Reflections on the Daily Readings

April 22 - 28, 2018
The Season of Easter - The Fourth Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle II.
Divine Office - Psalter Week IV.

Sunday 22:          Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 117; 1John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18
Our first reading is a continuation of last week’s text and today we see that Saints Peter and John have been arrested by the Sadducees for preaching and healing in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter challenges them and says that they were the ones who had Jesus crucified but that he has been raised by God. The Jewish authorities had hoped that in killing Jesus they would kill off his support as well and yet here are the apostles openly preaching and healing in Christ’s name. Peter reminds the Sadducees of what they themselves did and tells them that, despite this, Jesus Christ is the keystone, the only name by which we can be saved. This idea of the keystone is taken up in the Psalm.
St John tells us in the second reading that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are now the children of God. As a result of this we are outcasts from the world which does not want to know us because of the message which we carry. But because of the Father’s great love, those who believe in him and live by his commandments will live in glory with God where we will be like him, reminding us of the story of Creation where we were created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26).
In the gospel, we have the ‘Good Shepherd’ passage from St John in which Jesus tells us that he is the good shepherd who willingly gives his life for his sheep. This self-sacrifice is freely given and is pleasing to the Father and the passage recalls the crucifixion of Jesus to restore us to full union with God. Those who believe in Jesus Christ listen to his voice and do as he commands and so will be gathered together into the one, true fold. The challenge for us is to live as outcasts from the world and to shun the ways of this world which are against the precepts and ideals of the Gospel, and all for the glory which has been promised us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Monday 23:         Of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 41; John 10:1-10
In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, St Peter is being criticised for associating with uncircumcised people. He tells those who are criticising him that what he did was instructed by God. Clearly, the message of God is meant for all people to hear and to believe regardless of their current beliefs. In the gospel text Jesus speaks to the people and likens himself to a shepherd: when the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd they follow him, they do not follow those they do not recognise. It is also important to note that the good shepherd leads the sheep – he does not drive them but leads them and they follow. We are also told that there is only one way to enter heaven and that is through belief in Christ as the Son of God. Therefore Christ is our shepherd and we are called on to listen to his voice alone and to trust in that.

Tuesday 24:         Of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 11:19-26; Psalm 86; John 10:22-30
Our continuous reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us a constant reminder of the sort of life we are called to – one which proclaims Christ and his Gospel in word and deed. Today’s reading notes that the name “Christian” is used for the first time. It also notes that the Good News is deliberately preached to the Gentiles for the first time thanks to the teaching of St Philip in Samaria and St Peter’s contact with Cornelius, a Roman centurion. In the gospel, the theme of sheep and shepherd is used again today. Despite all that Christ has said to this point, many of those who have heard him have failed to understand what he has been saying. They have failed because they are not the sheep of his flock but follow another shepherd.

Wednesday 25:   Feast of St Mark, the Evangelist*
1Peter 5:5-14; Psalm 88; Mark 16:15-20
In our first reading for this feast, St Peter gives instruction to the people on how they should live with one another. The text is a reminder to the reader that the devil is always on the lookout for some way to cause us to fall and to deny the place of God in our lives. For Peter, the ‘true grace’ he speaks of is the persecution we receive because of our belief in God but if we stand firm in that belief then God will be with us. In the letter he makes mention of St Mark, who at this stage is one of his companions and so Peter is the source of the material that Mark used in writing the gospel.
The gospel account from Mark tells of Jesus’ commandment to his followers after the resurrection that they are to go out and ‘proclaim the Good News to all creation’. Mark himself did this through his travels with St Paul and later with Peter and particularly through the written word of his gospel, which is the oldest of the four gospels.

Thursday 26:       Of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 13:13-25; Psalm 88; John 13:16-20
In our first reading today St Paul begins teaching about Christ in a synagogue, something which would not have gone down too well with his former colleagues in the Pharisees. In the sermon, Paul traces salvation history from the Old Testament up to John the Baptist. Our gospel passage today sees Christ and the disciples at the Last Supper where Christ has just washed their feet. He tells them that they must accept those who will be sent by him and they are not to turn them away. We too must listen to those who have been sent by God and accept what they say as the message of God. First and foremost they are to serve God through their love for and service of others following his example.

Friday 27:            Of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 13:26-33; Psalm 2; John 14:1-6
St Paul, in our first reading, continues teaching the people in the synagogue in Pisidia and tells them that when the Jews in Jerusalem had Jesus put to death, they did no more than fulfil sacred scripture. In the gospel, Jesus tells us – in response to a pessimistic remark from St Thomas – that he is the way, the truth and the life and that if we believe in him, we too will have life. Christ is the only way to the Father – as we heard earlier this week – there is no other and any other which appears to suit us better and be more in line with our own views will not bring us to eternal life. Christ is the embodiment of the truth he speaks about and he is the one who gives life to our Eucharistic celebration.

Saturday 28:        Of the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 13:44-52; Psalm 97; John 14:7-14
In our passage from the Acts of the Apostles we read that many more people are now coming to the synagogue to hear Saints Paul and Barnabas and the message they bring. The Jews are not happy at this but the people are because not all of them are Jews and yet the message is being preached freely to everyone regardless of their current beliefs. In the gospel, Jesus continues to teach his disciples that he and the Father are one and that in believing in him they are believing in the Father. St Philip is slow to believe or to understand that God the Father and God the Son are one and the same person though he has heard this many times from Christ’s own mouth. We have heard these words all our lives and must ask ourselves whether we believe them or whether we’re a little hesitant. True faith is when we accept such mysteries without waiting for proof.

Memorials this Week
April 25:              Feast of St Mark, the Evangelist
There is not a huge amount known about St Mark. It was thought that he was the young man referred to in Mark 14:51-52 who fled at the arrest of Jesus, though there is no proof. He was a companion of St Paul on his first missionary journey as noted by Paul in his writings. Later he joined St Peter, on whose teachings his Gospel is based and which was written for Christians who were being persecuted in Rome to show them that Christ too suffered but never gave up. According to tradition, he founded the Church in Alexandria and was probably its bishop when he was martyred about the year 74. The symbol for St Mark is the winged lion.

April 29 - May 5, 2018
The Season of Easter - The Fifth Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle II.
Divine Office - Psalter Week I.

Sunday 29:          Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 21; 1John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
Our first reading sees Saul some time after his conversion. He has been forced to flee Damascus and has arrived in Jerusalem where the disciples and believers still feared him because of his reputation as a persecutor of the early Church. St Barnabas speaks on his behalf and they accept him and allow him to join the group. However, his time with them is short lived because he has to flee from another group who wanted to kill him because of his positive preaching about the Risen Christ. Saul then leaves the area and the faith continues to flourish under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In the second reading, St John reduces the commandments to two basic instructions: belief in Christ and love of neighbour. This is nothing new for Jesus had said this himself, but John is reminding us to keep these two commandments knowing that if we do then God will live in each of us. John also reminds us that the Father’s love is real and that even if we stray we can always return to him and seek forgiveness.
In the gospel, Jesus tells us that he is the true vine and we are the branches. Like a good gardener, the Father prunes the vine to make it yield more by cutting away the weak or diseased parts and disposing of them in fire. The good parts, the fruitful parts are nurtured with care so that they yield much fruit. Those of us who believe in Jesus Christ will be looked after but those who ignore him will wither and be gathered up for burning as rubbish. Only if we believe in him can we achieve eternal happiness and bear much fruit and thereby give glory to God. The fruit of the vine can mean that we nurture our own faith and also that we do all we can to nurture the faith in others, in other words that we partake in the mission of the Church to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in whatever way we can.

Monday 30:         Of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 14:5-18; Psalm 113; John 14:21-26
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see that Saints Paul and Barnabas are forced to flee because the authorities wish to kill them for preaching about Christ. They travel to Laconia – in modern day southern Turkey – and are very well received there. According to legend, the gods Zeus and Hermes visited here and were rejected by the people who were in turn destroyed by the two gods. Having witnessed what Paul and Barnabas can do the people fear that if they don’t treat these ‘gods’ well that they will be destroyed like the old tale. In the gospel text, Jesus tells his disciples that after he has gone they will be given the Holy Spirit who will teach them everything and remind them of all he had said. This Spirit is the one who caused Paul and Barnabas to work as they did. That same Spirit has been given to us and will work in us only if we allow him to and, in so doing, bring glory to God.

Tuesday 1:           Of the Fifth Week of Easter or Optional Memorial of St Joseph the Worker*
Acts 14:19-28; Psalm 144; John 14:27-31
In our first reading today we see that Saints Paul and Barnabas are still suffering for their preaching but they continue to preach and to give strength to the Christian communities which they visit. Paul also reminds the faithful that believing in Christ will cause hardship as he himself can testify but the reward is worth the suffering. In the gospel, Jesus gives his peace to the disciples before he leaves them. It is a peace which is not of human origins and therefore is greater and more liberating. It is a peace which this world badly needs but does not want to try. It is for us as Christians to convince the world that this is the only way to true happiness and fulfilment.

Wednesday 2:     Memorial of St Athanasius, Bishop & Doctor of the Church*
Acts 15:1-6; Psalm 121; John 15:1-8
In today’s first reading we see that Saints Paul and Barnabas are now back in Antioch following their first missionary journey to the Gentiles. We see them in a debate with other Christian preachers and Pharisees about circumcision and are being sent to Jerusalem to speak with the Apostles on the matter. In the gospel, Christ says that he is the true vine and that we are its branches. If we believe in him then we will bear much fruit, but if we do not believe, then we are good for nothing and will be pruned away. If we believe in him he will grant all our prayers especially if that prayer is a prayer for an increase in our own faith so that we can do his will.

Thursday 3:         Feast of Sts Philip & James, Apostles*
1Corinthians 15:1-8; Psalm 18; John 14:6-14
In our first reading for today, St Paul tells us of the resurrection of the Lord and of his first appearances to his followers, among them St James. The text is a brief synopsis of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, which is so central to the gospel message, because through this action we are saved.
The gospel tells us that we must believe in Jesus Christ in order to have eternal life. St Philip asked the Lord to show them the Father and, in reply, Jesus gives a very clear teaching that he and the Father are one: to have seen one is to have seen the other, to have heard one is to have heard the other. He also tells Philip at the start of the passage that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life, which means that Jesus isn’t simply another guide along the way to heaven, but that he is the source of life and truth and so, in believing in him, we will be filled with the truth and will reach eternal life. We are called on to believe just as Saints Philip and James did and to put that belief into practice in our lives.

Friday 4:              Of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 15:22-31; Psalm 56; John 15:12-17
The Council in Jerusalem now sends Saints Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with chosen helpers to strengthen the people and to inform them of their decision which was guided by the Holy Spirit. The letter which Paul and his companions carry to the new communities to explain the decision of the Council of Jerusalem is a prototype of the official documents and encyclicals which have been issued by popes ever since. Continuing yesterday’s theme of love, today’s gospel passage sees Christ giving his followers the commandment to love more forcefully than in yesterday’s text. In the Old Testament, Moses and the prophets were known as ‘servants of God’ but Jesus calls us his friends which implies a far more personal relationship which is available to each and every one of us. Christ was willing to give his life for his friends so we should be willing to give our lives for Christ – our brother and our friend.

Saturday 5:          Of the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 16:1-10; Psalm 99; John 15:18-21
Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles sees St Paul setting out on his second missionary journey to the Gentiles which will take him as far as Corinth in Greece. He has a vision from God who tells him to spend time bringing the faith to what is modern day Greece. He is joined by St Timothy and also, scholars believe, by St Luke the Evangelist and author of the book. This is suggested by the use of the word ‘we’ in the last paragraph which tells us that Luke was a witness to part, at least, of what he records in the Acts. In the gospel, Christ tells his listeners that they will be persecuted for the sake of his name just as he too was persecuted. We all suffer in some way – from broken relationships, bad health, financial difficulties. But how much, if any, of our sufferings are a result of our being Christian? The world rejected Christ 2,000 years ago and, in truth, it hasn’t improved much since but continues to reject that which shows up its own weaknesses and shortcomings. As Christians we should be willing to be rejected by the world but that will only happen if we are brave enough to be real Christians. Paul was persecuted for Christ but it did not stop him carrying out his work for the Lord, and look at the legacy which he left. What sort of a legacy could we collectively leave were we to openly follow the path of Christ?

In Carmelite Churches:
May 5:                 Memorial of St Angelus, Carmelite Priest & Martyr

Memorials this Week
May 1:                 Optional Memorial of St Joseph the Worker
This commemoration was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955. It is a reminder to us that human labour brings dignity to individuals and that work is for the good of everyone. It is also a reminder that even in seemingly mundane work, God is still present and that Jesus, following social norms, would have been trained as a carpenter by Joseph, his guardian. St Joseph is the patron saint of working people.

May 2:                 Memorial of St Athanasius, Bishop & Doctor of the Church
Athanasius was born in 295 or 297 in Alexandria, a major port city on the northern coast of Egypt. He attended the Council of Nicaea, in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), as a deacon in 325 and impressed the Council Fathers with his defence of the divinity of Christ. He became Bishop of Alexandria in 328 and served as bishop for forty turbulent years. He fought against the heresies of the time and particularly that of Arius (who held that Jesus is not co-equal with the Father but was created by him) and, as a result, was exiled from his diocese on five occasions for a total of seventeen years. Yet he never ceased to defend Christ and his Church. He died in the year 373. He is one of the four great Greek Doctors of the Universal Church.

May 3:                 Feast of Sts Philip & James the Apostles
Very little is known about St Philip beyond the few mentions of him in the Gospels. According to tradition, he preached the Gospel at Phrygia and died at Hierapolis, in western modern-day Turkey, where he may have been martyred. Philip was originally a disciple of John the Baptist.
The St James we celebrate today is the son of Alphaeus, also known as James the Less (that is, the Younger). He was the first Bishop of Jerusalem and the author of the epistle in the Bible which bears his name. He was martyred in 62ad either by stoning or by being thrown from the top of the Temple.

May 5:                Memorial of St Angelus, Carmelite Priest & Martyr
Angelus was one of the first Carmelites to leave the Holy Land and settle in Sicily. In 1220 he was killed by someone whose wickedness Angelus had apparently denounced. Little else is known about him but his cult spread throughout the Carmelite Order and he is an important saint on the island of Sicily.

© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011, 2013
The Reflections above are available in printed form in:
Reflections on the Readings for every day of the Church's year.
Patrick J. Breen, O.Carm. Dublin: Columba Press. 2011. ISBN 978 1 85607 732 3.

And direct from the publishers: Columba Press, Dublin.

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