Sixth Sunday of Easter, 2 May 2021

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sunday Church at Home

during the Coronavirus Pandemic

God Reveals Himself to his Friends as Love. 

The 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: At the heart of the Gospel message is love, and our readings today celebrate the Spirit of God’s love in the Church and in the whole world.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Acts 10:25-26.34-35.44-48

Introduction to the reading: Peter was originally skeptical about preaching the Gospel to non-Jews. Then one day, the Holy Spirit summoned him to preach to the pagan army officer Cornelius and his household. The result, as we shall see, is the first recorded conversion of Gentiles to Christianity.

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

When Peter entered,
Cornelius met him
and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.
But Peter lifted him up, saying,
“Stand up; I too am a man.” 

And Peter opened his mouth and said:
“Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality,
but in every nation
anyone who fears him and does what is right
is acceptable to him. 

While Peter was still speaking,
the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.
And the believers from among the circumcised
who came with Peter
were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit
had been poured out even on the Gentiles.
For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God.
Then Peter declared,
“Can anyone forbid water for baptizing these people
who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
And he commanded them to be baptized
in the name of Jesus Christ.
Then they asked him to remain for some days.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 98:1.2-3ab.3cd-4 (R. cf. 2)

Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. The Lord has shown his deliverance to the nations.

O sing a new song to the LORD,
   for he has worked wonders.
His right hand and his holy arm
   have brought salvation.

The LORD has made known his salvation,
   has shown his deliverance to the nations.
He has remembered his merciful love
   and his truth for the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen
   the salvation of our God.
Shout to the LORD, all the earth;
   break forth into joyous song,
and sing out your praise.

R/. The Lord has shown his deliverance to the nations.

Second Reading: 1 John 4:7-10

Introduction to the reading: The tradition of the apostle John’s teachings is expressed in what is called the first letter of John. There is a legend that John in his old age would simply repeat over and over to his people, “Love one another.” Today’s passage from that letter particularly illustrates this story.

A reading from the first Letter of Saint John

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God,
and he who loves is born of God and knows God.
He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us,
that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world,
so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we loved God
but that he loved us and sent his Son
to be the expiation for our sins.

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 15:9-17

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John

At that time:
Jesus said to his disciples,
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you;
abide in my love.
If you keep my commandments,
you will abide in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you,
that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be full. 

This is my commandment,
that you love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this,
that a person lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
No longer do I call you servants,
for the servant does not know what his master is doing;
but I have called you friends,
for all that I have heard from my Father
I have made known to you.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you
that you should go and bear fruit
and that your fruit should abide;
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name,
he may give it to you.
This I command you, to love one another.”

The Gospel of the Lord

Reflection on the Readings 

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

Homily from Fr Keith

I would like to tell you a story about a little girl called Melinda.  As children often do, Melinda developed a fixation on the story of “The Three Little Pigs.” Every time her father came around, Melinda wanted him to read it to her. Well, for adults, a little “Three Little Pigs” goes a long way. Dad, being both modern and inventive, got an old cell phone, recorded the story on the phone, and taught Melinda how to call up the story and play it. Dad thought that had solved his problem. But it lasted less than a day. Soon Melinda came to her father, holding out “The Three Little Pigs” and asking him to read. Somewhat impatiently, Dad said, “Melinda, you have your own special cell phone, and you know how play the story!” The little girl looked up at her father with her big eyes and said, plaintively, “Yes, daddy, but I can’t sit on its lap!” 

Of course, what she really wanted was love. That is what we all want, and we never outgrow our need for it. To be valued, to be cared about, to be loved with a love without strings, a love that will always be there for us; That is the foundation for our families that is strong enough to build upon! 

In the Bible, the Acts of the Apostles is a book that tells us so much about the “Acts” of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s active presence among us. Before he left them, Jesus has promised his disciples that they would be “clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24: 49). The Spirit did come upon the assembled community (Acts 2: 1ff.). The Spirit was like “fire” and like “a strong driving wind.” The Spirit’s driving force urged the church out into the world to speak and act in Jesus’ name. 

In today’s first reading we hear about one of the places the Spirit drove Peter and how he recognized God’s presence among the Gentiles. Cornelius was a centurion in Caesarea. He and his “whole household” are described as “God fearers,” people who accepted the one God of the Jews and may even have attended the synagogue. Still, Cornelius was a Gentile and so not someone Peter and the others in the community would have thought to be included in God’s plan of salvation. Remember, even after Jesus’ departure, his followers were still a group within the larger Jewish community. When Peter arrives at Cornelius’ house, he meets the devout man and his household and another Pentecost happens – the Holy Spirit descends on those “who were listening to the Word.” 

That is such a powerful moment! The Holy Spirit comes upon listeners to the Word of God! 

Right now, we are in the Liturgy of the Word of our celebration of the Eucharist. And we have just had a powerful reminder that when the Word of God is proclaimed in our church, the Spirit moves among and within us – like “fire” and like a “strong driving wind.” The Spirit breathes new life and determination into our faith. We want to be like the first Christians. We want to leave our gathering to live and proclaim Jesus Christ in the world.  So, let’s receive the Word of God and its accompanying Spirit with open minds and hearts. 

Every day the news feeds report on the latest number of deaths and hospitalizations due to the pandemic. Yesterday I read about a fear of a spike of infections hitting Gauteng. Experts are predicting that a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic is expected to begin in Gauteng in around three weeks’ time as all of the province’s districts have seen an increase in infection rates recently, while residents are getting tired and not taking the proper precautions. As with other large events in nature, like earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, etc., people tend to call them “Acts of God.”  God is blamed for a lot of the bad things that happen in the world.

As a believer I do know a powerful “Act of God” – God has entered our world, joined us on our human journey, not avoided our pain and death, rose and given us a new life. The Gospel names another powerful act of God: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Which is what Jesus did for us. 

Now that act of love is what I would call an “Act of God!” 

We don’t come to church to pray to please God; earn God’s love and good will;  or wear God down so as to earn a favour from God. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is a blaring and forceful   message to us – God already loves us. We didn’t love God first and then God returned the favour and now loves us because we deserve that love. Rather, God loved us first. If we have any doubts, look at Jesus. 

Today we ask, “Jesus, what can I do to show your love for me?” He answers, “Keep my commandments.” Our mind tends to run to the Ten Commandments as we ask ourselves if we have broken any of them. Have I done anything wrong? But we had the Ten Commandments without Jesus. Jesus isn’t talking about violating the Ten Commandments, about not doing something bad. Instead, Jesus is telling us to do something positive: “Love one another.” That’s one commandment with many faces; many opportunities to put into practice what we have experienced from God in Jesus, unconditional love. 

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend. 

I can respond to Jesus’ command by asking myself: what part of my life must I “lay down,” let die, for the sake of another? My prejudice, my unwillingness to help, my angry feelings, my envy of what others have, the list of wrongs I keep against a person are some things I need to let die. Jesus doesn’t make a list of our sins to punish us.  

Instead, Jesus names a broad commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” 

Jesus doesn’t want to exhaust us or make us live like grovelling slaves trying to get everything right, fearing punishment if we fail. Jesus calls us “friends.” Friendship for him isn’t sentimental or sloppy. Jesus’ friendship is one of mutual love and respect. Friends help expand our world, expose us to new and creative possibilities and sustain us when we are in need. Good friends keep us normal; pull us out of ourselves when we are closed off; lift us out of depression; are our sounding boards when we need to speak about something and friends open new worlds to us. 

We are friends of Christ already. With the help of his Spirit, we can each day resemble him more and more. Jesus says that as his friends, we will “bear fruit that will last.” At this Mass we invite Jesus to show us how we can live and reflect our friendship with him. 

In other words, we pray, “Jesus, teach us to love one another and help us live that love so people will know that we are your friends.”

From today’s Gospel reading:

“I have called you friends,
because I have I have told you everything I have heard

from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you

and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain….” 

Reflection:

We are friends of Christ already. He has accomplished that for us – “I call you friends.” With the help of his Spirit, we can act that way and each day resemble him more and more. As his friends, we will “bear fruit that will remain.” We pray today, “Jesus, teach us to love one another and help us live that love so people will know that we are your friends.”

So we ask ourselves: 

  • Am I comfortable calling Jesus, “My Friend”? 
  • What must I change in my life to better reflect to others my friendship with Jesus? 

The leader can now prayer for all Mothers on this Mother’s Day.

Leader:

Father, 

we give you thanks for the many gifts you have given us;
the gift of life, the gift of those who love us.

We thank you today for the gift of our mothers.
We give thanks for our Mothers who have died
and for the unique way they have revealed for us your love.

We ask that you bless them and keep them in your care
until the time comes for us to join them in your Kingdom.

We ask your Blessing upon the Mothers
who are unable to be with us here today.
May they know how much we love and care for them.

We pray for birth mothers 

who have loved their children so much
they have shared the gift of their child 

with those who could better care for them and their needs, and give them a secure home.

And we pray for adoptive mothers, 

that they may always know
their special role of being a true mother,
a revelation of God’s love for their children.

We ask your blessing upon Mothers who have lost children
through stillbirth, crib death, accident and tragedy, war and violence
that they may have your continuing strength and courage.

We ask your blessing too, 

upon those who would very much like to be mothers 

but who are having trouble having a child.

We ask your Blessing upon the Mothers
standing before us here. 

Give them the strength to live the
faithful and loving lives you call them to live.
Protect and guide them. 

Keep them in your care.

We ask this through Christ, our Risen Lord.
Amen.

Prayer of the Faithful 

Leader: We celebrate our joy in the resurrection of the Lord and pray that we may express in our lives the love we commemorate.

Reader:

We pray for the Church: (pause) that we, whom Jesus has called friends, may remain in his love and be instruments of love and healing in the world.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all mothers and those who have shown us a mother’s love: (pause) that God will watch over them, bless them with every good gift, and fill their hearts with peace

LORD HEAR US

We pray for wisdom and understanding: (pause) that God will teach us how best to love and support those to whom we are committed so that we may nurture and encourage them into fuller life.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for a new awareness of our responsibility for the earth and its resources: (pause) that the Spirit will strengthen our resolve to care for God’s creation and ensure resources for future generations.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all communities overwhelmed by the Covid virus, particularly in India: (pause)  that God will give strength to all caregivers, and open opportunities for the distribution of vaccines to all who are vulnerable.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for Vera Lavarone who died during the week.  

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine on her.  

May she rest in peace.  Amen

Leader: Let us pray our 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: God of all nations,
in the gift of your Son
you have embraced the world
with a love that takes away our sin
and bestows perfect joy.

Grant to all who have been reborn in baptism
fidelity in serving you
and generosity in loving one another.

We ask 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.

Easter Blessing

Leader: Through the resurrection of Jesus
God has redeemed us and made us his children.
May God bless us with joy. 

All: Amen.

Leader: Our Redeemer has given us lasting freedom.
May we inherit everlasting life. 

All: Amen. 

Leader: By faith, we rose with Jesus in baptism.
May our lives be holy,
so that we will be united with Jesus for ever.

All: Amen. 

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

All: Amen.