Sunday Church at Home, 6th Sunday Easter Cycle C

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6th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Spirit Will Teach Us The Full Truth.  

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader:        In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply:      Amen

Leader:        Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply:      Blessed be God for ever

Leader:        Today’s readings convey a clear, if uncomfortable, message about the Church as the body of Christ. Since the beginning people have tried to impose rules and controls on who is an insider and who an outsider, who belongs and who is excluded. Jesus’ own teaching is very clear. It is the Holy Spirit who judges and guides not only the leaders but all the faithful. Our attempts at exclusion and control are according to “the world”, not the Spirit.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Acts 15:1-2.22-29

Introduction to the reading:

It is about 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The church is already experiencing questions about its doctrine and practices.  In today’s reading, the Church is dealing with the major problem of whether to impose circumcision and observance of the Jewish law on its Gentile converts.

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

In those days:
Some men came down from Judea
and were teaching the brethren,
“Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses,
you cannot be saved.”
And when Paul and Barnabas
had no small dissension and debate with them,
Paul and Barnabas and some of the others
were appointed to go up to Jerusalem
to the apostles and the elders about this question.

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders,
with the whole church,
to choose men from among them
and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.
They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas,
leading men among the brethren,
with the following letter:
“The brethren, both the apostles and the elders,
to the brethren who are of the Gentiles
in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia,
greeting.
Since we have heard that some persons from us
have troubled you with words,
unsettling your minds,
although we gave them no instructions,
it has seemed good to us in assembly
to choose men and send them to you
with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
men who have risked their lives
for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have therefore sent Judas and Silas,
who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.
For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us
to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:
that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols
and from blood
and from what is strangled
and from unchastity.
If you keep yourselves from these,
you will do well.
Farewell.”

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 67:2-3.5.6 & 8 (R.4)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. Let the peoples praise you, O God;
      let all the peoples praise you!.

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your salvation.

Let the nations be glad and shout for joy,
with uprightness you rule the peoples;
you guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
that all the ends of the earth may revere him.

R/. Let the peoples praise you, O God;
      let all the peoples praise you!

Second Reading: Revelation 21:10-14.22-23

Introduction to the reading:

Revelation is an Easter book because it focuses on the Risen Jesus and our final victory over sin and death.  In this passage, the author uses such phrases as “heavenly Jerusalem” or “new Jerusalem” to describe the Church in its glory at the end of time.

A reading from the Book of Revelation

In the Spirit the angel carried me away
to a great, high mountain,
and showed me the holy city Jerusalem
coming down out of heaven from God,
having the glory of God,
its radiance like a most rare jewel,
like a jasper, clear as crystal.
It had a great, high wall,
with twelve gates
and at the gates, twelve angels,
and on the gates
the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel
were inscribed;
on the east three gates,
on the north three gates,
on the south three gates,
and on the west three gates.
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations,
and on them the twelve names
of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

And I saw no temple in the city,
for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it,
for the glory of God is its light,
and its lamp is the Lamb.

The word of the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia
If a man loves me, he will keep my word, says the Lord;
and my Father will love him, and we will come to him.

Alleluia.

Gospel: John 14:23-29

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.

At that time:
Jesus said to his disciples,
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our home with him.
The one who does not love me does not keep my words,
and the word which you hear is not mine
but the Father’s who sent me.

“These things I have spoken to you,
while I am still with you.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
he will teach you all things,
and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give to you;
not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled,
neither let them be afraid.
You heard me say to you,
‘I go away, and I will come to you.’
If you loved me, you would have rejoiced,
because I go to the Father;
for the Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you before it takes place,
so that when it does take place,
you may believe.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

A commercial airline pilot on one occasion made a particularly bad landing. The wheels of the big jet hit the runway with a jarring thud. Afterward, the airline had a policy, which required that the pilot stand at the door while the passengers exited. He was to give each of them a smile and say, “Thanks for flying with us today.” In light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment, but no one seemed annoyed. Finally everyone had got off except for one elderly lady walking with a cane. She approached the pilot and asked, “Sonny, mind if I ask you a question?” “Why, no, Ma’am, what is it?” said the pilot bravely. “Did we land,” she asked, “or were we shot down?”

Maybe you’ve had days like that, days when it felt like you were shot down. Even worse, maybe things are going quite well for you, really. Your friends and your family tell you how fortunate you are. But you don’t feel fortunate. In fact, your life is somewhat tortured by a nagging fear that you cannot even define. It is at those moments that God wants us to turn to Him. He is our Peace, always.

We are near the end of the Book of Revelation. Over these weeks of Easter, John, the author, has been speaking to us from his place of exile on the island of Patmos. It was a time of persecution of Christians.

Naturally questions had arisen: Why would God allow such good people to suffer? Why do evil people prosper? Who will have the final victory; God, or God’s opponents?

John wrote the book of Revelation to help respond to such faith-challenging questions. These are timeless questions? They are the questions the people of Ethiopia, the Ukraine, Sri Lanka, the Congo and many other people could well ask. They are also the questions of compassionate people around the world as we watch in horror the devastation that war has wrought on so many innocents.

Revelation shows John’s attempt to comfort those persecuted churches. It is filled with coded clues the churches would understand, but their persecutors would not. Writing to the afflicted churches, John encourages them to persevere and have hope.

Persecution still threatens Christians in parts of the world today and so Revelation may also offer them comfort and hope. It has an encouraging word to our modern church as well, as we suffer internal wounds from the pain and humiliations caused by the scandals we are enduring in many dioceses throughout the world. Reflecting on Revelation can also strengthen our resolve as we face unbelief and indifference from our surrounding world.

Revelation is an “apocalyptic” piece of literature.  Apocalypse comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning  “unveiling” or disclosure or revelation. Apocalypse is an attempt to “unveil” the meaning of history for those going through terrible and painful times. What Revelation is not, is what fundamentalists try to make of it – a precise prediction of future cataclysmic events. Remember, Jesus told us that we cannot precise exact dates and times for God’s intervention in world history.

In Mark 13:32, Jesus says: “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

The visions of Book of Revelation began at God’s throne in heaven – where human history began and will end. John narrates the visions he had of the struggle between good and evil. In the book’s coded way, “the Beast” is probably a referring to the Roman Empire and Caesar as the ruler of the Empire. This is in chapters 13-17. John portrays them as God’s enemies – as are all earthly powers that attempt to replace God’s ways with their own. “The Beast” is any power that yields to evil; it is God’s enemy in each generation and has many followers who say, “yes” to its temptations.

Remember, Revelation is an “unveiling.” It helps us see our past and present sufferings through the eyes of faith – faith in God’s sustaining goodness, love and power. Revelation is also about the future; not in exact predictions, but with assurances. John reminds us that, while we have no control over the future in that we cannot precisely predict the future. We can only guess at trends that might occur.

In today’s selection from Revelation the story is coming to an end and its message of hope is emphasized. As we heard last week, God will wipe away our tears and banish death.

“God himself will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

Today we are given the vision of God and the Lamb permanently dwelling in our midst–a central belief of our faith. In the heavenly Jerusalem, God will consummate what God has begun and there we will be in full communion with our God and one another.

A new heaven and a new earth will appear and the New Jerusalem will come down from heaven, as in the visions of Ezekiel. Ezekiel described it like this: “the hand of the Lord was upon me and brought me in the visions of God into the land of Israel, and set me down upon a very high mountain, on which was a structure like a city opposite me.” (Ez40:2)

In that city God will live with us and comfort all those who suffer. As John will say in a later verse, “Night will be no more…” (22:5).

The Lamb took on flesh to show God’s love for us and shed his blood on the cross. The Lamb of God will also be in the New Jerusalem. We could not save ourselves from sin; nor could we overcome evil in the world. But what we could not accomplish on our own, God has done for us. We are the recipients of God’s grace. God has triumphed and taken away our sin.

The period of great trial and tribulation was not unique to John’s time, it continues to this day. Yet John ends his “unveiling” with a vision of hope for what will be ours someday. We are not being asked to interpret all the symbols in Revelation. That would make for interesting speculation in times of leisure. But implied in the ending of this visionary book are questions put to us at this Mass.

Do we believe the ending of this story: that through God, good will conquer evil? Can we maintain our hope in God, even when the current evidence of that coming triumph is bleak?

For example: a person today might say – I am in control of the choice of food, and work and the house I live in. I can control who I talk to and who I interact with. I have electricity and water and means of communication and transport etc I am in control of my world. Do I need God?

Revelation is also an invitation to respond to what we have heard and received in our lives. In Jesus Christ we have personal experience of God’s self-sacrificial love. Our vocation is for our lives be another kind of “unveiling”: a witnessing to others by the way we conduct ourselves in words and actions. Do our lives show the hope we have in our gracious God?

The book of Revelation is inviting us to turn away from the false values and powers of consumerism, and materialism and greed and turn instead to the new Holy City where God dwells. Today we came to this celebration of the Eucharist because we trust in this vision and its completion someday. Our faith is the reason we can resist any false temptations. 

The book of Revelation has parted the veil for us and we can look upon the holy of holies with God as its centre – the centre of our own lives as well.

In Holy Communion we will be receiving the Body of Christ. Our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist allows something extraordinary to happen. As we consume the Body of Christ, we are experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven intersecting with what is on Earth. We are experiencing the presence of the holy of holies in our life. That is why show reverence and respect as we receive Holy Communion. Then God’s grace pours into us. When we really believe, God’s grace shines out through us.

From today’s Book of Revelation reading:

The angel took me in spirit to a great, high mountain

and showed me the holy city Jerusalem

coming down out of heaven from God.

Reflection:

Revelation keeps our feet firmly rooted in our present struggles to live the Christian life; but it also focuses our eyes on what is to come. The world’s indomitable powers, despite present appearances, will be overcome. In the meanwhile, John is inviting us to turn away from the false values and powers of the world and focus on the vision of the new Holy City where we will dwell with God and one another.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How does our hope in a permanent future with God affect our lives now?
  • What signs do I see that strengthen my hope in the power of good over evil?

Prayer of the Faithful

Leader:       

Christ invites us to his table, knowing that we are all sinners. In that spirit of welcome and generosity we place our needs before the Lord.

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis and all leaders in our Church: (pause) may they always act in the love of the heart of Jesus and the wisdom of the Spirit.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who feel themselves alienated from the Church by the harshness and prejudice they have experienced from some of its members: (pause) may all the followers of Christ be filled with the spirit of humility and compassion.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all those still suffering from the effects of the global pandemic: (pause) may they be sustained by hope and by the generosity of the followers of Jesus.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all those caught up in violence: (pause) that the God of peace may be their shelter.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who struggle to find meaning in their lives: (pause) may Christ be a lamp for their way and a path for their steps.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for Marcelle Christian and Beryl Brown who died this week.
Eternal rest grant unto then, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. AMEN

Leader: Let us pray our EASTER PRAYER

Let us pray the PRAYER FOR EASTER:

God our Father,
by raising Christ your Son
you conquered the power of death
and opened for us the way to eternal life.
Help us to live as new people
in pursuit of the Christian ideal.
Grant us wisdom to know what we must do,
the will to want to do it,
the courage to undertake it,
the perseverance to continue to do it,
and the strength to complete it.
Lord, raise us up and renew our lives
by the Spirit that is within us.
Grant this through Christ our risen Lord.

Amen.

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

CONCLUDING RITE

Leader:        Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

All say:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:        Great and loving Father,
your will for us in Jesus
is the peace the world cannot give;
your abiding gift
is the Advocate he promised.

Calm all troubled hearts,
dispel every fear.
Keep us steadfast in love
and faithful to your word,
that we may always be your dwelling place.

Grant this through Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead,
who lives and reigns with you now and always
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

All:               Amen.

Blessing

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

Leader:        May the God who has redeemed us and made us adopted children
through the resurrection of his only Son
bless us and fill us with joy.
R. Amen.

May the God who has bestowed on us
the gifts of redemption and lasting freedom
make us heirs of eternal life.
R. Amen.

May the God who joined us to Christ’s resurrection
by faith and baptism
lead us to live justly
and so bring us to our home in heaven.
R. Amen.

Leader:        May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Alleluia. Alleluia.

All:               Amen. Alleluia. Alleluia.

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