The Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 26, 2019
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(I know you’re having a holiday weekend but, if nothing else, listen to today’s glorious song)
Today, in Mercy, in our readings, we definitely get the sense of a young Church growing in its self-understanding.
The early Church leaders, most of whom are Jews, grapple with the question of whether new Gentile followers must first be circumcised in order to be baptized.
Over twenty centuries later, the answer seems obvious. But the question nagging the disciples shows us how they experienced their Christianity as emerging from Judaism. They had no concept of the call to Christianity coming in any other way.
It seems it was a huge shift for some of them to realize that God is not Jewish, that God is the God of all peoples – just as some of us today have trouble understanding that God is not Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, male, white, born again or any other human limitation we attach to the Divine.
Our second reading reveals how John dealt with navigating this shift. Still cemented in his Jewish symbols, he sees “Jerusalem” coming down out of heaven from God. But it was a new Jerusalem – one without the central symbol of Judaism, the Temple:
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.
For John, the New Creation in Christ included, but exceeded the Jewish narrative.
In our Gospel, Jesus prepares his disciples for life without his physical presence. They, too, need to learn to let go. He encourages them to open their hearts to even greater graces:
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.
Jesus is reminding his disciples, and us, that the graces and learnings of the New Creation are infinite. If we can learn when to let go of our old practices, our material symbols, our impregnable sureties, the Holy Spirit will astound us, and re-shape our understanding of God, just as She did for Mary, Peter, Paul, John and all the many enlightened saints through the ages.
As Pentecost approaches, let us pray for such Enlightenment in ourselves and especially in our Church. For the world grows ever more resistant to the Holy Spirit Whose Gifts are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and awe of God.
Let us pray for a New Jerusalem where all are one in God.
Music: If you do nothing else with this reflection, please allow yourselves the thrill of listening to the celestial voice of Miss Jessye Norman. (Always gives me goosebumps!)