Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
1 Pt 3:15-18
Jn 14:15-21

Most things in life, in order to be done well, require preparation. In order to construct a building, you must first have a plan. You have to know what the building will look like, and how it will be constructed. Materials must be gathered, put in place, and made ready so construction can proceed smoothly. There is a similar concept in cooking it is called mis en place, a French term meaning everything in its place. All the ingredients for a dish are gathered, chopped, measured, and laid out so that when you begin to cook, the process will go smoothly. In the Gospel reading today we find Jesus engaging in a bit of mis en place. Jesus is planning, setting the groundwork for the coming of a new Advocate, the Spirit of truth, who will remain with the followers of Jesus, guiding them, assuring them that they are not, and never will be alone. Jesus is laying the foundation for the Church, a Church asked to follow the commandment of Jesus, to love God and neighbor, a Church that will always have help in living that commandment. In the first reading we see this plan in action. Phillip proclaims Christ to the Samaritans, doing great works and bringing many to Christ. The people of Samaria had been baptized, but had yet to receive the Spirit. Peter and John go to Samaria, pray for these new ingredients of the Church, and the Spirit comes to them. Just as Jesus had planned, the Spirit, the Advocate, came to these new members of the Body of Christ, so they too would never be alone. This plan worked then, and has worked throughout time. We hear the call of Jesus, we turn to Christ, we believe in Christ’s message of love, and that same Spirit, that same Advocate, comes to us, to teach, to guide, to strengthen, to help us live the commandment of love. We are not ever alone, we are not orphans, abandoned to our fate. There is for us an Advocate, who dwells with us, teaches us, and loves us, so we may love.

Deacon John
Sixth Sunday of Easter
April 27, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 6:1-7
1 Pt 2:4-9
Jn 14:1-12

We tend to think that divisions in the Church are something new, a product of our own time. Yet in reading the First Reading from Acts we discover that divisions in the Church go back to the very beginning, to the very first followers of Christ. The Hellenists complained that their widows were being slighted by the Hebrews in the daily distribution of food. The Twelve were compelled to remedy this situation. Their solution was to appoint seven men of good character to oversee this distribution and ensure that it was done fairly. These seven, Stephen, Phillip, Timon, Nicanor, Parmenas, Prochorus, and Nicholas of Antioch have come to be known to us as the first deacons of the Church, devoted to service of the People of God. This order, recently revived, exists to serve the needs of the Church. It is not, however, the sole province of this Order of Deacons to serve the Church. All the baptized are called to this service. Each Christian is called to service, for it is in service that we live our faith. I find it quite interesting that the Twelve chose seven men to serve. Why seven? Why not five or eight, or twelve? The number seven keeps coming up in different places, a number of significance. Seven seals, seven sacraments, forgive your brother’s offenses 70 times seven, all very meaningful, all involving seven. Seven was once thought to be the number of spiritual perfection. So the choice of seven men to serve was certainly not accidental. The seven chosen then, and those today are called to demonstrate to all members of the Church the importance of service. These seven were called to serve, to show that the Church reaches toward perfection in serving. As each of us comes to follow their example, as each of us serves others, we bring the Church just that much closer to where it should be. We serve and bring the reign of God closer to reality.
Deacon John
Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 20, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
1 Pt 2:20b-25
Jn 10:1-10

I have to tell you, I’m not so sure that I like idea of being a sheep. After all if the Lord is my Shepherd that means that I must be a sheep. Now I must admit up front, being a 21st century, urban-dwelling American, I don’t know a lot about sheep. But the popular impression that is out there, the impression that most of us have, is that sheep are, well that they are dumb, not real bright, dim, mindless. You get the picture. I don’t want to be considered any of those things. I am, after all, a reasonably intelligent human being, capable of thought, capable of reasoning, capable of making decisions for myself. Why would I want to be a sheep? After reading today’s Gospel, however, I wonder if the popular perception of sheep is a misperception. Jesus says to the Pharisees I am the gate, I am the way for the sheep to enter and to find pasture. The sheep did not listen to those who came before, rather they heard the voice of Jesus and followed, and in following found life more abundantly. These sheep aren’t dumb, they learned. They listened, and they recognized and they learned the way to go, the way that led to life. They weren’t mindless at all. For us to follow Jesus is not an exercise in mindlessness. We are not the popular perception of sheep, bleating and following without thought. We must listen, we must learn, we must hear the voice of Jesus, we must study what Jesus says so that we can make an informed decision to follow. Believing in God, following the Christ isn’t about closing your eyes and your mind and following blindly. Believing is about learning, learning the voice of the Christ. Believing is about understanding, finding the way, finding the gate, the gate that leads to what Jesus brings us, life, life more abundant than we can know.

Deacon John
Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday
April 13, 2008

Monday, April 07, 2008

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:14, 22-33
1 Pt 1:17-21
Lk 24:13-35

Were not our hearts burning within us? Two disciples of Jesus were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, when they encounter a man who seems to be oblivious to the events of the past three days, of the crucifixion of Jesus. Yet this stranger admonishes these two disciples for being slow to believe what the prophets spoke. He then recounts all the prophecies regarding the Messiah, explaining all of it to them. On reaching their destination this stranger remains with them, and they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. They rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others what had occurred. They rushed back because their hearts were burning within them. They heard the word of God, from the Word of God, and their hearts burned with in them with the need to tell someone what they now understood. But they didn’t understand or recognize the Word until Christ broke the bread, the bread that is Christ. Once they saw, and heard, and recognized, their hearts burned with the need to tell someone, to make known what they now knew. Do our hearts burn with in us? We hear the word of God, and we recognize the Word of God in the Scriptures we hear. We know that the Word is present in those words. We see the breaking of the bread. Do we see, do we recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread? Christ is here, present in the word, made manifest to us in the breaking of the bread. Do we recognize Christ, do we hear the words of Scripture? If we truly hear the Word, if we see Christ in the breaking of the bread, how can we remain silent? How can we not burn with the need to tell everyone of the Christ, and what Christ has done for us. Should not our hearts burn within us?

Deacon John
Third Sunday of Easter
April 6, 2008