Sixth Sunday of Easter May 1, 2016
Reading 1 Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Responsorial Psalm Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
- (4) O God, let all the nations praise you! Reading 2 Rev 21:10-14, 22-23
Alleluia Jn 14:23
- Alleluia, alleluia. Gospel Jn 14:23-29
Homily— May 1, 2016
The Acts of the Apostles give us a vision of the early church. At first, it describes all believers living in harmony, holding all things in common and taking only what they need. As we continue to read we learn that the early church did have conflicts. Peter and Paul had disagreements and bitter debates. Because they were both looking for the truth and respected each other they did come to an agreement. I like the line near the end of today’s reading that states, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities. . ." It is a reminder to me not to put unnecessary burdens on people.
Throughout the Easter season we have been reading the Book of Revelation. Many think of Revelation as being only about judgment, coming tribulations and the end of the world. This is unfortunate. Revelation was not written to frighten people. Although frightening in parts, the real purpose is to give us hope.
Today’s reading describes the heavenly Jerusalem. The vision of this Jerusalem is based on a vision of Ezekiel’s, although the vision in Revelation has some differences. In Ezekiel’s vision, all the city’s gates are exits for the Twelve Tribes to go out into the land. In Revelation, the city gates are entrances. City walls and gates were built for defensive purposes. In the new, heavenly Jerusalem, the gates are always open inviting entry. In Ezekiel’s vision there was a Temple in the city. In Revelation there is no Temple, for God lives in the heavenly Jerusalem, making the whole city a temple.
Revelation and Acts offer us beautiful visions of living with God within the Church and living in the heavenly Jerusalem. Both books were written to stretch the imagination. The writers wanted their readers to imagine something that is unimaginable, that is, life with God. They wanted to create excitement and hope by showing that each of us has a place in the church and a place residing with God.
In the gospel Jesus says “Whoever loves me will keep my word”. We are able to fulfill Jesus’ word-command to love as he loves because the Holy Spirit dwelling within prompts us to total self-giving. The Holy Spirit prompts us, for example, to embrace the sick and the suffering to be present to those in need, to ease the troubled heart, to bring peace in the midst of anxiety, to rejoice at the success of others, to believe in the goodness of others. As Jesus loves, so are we to love. This is what discipleship demands.
Salvation was not and is not to be understood as a gift for a few, nor is it determined by nationality, race or social status. Faith in Jesus and in him crucified and risen is the sole requisite for acceptance into the community of the church, and the means whereby salvation is appropriated. Faith in Jesus supersedes centuries of tradition. It brings together at one Eucharistic table those who were formerly known as “the chosen” with those who were deemed to be unclean outsiders. The statement “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and ours too. . .”(v.28) acknowledges that these insights were due to the efforts of the risen Jesus in the form of the Holy Spirit.
This is the time of year when many will receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ for the first time. I have always said that one of my best gifts ever is Holy Communion. I am happy to be a priest and able to share that gift of the Holy Eucharist with you. I hope you learn to value every opportunity that you have to receive our Lord. Make a home within you where Jesus will want to stay. Thank you Lord for giving us yourself.