6th Sunday of Easter
May 22, 2022

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Introduction

The first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles shows the actions of the early Church. Jesus clearly told the disciples to spread the faith throughout the world, but some in the early church thought that meant to only all Jews. Early in the Acts of the Apostles it became apparent that Jesus meant the whole world, as in everyone. Gentiles were coming to them and wanting to take part in the “new way.” But some Jews thought these non-Jews needed to convert to the “old way” to be saved. This passage is a great study of how the early church resolved problems that weren’t explicitly stated in Christ’s teachings. This is the Magisterium at work.

 

The church leaders gathered together and formed a council, later to be called the Council of Jerusalem, in about 50 A.D. They invoked the Holy Spirit to guide them and after a great debate concluded that the new gentiles did not have to follow the Jewish practices and rituals. The Mother Church has held 21 councils since then, the most recent being Vatican II in 1962-1965. Church councils have clarified church teaching and scripture, condemned heretic movements and errors in teaching, and defined doctrine on the sacraments, church rituals, papal infallibility, and the Mass. They also reformed errant clergy and false church practices.

 

Acts chapter 15 is a great study in the authority of Catholic Church, and those who are Protestants likely gloss over the deep substance of this reading. The Protestant movement created a notion of Scripture Alone, that one only needs to study the Bible and that there is no other authority. Regarding scripture, the Catholic Church has always taught that there is not one but 3 legs to stand on: The Holy Bible, the Magisterium, and Sacred Tradition. This reading points out how important the authority of the Magisterium is to clarify the issues of the day, especially on issues where the Book is silent, like in today’s reading controversy over circumcision. This Sunday reading skips a great detail of the debate, but if you go read Acts 15:3-21 you will see the details of the Council debate and then see the authority of the Pope when St. Peter in his role as vicar of Christ summarized the debate and came to the conclusion, which the entire assembly then agreed with him and accepted.

 

The council set 3 conditions on the Gentiles:

  1. Don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols (to separate them from their previous false gods)

  2. Don’t drink blood (drink only the blood of Christ in the Eucharist)

  3. Avoid unlawful marriage (emphasizing the marital family instead of other illicit activity)

 

This council also set a precedent to establish the Universal Church, in that individual faith communities were not autonomous but were under the teaching and doctrinal direction of the one  holy catholic apostolic church founded by Jesus Christ. The result is that today you can go to any Catholic church to attend the same Mass with the same prayers and scripture readings. Even if the Mass is in another language you know what is happening and you can still feel like you belong.

 

The Psalm expresses the worldwide community of all nations. In God’s covenant with Abraham God said his descendants would be a blessing to the world. This is being fulfilled, not in the world converting to Judaism, but to followers of Jesus Christ. The world population is about 7.5 billion people, of which about 2.3 billion are Christians, about 1 in 3 people. 1.2 billion are Catholics, roughly 1 in 6 people in the world. And they are distributed to nearly every nation. As St. Paul taught the Galatians, God did this so that “the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal 3:14).

 

In the second reading, The inspired writer of the Book of Revelation describes his vision of the beauty of the holy city of the New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven. What he sees is the earthly and heavenly Church in one view. With the twelve tribes of Israel over the gates, and the names of the twelve Apostles on the foundation, he describes the connection of the old testament and the new that is the Church. The New Jerusalem in the vision radiates the brilliant light that is the indwelling of God and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Notice how there is no sun nor moon, but the glory of God provides the light. God appears as light or flame in many references throughout the entire Bible. Think of Abraham, Moses, or the Transfiguration. Most people who died and returned from the dead recall seeing a very bright light, yet are able to look at it. St. John’s vision is likely very real.

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Gospel Explained

The Sunday readings the last few weeks are taken from ’The Jesus Discourse’ in the Gospel of John, chapters 14 through 17. This is His final teaching to His Apostles right after the Last Supper and before the start of His passion and death. The constant message throughout these chapters is Jesus’ great love for His friends. He is asking them for their love and obedience in return, and promises them a great reward, peace, not only in this world but especially in the next.

 

In today’s gospel you can see the interweaving of Jesus as God and as a man. Jesus had concurrently both a divine nature and will and a human nature and will. In His divine nature He is equal to the Father, but in His human nature He had reduced Himself lower, which is why in verse 28 He would say “the Father is greater than I.”

 

The Catechism (472) states “This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not be in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when He became man, ‘increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man’ (Luke 2:52), and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience (Mark 6:38, Mark 8:27, John 11:34). This corresponded to the reality of His voluntary emptying of Himself, taking ‘the form of a slave’ (Philippians 2:6-8).” In His human nature He was taught scripture by His holy parents, though in His nature as God the Holy Spirit He wrote the scriptures. He constantly used scripture in nearly all of His interactions with others.

 

Jesus also always had a divine nature as the Son of God. He could read people’s hearts and thoughts. He told the woman at the well about her many husbands. He healed people who were not even present with Him. He walked on water, cured people who were born with disabilities, brought dead people back to life, controlled the wind and sea, and demons identified Him as God. He could see the future. Reading the gospels you can notice times of His human nature and times of His divine nature. But as an example to us He lived His human life always in obedience to the Father, always striving to do His will. He prayed to the Father often, many times through the night. When His disciples asked Him how He prayed, what He gave us is a prayer to Our Father, which emphasizes glorifying the Father, doing His will, asking for our basic needs, forgiving our sins, and keeping us safe from sin. This is how the human will of Jesus connected with the Father.

 

The Catechism states “Christ, being true God and true man, has a human intellect and will, perfectly attuned and subject to His divine intellect and will, which He has in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit.” (CCC482)

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Today’s Theme

Today’s theme is Spirit and Truth. The Gospel Reading is from Jesus' Last Supper Discourse, and it should fill us with confidence and magnify our faith. Just as God was with Israel, dwelling in the desert Tabernacle and later in the Jerusalem Temple, we have Jesus' promise that if we love Him and keep His word, we will never be alone. Nor should we ever be afraid because God the Son and God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, make their dwelling-place, not in any building like the Jerusalem Temple but their dwelling-place is within every baptized Christian, so our bodies are now temples of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

 

Jesus foretold a time when worship would not be in the Temple when speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. The woman said to Him “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain but you people (the Jews) say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus’ reply was quite the revelation: “Believe me woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. ...the hour is coming and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and Truth” (John 4:4-42).

 

There are two things happening here at the well. Jesus was revealing to this Samaritan woman that the temple would soon not be necessary for being in the presence of God, but would be present in everyone who loves Jesus and keeps His word (obeys the commandments). So when He talked about the Temple being destroyed, He knew that after the Holy Spirit came down the temple would not be a building but in the souls of His followers as God would dwell in them. The other thing happening at the well was that Jesus was announcing the reuniting of the divided kingdom that split after the death of King Solomon. The Samaritans (also known as gentiles) of the Northern kingdom and the Jews of the Southern kingdom would be reunited as Christians.

 

Regarding the Truth part of His proclamation, have you noticed how in our times, sadly called the post-Christian era, without God in the lives of many people there is also a terrible lack of truth in their words? Pope Benedict XVI referred to it as the tyranny of relativism, in which truth is relative to each person’s ideas. We hear them say 2 plus 2 could equal 5, a man can be pregnant, and a supreme court justice cannot define what a woman is, and it’s accepted as “truth?” It goes back to the pagan Pontius Pilate saying “What is truth?” The Holy Spirit dwelling in us helps us to discern the truth. Without the Holy Spirit, well, just look around at our world.

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Theme in our Life Today

Jesus told his disciples that after His Ascension, the Father would send the Spirit of Truth in Christ’s name to be with them forever. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Advocate, the one who defends us from evil and sin. The Holy Spirit also guides us into all Truth, by helping us to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words, actions, and miracles. Jesus said He would never leave. And He didn’t, He is as near to us as the Holy Eucharist. Even the disciples walking with Him couldn’t get that close.

 

John 14:27 is the passage the priest recites during Mass just before he invites the parish community to share a sign of peace. “Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.” This is no ordinary peace however, it is the peace of Christ. It is a peace that is not of this world. This peace has allowed Christians to endure hardships, oppression, war, sickness, and death with dignity and hope. The next time you are at Mass, think about the awesome power in the peace of Christ that you are extending to the people around you.

 

In every Catholic church, somewhere near the tabernacle is a candle that indicates Christ is present in the Eucharist. If we love Jesus and obey His Word, He said He will make His dwelling in us. Do we too have a candle near us indicating Christ’s presence in us? We do if we let our love of Jesus shine in us, so that others see that glow. I can’t think of a greater compliment anyone could every say to us than “When I see you, I see Jesus.” That is your tabernacle light shining. A simple prayer to start your day is “May everyone I meet see Jesus in me, and may I see Jesus in them.”

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To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy, consider the following: 

  1. Jesus promises his followers that the Holy Spirit will abide in us. Are you aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life?

  2. Place yourself in the hands of the Most Holy Trinity and call upon the Holy Spirit to protect you from all sin and evil and to bring you peace.

 

Let us pray:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
hat my thoughts may all be Holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be Holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is Holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is Holy.

Guard me then, O Holy Spirit,
that I may always be Holy.

Amen.

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