Sunday, April 24, 2016

5th Sunday of Easter

Acts 14:21-27
Ps 145
Rev 21:1-5a
Jn 13:31a, 34-35

The reading from Acts sounds as if Paul and Barnabas could have benefited from a GPS unit or at least Map Quest.  They certainly covered some ground.  At times Acts has the sense of a travelogue, describing the difficult work involved in spreading the message of Jesus crucified, risen from the dead, and ascended to the Father.  Much was happening as the community began to cohere.   Acts gives us some of that history.  On Tuesday we heard “and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.”   As Paul, Barnabas and the others spread out the Church was gaining an identity, and the believers gained a name which would serve to give a concise description of them, a name that would accrue more and more associations—positive and negative—over the ensuing millennia. These associations to the word Christian emerged, and continue to emerge, from observations of how Christians conducted themselves in the public arena.  

This phenomenon was well illustrated in a fine book by Rodney Stark titled, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History in which he studied the period covered by Acts and into the first two or three centuries.  It is important to note that even then abortion was absolutely forbidden.

The first reading from Acts gives us history.  It is anchored in a specific time and location.  In contrast, the reading from Revelation indicates a point well-beyond the horizon.  It tells us of what is to come.  The images are strange. They are strange because that is the only way to describe that which we cannot know in this life.  The reading does not tell us the how or the when.  But it assures us that we will be transformed. We will be transformed in that instant--and it is only an instant--when we pass from life into eternal life.  We can take great comfort knowing “there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain for the old order has passed away.”    What greater consolation is there?  What greater consolation can there be?  Pain.  Suffering.  Sorrow.  All will come to an end. 

Our identity as Christians, our identity as Catholics, is anchored in Jesus’ command at the end of the Gospel.  “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”  That identity should be apparent if we follow Jesus’ command.  That is the problem.  Living that command.  Living it on a day to day basis.

Back in the seventies, an unhappy liturgical era when some truly awful songs were foisted upon us under the guise of hymns, one of the most annoying and wrongheaded ones featured a thumping marching chorus with the stunningly self-aggrandizing lyric:  “They will know we are Christians by our love,  by our love. They will knoow woooo we are Christians by our love.”  Sung too vigorously that last know wo sounded like the communal passing of a kidney stone. 

Musical value:  none
Narcissism index:  off the chart. 

While nothing will ever help the melody, if the verse went, they SHOULD know we are Christians IF they see our love, the sentiment would be less narcissistic and more descriptive of a goal that this gospel places before us.  There is nothing wrong with the conditional sense rather than a definitive statement. Rather than assuming that we manifest our love so perfectly that others will immediately see us as different, it is more realistic—and a more humble stance—to admit that we have to work at it.  Just because we proclaim ourselves Christians it doesn’t mean that the love part follows automatically. 

The psalm assures us:

“The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The Lord is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.”

This describes the Lord only.  We have to work very hard at it. 
In Boston parlance it was a wicked busy week.  Tomorrow is the first day in about 28 that I am not celebrating Mass somewhere outside of Campion.  Definite sleep in plans.  That means about 8 at the latest and more than likely earlier than that. 

Some photos from Maribor, Slovenia.  All of these were taken early in the AM.  Most mornings I had the option after Mass to have breakfast or to go out with the camera.  It was an easy decision.  The bread would still be there when I returned but the warm morning light would have changed had I eaten first.  

Outdoor cafe.  The temp was in the 40's.  Slovenians are very hardy people.  Note the blankets over the backs of the chairs.  Peter wondered about sitting outdoors to drink coffee one day when the temp was in the 50's.   I wondered about his sanity.  We had the coffee indoors.

 The view across the river from the left bank, where our house was, to the right, where the center of the city is.  Note the tiny shrine atop the hill just to the right. 

A pair of swans.  Today I learned that a group of swans is called a bevy.  

Central Square.

The morning commute with the central square reflected in the store windows. 
+Fr  Jack, SJ, MD

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