2016-05-01, 6th Sunday Easter C, Snapshots

Homily 05-01-16
Sixth Sunday Easter, Cycle C
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8; Rev 21:10-14, 22-23; Rev 21:10-14, 22-23

(Scriptures included after homily)

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Today’s Scriptures give us three snapshots of Faith through time.

In our first snapshot, we see Jesus at The Last Supper, with His disciples.  And there He is trying to console them with the fact, that even though He would be leaving them, His Love would bind them together forever.  That bond of Love, just like the Holy Spirit’s bond between Jesus and His Father, would bring TO them an eternal peace that no force on earth could ever take away.  And that same Holy Spirit would be their closest companion, as well.

McNaughton Picture last supperSo our first snapshot is the picture of a farewell blessing of peace by Jesus, and a vision of hope for all of us.

It’s funny, because this picture always reminds me of the comment a friend wrote in my seventh-grade, public school, yearbook, as we separated for the summer.  He simply wrote: “John 16:16.” 

farewellNow, I’ll have to admit, that it took a little digging on my part, because we didn’t have smart-phones or even the internet in those days.  But when I finally found it, I realized that this truly was my first Scriptural encounter with the Holy Spirit; because the verse, which my friend wrote down, just before summer vacation, that challenged me to pick up a Bible, was a quote from Jesus that read: “In a little while you will no longer see me, and again, a little while later, and you will see me.” Jn 16:16  (It was so perfectly appropriate for our two-month separation.  And it was so perfectly appropriate for Jesus’ resurrection and (for us) His ascension.

And here we are, wondering how to evangelize!

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The second snapshot we see today is a beautiful picture of conflict resolution in the earliest recorded Council of the infant Church.  And it was all centered on blood.

You see, the Jews believed, and rightly so, that blood is what gives Life to every living creature.  And so, blood was considered Sacred.  Blood is what atoned for their sins.  Blood is what sealed their covenants.  And Blood is what was – the most
strictly forbidden thing that could be eaten by a Jew.

bloodcovenantYou see, for nearly 2000-years before the coming of Jesus, the faithful Jews firmly kept a Covenant promise that was made between God and their forefather Abraham.  In that Covenant, God promised three things. He promised that:

– Abraham would be blessed with many children,
– that those children would have a place to always call their home,
– and that through the Jewish people, the world would be blessed, or saved, as well.

On their part, the Jewish people, promised that they would mark the flesh of their bodies with a permanent sign of that Covenant.  That mark, was circumcision.  It was a Blood-Covenant between God and His special people.  And if that promise of circumcision was not kept by God’s people, the consequence would be their loss of family, and home, and blessing.

So we can see why some of those most zealous Jews would be upset about the Gentile believers not being circumcised.  They believed in Jesus, but they just, did not understand that Jesus came to offer the world a whole NEW Covenant.  A covenant that was sealed, not in our blood, the blood of circumcision, but in His the blood of His very Life.

You see, Jesus was the fulfillment of the part of Abraham’s Covenant, that said that God would bless the whole world through the Jewish people.  It was through Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, that we, Gentiles, have been saved.  And our part, in God’s New Covenant, is simply kept by Believing in Jesus and Following His Word.

The Apostles understood this.  Yet, they were standing at the crossroads of trying to unite two totally different cultures.

Jerusalem CouncilSo this second snapshot, then, shows us how the First Council of the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, found consolation for both the faithful Jews, and for the Gentiles; where the Jewish respect for blood was to be honored and where circumcision was not to be forced upon the Gentiles.

And, in the process, we can see the formation of the earliest structure of our Church.  With Peter as head, Paul and the Apostles helping to make decisions, and emissaries, like Judas and Silas being sent out as representatives: a Pope, the Bishops and the Priests.

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So now: we’ve seen the snapshot of Jesus’ Bond of Love through the Holy Spirit.  We’ve seen the snapshot of our Church’s Bond of Communion with ALL people.  And our third snapshot is not really a snapshot at all, because no words, nor pictures could possibly depict that Glorious Vision of what is yet to come.

Jesus tells us that God’s New Covenant, His promise of Salvation, was not made to build up our bodily kingdom here on earth, through our flesh and our blood.  And it was not made to gain for us any kind of perfect, worldly home.  And it was not made to save anyone, other than those who believe.  But it was made to offer us believers, something better than any snapshot could ever picture.

Our New Covenant promises us:
– a Heavenly home with God,
– a perfect peace, and
– a family of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and all of our loved ones,
bound together by Love forever.

As we come to His Altar today, maybe for the first time, maybe for the 120th time this year, let it be for us – a snapshot of the Grace we receive from Jesus, the unconditional Love of our Father and the Union we have with the Holy Spirit, that will FILL our souls with His Peace, and our lives with His Glory!

heaven-jesus-father-holy-spirit2jmp 05-01-16

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Scripture Readings for the Mass of 05-01-16
Sixth Sunday of Easter, C

First Reading:  Acts 15:1-2, 22-29

Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.”  Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question. . . .

The apostles and elders, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers.

This is the letter delivered by them: “The apostles and the elders, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings.  Since we have heard that some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: ‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.  If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’”

Responsorial Psalm:  Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
May God have pity on us and bless us; may he let his face shine upon us. So may your way be known upon earth; among all nations, your salvation.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the nations be glad and exult because you rule the peoples in equity; the nations on the earth you guide.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you! May God bless us, and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

Second Reading:  Rev 21:10-14, 22-23

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. It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal.

It had a massive, high wall, with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed and on which names were inscribed, the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. There were three gates facing east, three north, three south, and three west. The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

I saw no temple in the city for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.  The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.

Gospel:  Jn 14:23-29

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but  that of the Father who sent me.

“I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.

And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”

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