6th Sunday of Easter – Knowing God, Loving As Jesus

St. Peter Baptizing the Centurion Cornelius, Francesco Trevisani (1656-1746)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Sixth Sunday of Easter
1 John 4:7-10
May 9, 2021

One of the most beloved verses in Scripture is John 3:16:

For God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
might not perish
but might have eternal life

(Jn 3:16)

It is very beautiful and moving but somewhat vague.

The lines that follow can be easily misinterpreted as meaning that we be saved, receive eternal life, by mentally acknowledging the mission and divinity of Jesus.

For God did not send his Son into the world
to condemn the world, but
that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him
will not be condemned, but
whoever does not believe
has already been condemned,
because he has not believed
in the name of the only Son of God

(Jn 3:17–18)

Some readers of John the Evangelist, the author of the Gospel, would have interpreted this passage in this way. (Please see the commentary for April 17, 2021 for an explanation of the different people to whom we apply the name John.) Love is important in every time and place, but the word has many different meanings. A twentieth century theologian wrote that love has run through our times like a greased pig. Love always makes itself felt but the meaning is hard to grasp onto. Most people would define love as a feeling and often merely being polite and “nice.”

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Good Shepherd Sunday – Beginning with Justice, Ending with Love

The Good Shepherd, c. 300–350, at the Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome (Wikipedia)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Good Shepherd Sunday
1 John 3:1-2
April 25, 2021

The risen Jesus determines how we view the past, live in the present, and what we expect in the future. Today’s reading from the 1st Letter of John most directly looks at the future but will shed light on the others as well.

The writings attributed to St John were the product of an entire community over a considerable period. This community formed around the “beloved disciple” an eyewitness to the events of Jesus’ life. The first writing was the original edition of the Gospel. This was composed by John “the Evangelist” and directed to the early community which knew the Beloved Disciple and had a grasp of Judaism. Over time the community grew and become more diverse. The leaders could no longer count on familiarity either with the person and witness of the beloved disciple nor a common and basically Jewish understanding of Jesus and his mission. The letters are a product of this diversity and written by a person we are calling John “the Presbyter,” or elder.

The question of an afterlife was a very live issue among the Jews of Jesus’s time. Many, perhaps most, Jews did not believe in an afterlife in any way we would desire. The exception were the Pharisees. They held that to vindicate the faithfulness of God we must expect an afterlife.

Their reasoning may seem foreign to us, but I find it profound and convincing.

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3rd Sunday of Easter – Building a Diverse Community of Faith

The Appearance of Christ at the Cenacle, James Tissot, 1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum
(About this Image)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
3rd Sunday of Easter
1 John 2:1-5a
April 18, 2021

Often if we look at a mountain on a cloudless day it will seem extremely close, yet it might be a walk of several days. The clarity itself may bring on what is in effect an illusion. This is an effective way of looking at the relationship between the Gospel of John and the Epistles. The Evangelist saw some things more clearly than he could express to the less gifted and complications ensured. This is most likely us.

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Divine Mercy Sunday – Building Up the World

In Christ and Divine Mercy, image of Divine Mercy apparition to Sr. Faustina Kowalska, Stained Glass Inc. (CC license)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Divine Mercy Sunday
1 John 5:1-6
April 11, 2021

From now until the Seventh Sunday of Easter (May 16) our first readings will be from the Acts of the Apostles, our second readings from the first letter of St. John and (with one exception) our gospels from St. John. We will take this opportunity to look at the 1st Letter of John with special care. It will bring the entire message of the community which formed around the Beloved Disciple into greater clarity. We must begin by noting that this is the work of a community over time. The Gospel and Letters of John were composed as the community developed and they mark the signs of this growth. Scholars have detected four stages:

(1) The “Beloved Disciple” (usually referred to as John) – This Gospel many times remarks on the close relationship between Jesus and the beloved disciple and that he may have lived longer than the other disciples. He was an eyewitness to the events that the Gospel relates. This Gospel shows greater familiarity with Jewish customs and rituals and the geography of the Holy Land than the others. That the Gospel of John and other writings can be traced to an eyewitness is more than plausible as is its connection to a charismatic figure as we can assume the beloved disciple was.

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Easter – The Depth of His Love, The Depth of Our Need

The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Tomb, Eugène Burnand, 1898, Musée d’Orsay
(About this Image)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Easter Sunday
Colossians 3:1–4
April 4, 2021

The readings for Easter Sunday are all from the New Testament. Of the available options, we will look at Colossians 3:1–4. Discussions on Colossians usually become overly concerned if it was written by St. Paul or a disciple. This is of scholarly interest, but we need to remember that no matter who wrote it, Colossians is still inspired. It speaks to matters which are eerily relevant to our own day.

We should look at “Why a letter to the Colossians?” and “Who were the philosophers who are being opposed?”

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Palm Sunday – Beginning Our Journey

Entry into Jerusalem, Wilhelm Morgner, 1912, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, Germany.
(About this Image)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Gospel
Passion (Palm) Sunday
Mark 14:1—15:47
March 28, 2021

The first reading for Passion (Palm) Sunday is the same every year: Isaiah 50:4-7. We reviewed it last year and, as it was during the Pandemic, my comments would not have changed. It will be interesting to look at it again next year when we should be able to see what the new normal has been.

As always, we will read the Passion and let us examine a question about it for which the answer can only be found in the Old Testament and Jewish custom: “Why did Jesus die during Passover week?”

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5th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Transforming Our Hearts

Jesus Wept, James Tissot, 1886-1896, Brooklyn Museum.

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the First Reading
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Jeremiah 31:31-34
March 21, 2021

This week we once more have a choice of readings. Jeremiah will be read at the 9 AM Mass and Ezekiel at the 11:15 AM Mass. We will examine Jeremiah today and call attention to the commentary on Ezekiel from last year.

Jeremiah was a most fascinating and complex person. We can find his background in the commentary for Oct. 28, 2018. He was cursed to live in interesting times and in an interesting place. The kingdom of Judah with Jerusalem as its capital found herself between two great empires. Egypt was always at the south and the north passed between several powers in Judah’s 400-year history. Judah was able to maintain at least formal independence by playing one power off against the other. This required that the kings of Judah be nimble and lucky. As a young man, Jeremiah saw a political and religious renaissance but he lived to see the end of the Kingdom. This was death in slow motion from a fatal misjudgment of who really had power in 611 to the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586.

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