper room. Jesus declares that the time for his glorification has now come and before he departs he gives the disciples a new commandment and tells them that they must love one another in imitation of his love for them. This is new because it differs from the traditional view of commandments to love in order to live righteously, to now imitating the love of Christ who gave his life that we might have eternal life. If we are to be the Lord’s disciples and if we are to be worthy of heaven, the New Jerusalem, then we too must love one another just as the Lord loves us. If we live a life of love then others will see that we really are Christians and, through our example, their own faith may be renewed and strengthened as in the first reading.

Monday 20:         Of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 14:5-18; Psalm 113; John 14:21-26
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see that Saints Paul and Barnabas are forced to flee because the authorities wish to kill them for preaching about Christ. They travel to Laconia – in modern day southern Turkey – and are very well received there. According to legend, the gods Zeus and Hermes visited here and were rejected by the people who were in turn destroyed by the two gods. Having witnessed what Paul and Barnabas can do the people fear that if they don’t treat these ‘gods’ well that they will be destroyed like the old tale. In the gospel text, Jesus tells his disciples that after he has gone they will be given the Holy Spirit who will teach them everything and remind them of all he had said. This Spirit is the one who caused Paul and Barnabas to work as they did. That same Spirit has been given to us and will work in us only if we allow him to and, in so doing, bring glory to God.

Tuesday 21:         Of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 14:19-28; Psalm 144; John 14:27-31
In our first reading today we see that Saints Paul and Barnabas are still suffering for their preaching but they continue to preach and to give strength to the Christian communities which they visit. Paul also reminds the faithful that believing in Christ will cause hardship as he himself can testify but the reward is worth the suffering. In the gospel, Jesus gives his peace to the disciples before he leaves them. It is a peace which is not of human origins and therefore is greater and more liberating. It is a peace which this world badly needs but does not want to try. It is for us as Christians to convince the world that this is the only way to true happiness and fulfilment.

Wednesday 22:    Of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 15:1-6; Psalm 121; John 15:1-8
In today’s first reading we see that Saints Paul and Barnabas are now back in Antioch following their first missionary journey to the Gentiles. We see them in a debate with other Christian preachers and Pharisees about circumcision and are being sent to Jerusalem to speak with the Apostles on the matter. In the gospel, Christ says that he is the true vine and that we are its branches. If we believe in him then we will bear much fruit, but if we do not believe, then we are good for nothing and will be pruned away. If we believe in him he will grant all our prayers especially if that prayer is a prayer for an increase in our own faith so that we can do his will.

Thursday 23:       Of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 15:7-21; Psalm 95; John 15:9-11
Today’s first reading marks a key moment in the early Christian Church. The first Council of the Church is held in Jerusalem at which the practice of preaching to the Gentiles without them having to undergo circumcision is approved. It is a turning point also because the new Church has now broken away from the Jewish faith and laws and begins making its own laws and traditions. It is also the last time that St Peter and the Apostles are mentioned as St Luke now concentrates on the growth of the Church among the Gentiles which is the particular ministry of St Paul. In today’s gospel text, Christ tells his listeners that they are to love one another in the same way that he has loved them. To love like Christ is to make our decisions in a Christ-like manner and so overcome the hurt that others may have inflicted upon us. To love like Christ is not always easy, but when we realise that Christ is present in each one of us, then we also realise that what we do to another person we do to Christ.

Friday 24:            Of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 15:22-31; Psalm 56; John 15:12-17
The Council in Jerusalem now sends Saints Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with chosen helpers to strengthen the people and to inform them of their decision which was guided by the Holy Spirit. The letter which Paul and his companions carry to the new communities to explain the decision of the Council of Jerusalem is a prototype of the official documents and encyclicals which have been issued by popes ever since. Continuing yesterday’s theme of love, today’s gospel passage sees Christ giving his followers the commandment to love more forcefully than in yesterday’s text. In the Old Testament, Moses and the prophets were known as ‘servants of God’ but Jesus calls us his friends which implies a far more personal relationship which is available to each and every one of us. Christ was willing to give his life for his friends so we should be willing to give our lives for Christ – our brother and our friend.

Saturday 25:        Of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 16:1-10; Psalm 99; John 15:18-21
Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles sees St Paul setting out on his second missionary journey to the Gentiles which will take him as far as Corinth in Greece. He has a vision from God who tells him to spend time bringing the faith to what is modern day Greece. He is joined by St Timothy and also, scholars believe, by St Luke the Evangelist and author of the book. This is suggested by the use of the word ‘we’ in the last paragraph which tells us that Luke was a witness to part, at least, of what he records in the Acts. In the gospel, Christ tells his listeners that they will be persecuted for the sake of his name just as he too was persecuted. We all suffer in some way – from broken relationships, bad health, financial difficulties. But how much, if any, of our sufferings are a result of our being Christian? The world rejected Christ 2,000 years ago and, in truth, it hasn’t improved much since but continues to reject that which shows up its own weaknesses and shortcomings. As Christians we should be willing to be rejected by the world but that will only happen if we are brave enough to be real Christians. Paul was persecuted for Christ but it did not stop him carrying out his work for the Lord, and look at the legacy which he left. What sort of a legacy could we collectively leave were we to openly follow the path of Christ?

In Carmelite Churches:
May 25:               Feast of St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin*
Songs 5:4b, 8:6-7; Psalm 17; Luke 10:38-42
The first reading from the Song of Songs speaks about love and the fact that love is as strong as death. In the Gospel we have the familiar story of Christ’s visit with Martha and Mary. As we know, Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he had to say while Martha fussed over the small details of hospitality. The Lord tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better part because she gives time to the Lord and listens to his word. Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi’s love for Christ was a love which could not be quenched and for which she underwent many acts of penance and purification. With the example of this Carmelite saint before us we are challenged to look at our own lives and to see if we truly love Christ even unto death.

Memorials this Week:
May 25:               Feast of St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin
Mary Magdalene was born in 1566 to the famous Tuscan noble family Pazzi who were influential bankers in Florence throughout the fifteenth century. She entered the Carmelites in Florence in at the age of sixteen and held various offices within the convent. Throughout her religious life she was devoted to prayer and experienced many visions which were recorded by others in the convent. She died in 1607 and was canonized in 1669.

© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011, 2013
The Reflections above are available in printed form in:
Reflections on the Readings for every day of the Church's year.
Patrick J. Breen, O.Carm. Dublin: Columba Press. 2011. ISBN 978 1 85607 732 3.

And direct from the publishers: Columba Press, Dublin.

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