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Our New Life in Christ

{ Tags: None \ Apr26 }

It is a bit late now, but this post is still relevant: it does not only give an overview of the readings for the rest of Easter, it also gives a hint as to how to present the readings as if they come in a series. I say “as if” because the lectionary does not really have a well arranged system of presenting the Paschal mystery especially as it bears on the Resurrection of Christ. However, anyone who would be patient enough — people like Raymond Brown — to examine each part of the liturgy of each Sunday throughout Easter can find some thread that connects all lectionary selections leading to a Christology and a theology of the Spiritual Life. For this year (B, 2009), I have tried to work on the Second Readings for Easter; the Gospel readings are the same ones which I worked on three years ago. Links to the available articles are provided below. The Sunday Thoughts for each week will be given as they become available. The same thing goes for the articles on the Second Reading.

The first two Sundays of Easter have a historical character. They present the memory of the apostles of the Resurrection event. The reading for Easter morn describes the excitement of that first day when the empty tomb was discovered. The second Sunday of Easter is catechetical: it emphasizes the Sunday gathering of the disciples and the profession of faith that the baptized should make. Thomas’ “My Lord and My God” is the Christian profession of faith which all the baptized are required to make. The third Sunday presents to us the Risen Lord in the midst of the Church celebrating a victory meal with the disciples. It is within the context of this victory meal that the disciples are commissioned to preach the gospel of forgiveness.

The fourth and fifth Sundays give to us the principles of the Christian Life: here we find how the Lord looks at us. We are the flock of the Good Shepherd (IV) and the Branches of the True Vine (V). Finally, the sixth Sunday presents to us the ethical commitment of the Christian: it is the response to a love that was first shown by God in Christ. The descent of the Holy Spirit on the first Gentile converts remind us of the love that was poured into our hearts when we were baptized (cf. Romans 5:5)

Easter Sunday

The three readings for the Mass are related to one another by the theme of Easter. In the second reading, Paul motivates the Corinthians to live the Christian life using the image of the unleavened bread that is served during the Passover feast. Christ, the Paschal lamb has been offered and so the Christians should be like the unleavened bread. The old leaven should now be pushed aside, a reference to what Paul says in other occassions about the Christians death to sin and life in Christ.

The first reading is taken from the speech of Peter in Acts. 10. The context of the speech is the narrative of the baptism of Cornelius, a non-Jew. We have illustrated how the speech has a concentric arrangement with the outermost parallel elements gospel of peace-forgiveness of sins and at the center, the death and resurrection of Christ. Framing this central element are two declarations about Christ “He is Lord of all” and “God designated him Judge of the Living and the Dead”. We read it in the liturgy of Easter Sunday because it is a kerygmatic speech to Gentiles and provides the outline of a proclamation about the meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for all men. Psalm 118 is linked to the victory of Christ in the resurrection and his entrance into glory.

Finally, the gospel reading narrates of that first day when women discover the empty tomb and tell of it to the disciples. John is schematic in presenting this part of the narrative. Focus however is placed on the beloved disciple who “saw and believed” inspite of the fact that he – like Peter – does not yet know of the scriptures that said Jesus had to rise from the dead.

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Dominica in Albis

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (4:32-35) describes the life of the first Christian community which Luke presents as the model for all Christian communities. The description should be read in parallel with the one given in Acts 2:42-47. The selection from 4:32-35 focuses on the social dimension of community life. No one was in need because everyone shared what they had. Thus community life in this selection is characterized by a life of communion built around the proclamation of the apostles and the sharing of goods. Life in Christ affects even the socio-economic order.

The second reading from 1 John 5:1-6 is explained in this article. As the risen Jesus showed his hands and his side to give evidence of the reality of his death, so in the first epistle of John this reality is emphasized against a teaching that denies the death of Christ.”

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Third Sunday of Easter

Gospel Reading: Luke 24:35-38

Jesus’ victory meal with his disciples. The Risen Lord stands in the midst of the disciples. Luke alludes to Psalm 22:22, “I will praise you in the midst of my brothers; I will stand in the midst of the Church and declare your name.” (LXX). The Risen Jesus stands in the midst of the Church and confirms them in discipleship and sends them on a mandate.

Reading I: Acts 3:13-15.17-19

Peter’s kerygmatic speech. He calls Jesus “the author of Life” and this is because of the Resurrection. He is also called “holy” and “righteous One”. Jesus has been called “holy One” in the Gospel of Luke. Now he is also called “righteous One”, that is, the one who will be Judge at the end of time and second, He who will remain faithful to the covenant relationship he has. Note. When in the 2nd Reading, Jesus is called the Advocate, this aspect of his righteousness is alluded to.

Reading II: 1 John 2:1-5a

The author writes to preserve his community to preserve them from sin. Aware however that sin is still a possibility among the children of light, he assures them of the help of Jesus Christ, the Advocate who intercedes on their behalf (like Abraham and Moses) and who defends them. The same Jesus is the atoning sacrifice that covers their sins; to know him is to obey his commandments and therefore to walk in the light.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

Gospel Reading: John 10:11-18

The fourth Sunday of Easter is also called “good shepherd Sunday.” The selection from John emphasizes the identification between the Shepherd of Psalm 23 and Jesus. The Shepherd in Psalm 23 is the Lord, the God of Israel who pastures his sheep and gives them peace. This identification that Jesus makes with the Good Shepherd is not lost to the Jews, for in the third part of the chapter, they try to stone him for blasphemy. Jesus had said “I and the Father are one”

Reading I: Acts 4:8-12

Peter’s kerygma on the occassion of the healing of a crippled man. He quotes from Psalm 118 identifying Jesus with the Stone rejected by the Builders and emphasizes that it is only in Jesus that salvation can be received. The healing of the cripple is a particular application of the victory of Christ in the Resurrection.

Reading II: 1 John 3:1-2

The author invites the community to contemplate the love that has been given them. It is the love by which they have become God’s children (1.2). And because they are God’s children, they will be like the Son of God who will be manifested in the Parousia (2:28). For the moment, this is a hope that should motivate them to be pure (blameless) just as Christ is pure and blameless (3:5). The world — that ensemble of forces with which the “anti-christs” have identified themselves — does not recognize them as “children of God” for the simple reason that it does not recognize God Himself.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

Gospel Reading: John 15:1-8

A vine’s life is incomplete without fruits. In a sense, the vine exists because of the fruit it will bear. Jesus tells his disciples that his relationship with them is as vitas as the relationship of the vine to its branches. That his disciples may bear fruit, the first condition is to remain in Him.

The word “remain” contrasts with the previous instances when Jesus tells his disciples that he is departing (cf. Jn. 13:36;14: Beginning from Jn. 13:1, the eminent departure of Jesus hangs over the disciples like a canopy. When Jesus tells his disciples “Remain in me and I will remain in you” a tension is created whereby the idea of Jesus’ departure is transformed. He leaves but will remain in his own in a way that the world will not know. He will continue to dwell among his own as source of life and communion.

In this section, the emphasis is laid on remaining in Christ and letting his words remain. Verses 5 and 7 are parallels with “I remain” and “my words remain” as equivalents. The idea of Christ’s words remaining prepares for the section on the commandment of love (vv. 9-17). But it also introduces the idea of the disciples’ empowerment to glorify the Father with the fruits they bear. In John 14:12, Jesus already told his disciples that anyone who believes in Him will do greater words that those accomplished by Him. The new “power” given to the disciples is in view of the glorification of the Father and the accomplishment of His will. Just as Jesus has pleased the Father in His earthly life, so too, the disciples are empowered to do the same. And this power has its source and expression in prayer.

Reading 1: Acts 9:26-31

The first reading from Acts gives us the picture of a Church growing steadily.(9:31). A former persecutor, Saul of Tarsus (cf. Acts 9:1ff) has been incorporated into the Church (v. 26) and has begun to preach boldly in the name of the Lord (v. 28) even to the point of death (v. 29). This brief peek into the initial career of Saul as a proselytizer for the new faith also gives us an idea of the beginnings of the Church which is pruned by the Father so that it may be more fruitful (cf. John 15:1-3) The responsorial psalm from Psalm 22 applies the verses originally associated with the Resurrected Christ to those who even now share in the death and resurrection of the Lord.

Reading II: 1 John 3:18-24

1 John 3:18-24 is part of the sub-section which begins in 1 John 3:11. After the author of the epistle emphasizes that love is an element of the gospel received (3:11) and hate is tantamount to murder (3:12-15), and that the new life of the Christian community must be expressed in a loving relationship with the brothers that is “in deed and in truth” (3:16-17), the discourse turns towards the question of conscience: How do we know that we are in the right? (Or in the language employed, How do we know we are in the Truth?). The answer given is three: (a) by the quality of our love (b) by the communion that we have, and (c) by the Spirit we have received.”

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

Gospel Reading: John 15:9-17

Communion with Jesus demands communion of love among the brothers. In these passages, we find Jesus upgrading the status of disciples from slaves to friends. Later on, he is going to call them brothers. For the moment, he includes his disciples in his communion with the Father. They are now practically speaking extended family. They become his family in Easter.

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

The second part of the narrative about the admission of the first Gentiles to the Church. The liturgical selection picks up parts from the kerygma to Cornelius, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the household of the Gentile, and their baptism.

Second Reading: 1 John 4:7-10

The love of God that was experienced by the disciples was something real: it was shown in Christ, the Son of God (see John 3:14-16). Christian love is a response to this Divine Love and it is a response verified in love for the brothers.

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