Reading I Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 - Letter of the apostles to the gentiles
Reading II Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23 - The new Jerusalem
Gospel John 14:23-29 - Last discourse; faithfulness to God's word
Key Passage Jesus answered him, “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.” (John 14:23)
Adults: What difference has it made in your life when you made a decision in accord with Jesus' teachings?
Kids: When will you have to make a decision this week? What will help you make a good decision?READ MORE
To see the effect of the Holy Spirit upon the work of the apostles, one has only to consider today’s first reading and Gospel. In John, Jesus promises his disciples that “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,...will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14:26). In Acts, the apostles and elders call upon the Holy Spirit. They have to decide whether or not Gentiles needed to be circumcised to become Christians. Jesus had called on his disciples to preach the Good News to all nations, but had never said what rules Gentiles needed to follow. The scene in Acts occurred around 50 A.D., meaning that about twenty years had passed between the time the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and apostles and elders met in Jerusalem to consider this issue. They needed to discuss the issue among themselves, but they also needed someone to guide them, to teach them, and to enlighten them so that they could make the right decision. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, they decided that Gentiles need only follow very limited Jewish laws. Now, nearly two thousand years later, we continue to call upon the Holy Spirit to guide, teach, and enlighten us as we struggle with difficult questions.
When do you look to the Holy Spirit for guidance?READ MORE
Reading I Acts 14:21-27 - End of the first mission
Reading II Revelation 21:1-5a - New heavens and new earth
Gospel John 13:31-33a, 34-35 - A new commandment
Key Passage Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)
Adults: When have you seen the power of love overcome a bad situation?
Kids: Do you believe love is stronger than hate? Why?READ MORE
Perseverance. This is what the disciples needed when spreading the Good News around the Roman Empire in the face of persecution and hardship. This is what the early converts needed as they learned about Jesus Christ and lived out their new faith. This is what we all need in following the new commandment Jesus gives his disciples in the Gospel today. Perseverance. Once the exhortation ends and everyone returns home to their day-to-day responsibilities, that euphonric feeling fades away. So after Paul and Barnabas landed at Perga and traveled through Pamphylia and Pisidia and visited the cities of Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, they retraced their steps exactly and “returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,...then traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia” (Acts 14:21, 24). Why bother? With the whole world to convert, why go back exactly the same way? Perhaps because they realized that their message was inspirational, but difficult. “Love one another.” Sure. “As I have loved you.” Uh-oh. Jesus’ love is a sacrificial love, culminating in the ultimate sacrifice. To love others this way—to put others first– is more difficult, more unpleasant, more exhausting than it seemed when Paul and Barnabas first spoke so fervently about it. We need perseverance.
When do you find it difficult to persevere in living out your faith?READ MORE
Today’s readings are quite dramatic, one featuring religious authorities who opposed the apostles Paul and Barnabas “with violent abuse,” another highlighting a crowd of people who had lived through the persecution of the early church. However, the lasting impression in each of the readings is one of tender comfort and hopeful reassurance. The church of the first century thrived with intense growth but also met with frequent persecution. As Christianity broke away from Judaism, both religious and state authorities targeted proselytizers of the new faith. Paul and Barnabas felt the wrath of the authorities and were expelled from Antioch in Pisidia. Yet as this passage ends they and the early Christians “were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52). They were not filled with anger and resentment, or even fear and despair, but with hope and joy, for they knew God was with them. The Roman state offered no religious liberty to its subjects. Christians could be killed for rejecting the pagan faith of the Romans. Yet they were assured in their faith that “God (would) wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17), for Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
How do you feel the consolation of your faith during times of hardship?READ MORE
Reading I Acts 13:14, 43-52 - Paul's and Barnabas' address to the gentiles
Reading II Revelation 7:9, 14b-17 - Rejoicing of the elect of every nation
Gospel John 10:27-30 - Words at the feast of the dedication of the Temple
Key Passage Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27.28)
Adults: Whom do you try to protect as Christ protects you?
Kids: Who helps you feel safe and protected? Whom can you take care of and help feel safe?READ MORE
What makes us worthy of what we have? We look at people who have fame, wealth, and success and wonder if they are really worthy of these blessings. In Revelation, angels and elders cry out, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). Clearly, Christ is worthy of all these attributes, for he suffered and died to bring salvation to the whole world. In Acts, however, the rewards for worthiness are much different. Peter and the apostles, condemned by the Sanhedrin for preaching the gospel, rejoice at having been “found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the (Lord’s) name” (Acts 5:41). To be condemned by the Sanhedrin, as Jesus was, is an honor. But before Peter got to this point, before he caught the netful of fish with the risen Lord, he did something quite dishonorable in the eyes of the Lord. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter denied Jesus three times. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives Peter three opportunities to repent, to undo his denials, to acknowledge his love for Jesus. After each affirmative answer, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, tells Peter to care for his sheep. Worthy is Peter to shepherd the flock, the church.
How are you worthy in the eyes of the Lord?READ MORE
Reading I Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41 - Disciples' second trial before the Sanhedrin
Reading II Revelation 5:11-14 - Praise to the lamb
Gospel John 21:1-19 or 21:1-14 - Appearance at the Sea of Tiberias
Key Passage When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15)
Adults: In what ways are you answering Jesus' command to Peter to "feed my sheep”?
Kids: What do you do to take care of others as Jesus asked Peter to do?READ MORE
It’s hard to beat eyewitness testimony, especially testimony from multiple eyewitnesses, and people whom you can trust, to boot. It was not enough for Thomas, though. He needed to see. He needed to touch. So the following week he makes sure to be there. Jesus, returning to the Twelve, does not reprimand Thomas; in fact, he invites him to prove it to himself. But then he praises those who believe without seeing, without witnessing firsthand, without being able to prove it. These are the “great numbers of men and women” in the first reading, who come to believe when they see the faith and hear the testimony of disciples like Peter (Acts 5:14). These are the ones who will hear Johns’ visions from Revelation, which Jesus insisted he write down. These are also the people seated around you today, men and women, young and old, who gather in Jesus’ name each week. Though it may be two thousand years later, we too are the ones for whom the testimony of the disciples, the evangelists, the visionaries, and the letter writes was meant. Now, in turn, we are those witnesses—witnessing to our faith in the risen Lord, here and now, when we gather in this sacrament, in his Body and Blood, in Word and Eucharist.
How can you bear witness to others?READ MORE
Reading I Acts 5:12-16 - Signs and wonders
Reading II Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 - First vision
Gospel John 20:19-31 - Appearance to the disciples; Thomas
Key Passage He placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever.” (Revelation 1:17b.18a)
Adults: When has your faith in the living Christ helped you overcome fear?
Kids: What could you do this Easter season to help someone feel less afraid?READ MORE
Resurrection changes everything. It stunned the disciples. Mary Magdalene, Peter, the disciple whom Jesus loved, the other apostles—they were all surprised, “for they did not understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9). Keep in mind that Jesus’ disciples did not write letters, or testimonies, or Gospels until years later. What we hear today was written well after they had encountered the risen Lord in one way or another. It was also after they realized that Jesus had prepared them for his resurrection well before they had come to Jerusalem. That first Easter morning, they were not expecting this. This mission that appeared to have ended in failure had been turned upside down. The tomb was empty. Jesus could not be contained in this place for the deceased. He had defeated death. He lives! And because he lives, we who have been baptized into his death live as well. This is why Paul tells the Colossians to seek what is above. This is why Paul tells the Corinthians to throw out the old yeast and bake a fresh batch of dough. Jesus is new yeast and we are new dough. With Christ in us, we shall rise as well. This is our Easter hope. This is our Easter joy.
How does the Easter message change the way you live your life?READ MORE
Reading I Acts 10:34a, 37-43 - Peter's discourse
Reading II Colossians 3:1-4 - Mystical death and resurrection
Gospel John 20:1-9 - Peter and the disciple at the tomb
Key Passage Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7)
Adults: What change could the hope of the resurrection of Christ inspire you to make?
Kids: What bad habit would you like to “clear out” during the hopeful time of this Easter season?READ MORE
Baptism is a crucially important sacrament. It’s the only sacrament mentioned explicitly in the Nicene Creed. Christ’s specially appointed forerunner was John the Baptist. And the first thing Christ did in His public ministry was to get baptized. Our human identity is intimately linked to the sacrament of Baptism. This may come as a surprise to some but the reality of our existence is intertwined to this first sacrament of initiation because it provides us with a rebirth as sons and daughters of God. The solemn significance of baptism is underscored by the fact that it can only be done once and is irreversible. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, baptism cannot be repeated.”READ MORE
Reading I Luke 19:28-40 - Welcomed with palms
Reading II Isaiah 50:4-7 - Salvation only through the Lord's servant
Gospel Philippians 2:6-11 - Jesus, compassionate high priest
Key Passage The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” (Luke 22:61)
Adults: When have you felt that you betrayed the confidence of another, as Peter did when he denied Jesus?
Kids: When have you let someone down who trusted you? How did you feel?READ MORE
He had to have heard him. Even on the cross, his last breath just hours away, Jesus heard the criminal next to him when he addressed him, so he must have heard him when he’d said to the other criminal, “We have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes” (Luke 23:41). He makes no pretense of innocence. He makes no excuse for his sentence, so his crime must have been particularly heinous. But now, hours away from death himself, he addresses Jesus with one thing, one thing only: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (23:42). Jesus, who throughout his Passion had acted with boundless compassion (“compassion” literally meaning “to suffer”), praying that Peter’s faith not fail (22:32), praying that disciples not suffer (22:40), healing the high priest’s servant’s ear (22:51), comforting the women who accompanied him (23:28), and asking forgiveness of those who condemned him (23:24), now assures this criminal, this criminal whom he has heard admit that he was condemned justly and sentenced appropriately, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (23:43). What consolation it must give us to know the extent of Jesus’ compassion.
Follow the example of Jesus, how can you be compassionate even while you are suffering?READ MORE
In today’s Palm Sunday Liturgy, we start with the Opening Antiphon of “Hosanna to the Son of David…”. Also, in every Liturgy of the Eucharist, we say or sing “Hosanna in the highest…” during the Holy, Holy in the Eucharistic Prayer. Even though we say it every week or every day, do we know what it means? The word’s origin comes from a Hebrew phrase for an exclamation of praise, especially for Jewish festivals, such as Passover.
The word Christians use today is the Greeks’ creation. They used Greek letters to create the pronunciation of a Hebrew phrase: hoshiya na, meaning, “Save, please!” The word “hosanna” came in liturgical usage to serve as an expression of joy and praise for deliverance granted or anticipated. When Jesus came to Jerusalem for his final presentation of himself to Israel, the expression came readily to the lips of the Passover crowds.READ MORE
Reading I Isaiah 43:16-21 - Promise of restoration
Reading II Philippians 3:8-14 - Breaking with the past
Gospel John 8:1-11 - The adulteress
Key Passage Jesus straightened up and said, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
Adults: Have you ever been too willing to "cast the first stone" when you disapproved of someone's behavior? How can you resist these feelings?
Kids: When have you criticized or made fun of someone? What could help you act differently?READ MORE
The people who gathered in the temple area that day expected to witness a stoning. The woman had been caught in adultery, so according to Moses, she deserved to be stoned. But instead they end up witnessing a dramatic act of redemption. Jesus outwits the authorities who want to trap him. When no one is left to condemn the woman, Jesus forgives her, releases her, and tell her to sin no more. She had expected to be killed, but instead she is set free. She has been brought back to life. Brought back to life like the Israelites, out of bondage and into the promised land in Moses’ time. Brought out of exile and back home, in Isaiah’s era. Brought back to life like Saint Paul, who had persecuted Christians, but now was “taken possession of by Christ” (Philippians 3:12). We come here today as sinful people. If we were judged by the worst we have done or failed to do, would we not be condemned? Yet we too are touched by God’s grace. In God’s care, in Christ’s hands, we sinners, like the adulterous woman, like the Chosen People, like Saint Paul, are redeemed. We are brought back to life.
Do Jesus’ words give you pause when you are about to cast stones?READ MORE