Other Sunday and Holy Day Readings
5th SUNDAY IN EASTER (Cycle A)
All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).
God revealed His divine plan for humanity in the two Testaments, and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).
The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: The Time of Fulfillment
The Greek language has two words for time: chronos is time that can be measured in hours or years, and charios is time of opportunity as in a time for receiving God's grace = charis. Charios for Christians is when we experience the mysterious presence of God. This "time of grace" is a gift of God which we must actively embrace to experience as in the moment we choose to receive the gift of God's grace in the Eucharist. Chronos time alters us as we grow older with every day and year. Charios is also time that is life altering, but as we receive the gift of God's charis/grace we experience divine life and spiritual regeneration that leads to eternal life. Jesus is the way to eternal life (Gospel Reading) and now is the time of fulfillment.
In today's First and Second Readings, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is established and moves forward in its mission to teach the Gospel of salvation. It is a time of fulfillment as the Church, in the first apostolic act of the Magisterium (St. Peter and the Apostles), appoints deacons to assist the Apostles in works of mercy for the Jerusalem community (the First Reading). The Church is the spiritual house built on the "cornerstone" of Jesus Christ our eternal High Priest and we are His "living stones" that form the structure of His Church (Second Reading). Now is the time of our fulfillment in the mission that Jesus has given His Church to receive His spiritual gifts and to share those gifts with the world.
The First Reading Acts 6:1-7 ~ The Appointment of
1 At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve [diakonein] at table. 3 Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, 4 whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. 5 The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the Apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. 7 The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith. [..] = literal translation (IBGE, vol. IV, page 336).
The "Hellenists" are Greek culture Jews. Many of the Greek cultur Jewish-Christian widows were probably from Roman provinces outside Judea. There were a great number of Hellenist widows in Jerusalem. It was the custom for Jews from the Diaspora to return to Jerusalem in their old age to die in the land of their ancestors. Unfortunately, they often left their surviving widows destitute. The Hellenists accused the Jewish-Christians disbursing the food of favoring local Aramaic speaking Jewish widows over the Greek culture Jewish widows.
the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not
right for us to neglect the word of God to serve [diakonein] at table.
Dealing with this dispute and others like it was a problem for the Apostles. Administrative issues concerning the community were taking the Apostles away from the most important part of their ministry—prayer and preaching the Word to the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea. They decided to ordain Spirit-filled men to serve the community of believers so they would be free to pray and preach.
Between the twelve Apostles and the seven deacons there was a division of labor within the community with the Twelve praying and preaching the Gospel and the Seven assisting the Twelve, especially in works of charity. This division of labor does not mean, however, that the Seven did not also proclaim the Gospel, which is the duty of all Christians. The noun "deacon" (diakonos), which St. Paul will use in Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8-13 is from the Greek and means "one who serves." St. Paul will advise St. Timothy on the selection of deacons, suggesting the same kind of critical examination fo their character (1 Tim 3:8-10, 12-13; also see Tit 1:5-9 CCC 1554).
proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man
filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon,
Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
All seven of the men have Greek names, as is fitting since they will be assisting Greek culture Christian widows who probably do not speak Aramaic. St. Stephen will become a pivotal figure in the continuing narrative of Acts of the Apostles as will St. Philip. The martyrdom of St. Stephen in Acts 7:59 will end the Jerusalem section of the Church's mission and St. Philip will open the movement of the Church's mission into Samaria in chapter 8.
presented these men to the Apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.
The Apostles ordained seven men by “the laying on of hands,” a means of transferring power. This transfer of power by "the laying on of hands" was also part of the ordination ritual for the Levitical lesser ministers (Num 8:10), the commissioning of Joshua (Num 27:18), and the symbolic transfer of life for atonement or consecration in the sacrificial rites (Ex 29:10). The Seven are the Church's first deacons, and it is clear from this passage that the diaconate is a sacred office of apostolic origin. In circa 107 AD, St. Ignatius of Antioch will write: "Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters as the senate of God and the assembly of the Apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church" (Ad Trall. 3.1).
Catholic doctrine teaches that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate/bishops and presbyterate/priests) and the degree of service (diaconate) are all three conferred by a sacramental act of ordination that is the Sacrament of Holy Orders (see CCC 1554). For the laying-on-of-hands in the sacramental rites of the Church today, see CCC 699, 1150, 1288, 1504, 1538, 1558, and 1573.
7 ~ The word of God continued to spread, and
the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group
of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
Peter and the Apostles continued to teach daily in the Temple. More and more Jews became part of the faithful remnant of the old Israel transformed into the new Israel of the universal Kingdom of the Church (CCC 877), even from among the chief priests of the Old Covenant who became New Covenant Christians. This verse is St. Luke's fifth notice of the growth of the Christian community in Acts (also see Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14).
Responsorial Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19 ~ Praising God
The response is: "Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you." Or "Alleluia."
Exult, you just, in the LORD; praise from the upright is fitting. Give thanks to the LORD on the harp; with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Upright is the word of the LORD, and all his works are trustworthy. He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.
Palm 33 begins with an invitation to the congregation to praise the LORD (verses 1-2) and continues with the reasons why God deserves our praise (verses 4-5 and 18-19). We should praise God because of the constancy and consistency of His word, because we can trust Him to fulfill His promises, because all His works are righteous and just, and because He shows the earth His compassion and mercy. Finally, the psalmist says we should praise God because His protection is over those who fear offending Him and who trust in His divine providence.
The Second Reading 1 Peter 2:4-9 ~ We are a Priesthood of
A reading from St. Peter's first letter to the universal Church: 4 Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, 5 and , like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it says in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame." 7 Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," 8 and "A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall." They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. 9 You are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises" of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
In this passage from St. Peter's letter to the universal Church, he uses Old Testament symbols and Scripture references. Rock or stone is a metaphor for God in the Old Testament (for example see Dt 32:4-16, 18, 30, 31; 2 Sam 23:3; Is 26:4; 30:29; Ps 1:3; 19:15; 62:3, 7) that Peter will use in this passage, connecting the Old Testament to its fulfillment in the New Covenant in Christ Jesus. He connects imagery from several Old Testament passages, including Isaiah 28:16 that speaks of a primal foundation stone and Psalm 118:22 that identifies the promised Messiah as a stone that is first rejected and then accepted as a cornerstone or foundation stone of a new order.
to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the
sight of God, 5 and, like living
stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood
to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
First Peter offers allusions to God's selection of Israel as His "chosen people" in Exodus 19 at the rock of Mt. Sinai. The new holy people are founded on another "Rock," the "living stone" that is Christ Jesus. Peter compares both Christ and Christians to "living stones." Christ is the "living stone" that was rejected by His own people (Ps 118:22; Acts 4:10-12) but chosen and precious to God (cf. Mt 3:17; 17:5; Lk 1:31-33; 9:15). Baptized believers also become "living stones" that are incorporated into Christ's Kingdom by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Baptism. These members are consecrated to be a "spiritual house" that is the Church and to a "holy priesthood" serving that "house." This common priesthood unites to Christ who is the sole priest in which all His members participate. The priesthood of believers offers spiritual sacrifices that become the living presence of Christ with His Church (see CCC 1141, 1179).
it says in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone,
chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame." 7 Therefore, its value is for you who have
faith, but for those without faith: "The stone that the builders rejected has
become the cornerstone..."
St. Peter supports his theme of Christ's acceptance and rejection with quotes from passages from the Old Testament: "Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame" is a quote from Isaiah 28:16 LXX but which Peter has adapted to his message. Through His death and resurrection, Christ became the "cornerstone" of God's people, a stone that is both precious and chosen, and those who believe in Christ will "not be put to shame" or disgraced. However, the value of Christ is only for those who have faith: 7 Therefore, its value is for you who have faith...
but for those without faith: "The stone that the builders
rejected has become the cornerstone,"
The theme of acceptance and rejection continues in the next two verses which are quotes and allusions from Psalm 118:22 LXX in verse 7, Isaiah 8:14 in verse 8, and allusions to Exodus 19:5-6, and Isaiah 43:19-21 in verses 9-10. "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" is a quote from Psalm 118:22. It is the same passage Jesus applied to Himself (Mt 21:42; Mk 12:10; Lk 20:17) and which Peter quoted to the Jewish Sanhedrin in his trial. He identifies Jesus as the "cornerstone" and defiantly tells the Jewish leaders that they are "the builders" who rejected Christ the "cornerstone" and Messiah.
"A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall." They
stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. 9 You are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises" of
him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Verse 8 is an allusion to Isaiah 8:14. Verse 9 recalls Israel's divine commissioning as God's chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation at Mt Sinai from Exodus 19:5-6 and the promised "something new" in the prophecy of a "chosen people" from Isaiah 43:19-21. By their rejection of Jesus and His Gospel of salvation, the Jews have "stumbled" and lost their prerogatives that are now transferred to the Christians of the "new Israel" (CCC 877).
Christians are anointed through baptism by the Holy Spirit to a "royal priesthood" (see Ex 19:6) to serve and worship God in Christ, continuing the priestly functions of His life and His mission. Christians are a "holy nation" who are chosen by God as His own possession (Ex 19:6; Mal 3:17) in virtue of Christian baptism into Jesus' death and resurrection. The titles in verse 9 not only identify the unity of the Church's relationship with God but its responsibility in the world. God called us out of the "darkness" of sin into the "light" of Christ (Jn 1:9; 9:12). It is a message of "light" that He calls us to share with the world.
The Gospel of John 14:1-12 ~ Jesus is the Way, the Truth,
and the Life
Jesus said to his disciples: 1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. 2 In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. 4 Where I am going you know the way." 5 Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him." 8 Philip said to him, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. 12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father."
This passage is from Jesus' last discourse to His disciples in the Upper Room on the night of the Last Supper. Jesus tells His disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me." In Hebrew the word for faith comes from the root 'mn and has the concept of firmness. In the Hebrew concept then, to have faith is to participate in God's firmness. Jesus is telling the disciples to have that same "firmness" of faith in Him that they have in God the Father.
2 In my Father's
house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you
that I am going to prepare a place for you?
The Greek word for "places to live" or "dwelling places" is mone and can refer to a night stop or resting-place for a traveler on a journey. St. Jerome in his Latin translation used the word mansio, meaning halting place. The most likely meaning Jesus is using in this passage is that in heaven there is a prepared final resting-place for the disciples and for all believers when we come to the end of our faith journey.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for
you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also
may be. 4 Where I am going you
know the way."
These words are not only addressed to those in the Upper Room but also to all faithful believers of every generation and every age. There is a double meaning in Jesus' use of the word "return." He is speaking of His Second Advent or Parousia at the end of the world (see 1 Cor 4:5; 11:25; 1 Thes 4:16-17; 1 Jn 2:28), and also His greeting of each soul after their journey of life on earth has bended. In John 13:33c, Jesus told the disciples that where He is going, they cannot come. Peter responds to this statement by asking in verse 36: "Master, where are you going?" to which Jesus replies: "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later." In the John 14:1-12 passage, Jesus provides more information about what they will find when they are able to follow Him.
5 Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know
where you are going; how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I AM the way and the truth and the
life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, then you will also know my
Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
Thomas is perplexed, just as the rest of the disciples must have been perplexed. He asks for clarification by picking up the challenge of the preceding verse, and Jesus responds by telling him that He is Himself the Way to the Father. Verse 6 is the sixth use of "I AM" with a predicate nominative in St. John's Gospel (also see 6:35; 8:12; 10:7; 10:11; 11:25). The use of I AM is a clear reference to the divine name "Yahweh" (Ex 3:14). Every time Jesus uses this expression, He is stating His divinity and His oneness with God the Father. And again Jesus expresses His oneness and unity of will with the Father in the three-fold expression of His identity as "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life." In this statement Jesus has effectively sums up His entire Messianic mission as the promised Messiah, fulfilling His mission to the Covenant people as God's holy anointed Prophet, Priest, and King (CCC 436, 1547).
Jesus is the Way to the Father. The Old Covenant prophets, priests and kings of Israel/Judah, as God's anointed representatives, were responsible for showing "the way" the people of the Covenant must follow to continue in communion with Yahweh. Now Jesus is redefining "the Way." There are five ways in which Jesus is "the Way" to the Father:
The destination of "the Way" is eternal life with the Father. This "life" is a gift the Father has given to the Son (Jn 5:26), and the Son alone can give it to those who believe in Him (Jn 10:28). Jesus' gift of natural life to Lazarus was a sign of the eternal reality behind Jesus' claim to be the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25-26).
No one comes to the Father except through me.
In this statement, Jesus clearly affirms that there is no other path linking heaven and earth. He is the only means of salvation. Reflecting on this passage from John 14:6, St. Josemaria Escriva writes in Friends of God: "Jesus is the way. Behind him on this earth of ours he has left the clear outlines of his footprints. They are indelible signs which neither the erosion of time nor the treachery of the evil one have been able to erase" (Friends of God, page 127). What we must do to know "the Way" is to faithfully follow those footprints.
St. Peter will affirm this truth in his great homily before the Jewish High Priest and the Sanhedrin in Acts 2:11-12, referencing Psalms 118:22 when he says "This is the stone which you the builders, rejected but which has become the cornerstone. Only in him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved." God would never condemn those ignorant of Christ's gift of salvation to an eternity of damnation. Those who never had a chance to hear the Gospel of salvation will be saved by righteously living the natural law in obedience to the dictates of their conscience which calls all men to a life of justice and mercy (see Rom 1:16-32, 2:14-16 and CCC 847-48). However, even those souls can be saved through the redeeming work of Christ the Savior.
Is it fair of God to demand this exclusivity by making Jesus the only means to salvation and for the Catholic Church to declare Outside the Church there is no salvation (at the end of CCC 845)? While it is true that in this teaching Christianity is indeed, in a sense, exclusive since it denies that other religious leaders like Buddha or Mohammed can provide through their teaching a means of salvation. Christianity does not accept the premise of ecumenism that "on the mountaintop all paths meet." According to the teachings of the New Testament and the Catholic Church, while other religions can provide sound teaching on moral living and a sincere search for God, only Jesus' path provides salvation. This exclusiveness is, however, mitigated by several factors:
The "Way" of Jesus is God's one true path. God has declared it as such. Therefore, rather than complaining about exclusivity and attempting to "play God" by suggesting alternatives to God's one plan to provide a remedy for sin and salvation, we should be grateful to the Most Holy Trinity for providing a way out of the sinful condition that is the inheritance from Adam of every human being. The "Way" is the New Covenant; it is the Covenant of Peace Yahweh promised in Jeremiah 31:31 and Ezekiel 37:24-26. Before the title "Christian" was adopted by the believers at the Church of Antioch in the first century AD, New Covenant believers referred to the New Covenant Church of Jesus Christ as "the Way." The title "The Way" is used for the New Covenant Church seven times in Acts of Apostles (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, and 22).
Jesus is the Truth, and we are called to the Truth. The Old Testament states that God is the source of all truth (see Ps 119:142; Pro 8:7; 2 Sam 8:7; etc.). In Jesus the Messiah, the complete truth of God has been made manifest to man. As the disciples of Christ, we promise to "live in the truth," in the sincerity and simplicity of a life that conforms to Jesus' life and to remain in His "Truth." St John wrote: If we say that we share in God's life while we are living in darkness, we are lying because we are not living the truth. But if we live in light, as he is in light, we have a share in one another's life, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:6-7). Also see CCC 2465-70
Jesus is the Life because it is only through Him that we have the promise of rebirth into the family of God through our Baptism and the gift of eternal life at the end of our journey to salvation (John chapter 3:1-21). St. Augustine writes that in this passage it is as though Jesus is asking each of us: "By which route do you want to go? I am the Way. To where do you want to go? I am the Truth. Where do you want to remain? I am the Life. Every man can attain an understanding of the Truth and the Life; but not all find the Way. The wise of this world realize that God is eternal life and knowable truth; but the Word of God, who is Truth and Life joined to the Father, has become the Way by taking a human nature. Make your way contemplating his humility and you will reach God" (De verbis Domini sermones, 54 as quoted from the Navarra Commentary: Gospel of St. John, page 185).
In verse 7, Jesus tells the disciples: "If you know me, then you will
also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen
him" (underlining added).
"To know," yada in Hebrew, is covenant language. It is used in the Old Testament for Israel's acknowledgment of Yahweh as her sole God and King and of Israel in her covenant relationship as His Bride. God promises through His prophet Jeremiah "I will give them a heart to know me" (Jer 24:7; also see Ex 29:46; 33:13; Dt 7:9; Jer 24:7; 31:34; Hos 13:14; Zec 2:9, 11; 4:9; etc.). This theme in Jesus' last discourse reflects the significant covenant atmosphere of the Last Supper and makes true knowledge of Yahweh part of the New Covenant. Jesus is insisting that they must know Him even as Old Covenant Israel knew Yahweh, but from now on in the New Covenant, it is Jesus who will be acknowledged by New Covenant believers as "My Lord and my God" (see John 20:28). Jesus is beginning to reveal a deep mystery to the disciples concerning His relationship to God the Father. It is a mystery at this point that they simply cannot understand; it is the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.
said to him, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us."
The disciples cannot understand Jesus' oneness with the Father, and this confusion causes Philip to press the issue and to ask for a sign that what Jesus says is true.
9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you
for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me
has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father
and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my
own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the
Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Jesus rebukes Philip. He has already shown Philip "works" that should be evidence enough for him to believe that He and the Father are One. Some of Jesus' supernatural miracles include:
Only God can control nature and give life. Jesus chastises Philip for not recognizing His divine condition through these signs even though He has the nature and physical appearance of a man.
amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and
will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father."
Jesus promises His Apostles that their works will be even greater than the ones they have witnessed in His ministry. It is not that the Apostles will be greater than Jesus. It is instead that the Apostles' power comes from Christ and after His Ascension He will do even greater works through them as His emissaries to the world. St. Augustine writes that Jesus is saying "I shall then do greater works than now; greater, by him who believes in me, than I now do by myself without him" (The Gospel of John, 72.1).
It is only through Jesus Christ that we have access to the Father. Jesus says to us what He said to Thomas: "I am the way" and to Philip: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." Jesus is God's Living Word to us. We must open up to God's Word because now is the charios (time) to receive God's charis (grace/favor); it is a gift freely given, but it must be accepted and used to advance and fulfill the Kingdom in the world and in our lives.
Acts 6:6 (CCC 432); 6:7 (CCC 595)
1 Peter 2:4-5 (CCC 1141, 1179); 2:4 (CCC 552); 2:5 (CCC 756, 901, 1268, 1330, 1546)
John 14:1 (CCC 151); 14:2-3 (CCC 2795); 14:2 (CCC 661); 14:3 (CCC 1025); 14:6 (CCC 74, 459, 1698, 2466, 2614); 14:9-10 (CCC 470, 516)
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2014