Sunday Readings & Reflections


FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B

 

Theme: REMAIN IN HIS LOVE

The author of I John is very adamant that faith and love go hand-in-hand.
Brothers and sisters cannot hate each other and yet pretend to have faith in the same God. He uses the example of Cain and Abel to make the point (l Jn 3: 11-18; cf. Gn 4: 1-16). According to the story, Cain did not love his brother Abel and killed him out of jealousy. This is an extreme example, but it brings home the point that if we really love each other, we will seek the good of the person we love and not do him/her harm.

 

First Reading:Acts 9:26-31;
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 22;
Second Reading: 1 John 3:18-24;
Gospel:John 15:1-8;
Resources used:
*The Sunday Missal, Paulines Publications Africa
*Painting: Poster No. 53, Pentecost – by S. Ajak Bullen


No Faith without Love

The author of I John concludes the story of Cain and Abel with the exhortation:
“Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth” (I Jn 3: 18). This very much resembles that of James: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves (Jas I: 22; see comments for 22nd Sunday Year B). As other passages in both writings show, it is through love that we become doers of the word (Jas 2: 15-16; I Jn 4:20).
The double commandment in Mk 12:28-31 is summarised in terms of faith and love. For the Johannine School, whoever believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God loves God. This is why the author affirms this as a commandment and matches it with love of neighbour. For this author, faith goes hand-in-hand with love. We can-not measure a person’s degree of faith, but through the loving deeds of that person, it is evident that s/he believes in God and does not see his/her interests as the centre of the world.
The Johannine School traced the commandment of love to Jesus’ gift of himself for us on the eve of his death (Jn 13:34; IS: 17). In African religious tradition, the words of an elder spoken to those surviving him are always taken seriously. The children know that if they keep these words, it will be to their benefit. However, if they disobey them, they will provoke misfortune and will only have themselves to blame.
The author of I John is aware of the fact that the Children of God are weak and do sin. Some may have felt that in such a situation, they are condemned by God and cannot receive his grace anymore. He reassures them that God is greater than our conscience, which recognises the evil and accuses us. God loved us enough to call us his children (1 Jn 3: I; 4:9-10) and invites us to live in this state. Through the prophet Hosea, God showed that his love for his children, even in their wayward-ness, was so strong that he would not destroy them. His heart’s desire is to share with them the fulness of his love and life. For this reason, whether in a situation of awareness of sin or of faithfulness to God’s commandment, the child of God trusts him, because he hears and accepts our prayers (Jn 16:26-27)! S/he is neither ashamed of sin, nor proud of his/her faithfulness.
What is asked of the child of God in exchange is to “remain in him” just as God remains in him/her. It is through keeping the commandments that we remain in God. However, as it turns out, in order to remain in God, God has already given his Spirit to his child. 8t Paul would say, “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). This is what makes our dwelling in God possible (1 Jn 3:24).
Here again, we see how John’s Gospel is the basis for I John and how the latter re-interprets it for a divided community. In the farewell speech during the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus gave them the new commandment of love (Jn 13:34-35). He then continued to promise them the Spirit and links it to loving him (Jn 14: 15-17). To the one who loves Jesus and keeps his commandment, Jesus promised that he and the Father would come to dwell (Jn 14:21-24). This dwelling happens through the Spirit that the Father will send in Jesus’ name (Jn 14:26). This is what we have in the final verse of today’s Reading. On the one hand, whoever keeps the commandment of love remains in God, but in fact, it is because God has given his Spirit that the person is able to know that s/he is dwelling in God, because God is love. This thought will be developed more in 1 Jn 4:7-21.

Sunday Readings

First Reading Acts 1:1-11

“As they were looking on, he was lifted up.”
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptised with water, but before many days you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The word of the Lord.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM
Psalm 47

R: God has gone up with shouts of joy. The Lord goes up with trumpet blast. Or: Alleluia.

All peoples, clap your hands. Cry to God with shouts of joy! For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, the great king over all the earth.

R: God has gone up with shouts of joy. The Lord goes up with trumpet blast. Or: Alleluia.

God goes up with shouts of joy. The Lord goes up with trumpet blast. Sing praise for God; sing praise! Sing praise to our king; sing praise!

R: God has gone up with shouts of joy. The Lord goes up with trumpet blast. Or: Alleluia.

God is king of all the earth. Sing praise with all your skill. God reigns over the nations. God sits upon his holy throne.

R: God has gone up with shouts of joy. The Lord goes up with trumpet blast. Or: Alleluia.









SECOND READING
Ephesians 4:1-13

“To the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians

Brethren: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.* Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) * And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
The word of the Lord.

Alleluia. Go and make disciples of all nations, says the Lord; I am with you always, to the close of the age. Alleluia.
GOSPEL READING
Mark 16:15-20

“He was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.”
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark

At that time: [Jesus, appearing to the Eleven,] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.

The Gospel of the Lord.



Sunday Reflections


THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR B

*Adapted from: “God’s Word for Christian Communities, Second Readings of Sundays”, by Richard Baawobr M.Afr — Paulines Publications Africa, 2009.