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Archive for May, 2011

(readings available at USCCB website http://www.usccb.org/nab/ )

Matthew 28:16-20  Mark indicates that the Ascension took place while the apostles were in Jerusalem (Mk. 16:19).  Luke places it near Bethany in his gospel (24:50-53) and on the Mount of Olives (on the eastern slope of which Bethany is located) in Acts of the Apostles (1:12).  Here Matthew situates the event on a mountain in Galilee. 

At the beginning of his gospel, Matthew rearranged Jesus’ genealogy (1:1-17, compare to the longer and very different version in Luke 3:23-38) by multiples of seven to emphasize that Jesus was the perfection of the faith of Abraham, the kingship of David, and the Word of God which was made accessible to all Jews through the educational programs developed during the Babylonian Captivity. 

Here at the end of his gospel, Luke again rearranges his information for theological purposes, connecting the Ascension to the prefiguring of the glory of Jesus as witnessed by three of the apostles at the mountain of Transfiguration (Luke 17:1).  Now all the apostles would see his glory.  Unlike the command to three apostles at the earlier event (17:9), they would not be silenced in sharing what they witnessed with the whole world. 

Jesus’ final words, as he departs from their sight, are the best summary of our mission as his disciples and the perfect ending to the gospel.  Matthew did not write merely to impart understanding and faith in the heart of the reader.  These closing words drive us to get out and be about the work of God.  Now that Jesus has definitively departed physically from the presence of his disciples, it becomes incumbent on them to take up the mission and be his physical presence.

Reading 1, Acts 1:1-11   As with his gospel (Luke 1:1-4), Luke addresses the Acts of the Apostles to “Theophilus”.  Luke was not writing for a person of that name, for “Theophilus” is a combination of two Greek words meaning “friend of God” or “one loved by God”.  In this way Luke addresses his gospel in a personal manner to everyone who loves God and is loved by God. 

Jesus spends the days after his resurrection instructing the apostles and giving them sufficient proofs that he actually was alive.   Their question immediately prior to his Ascension {“Are you now going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”) indicates that they still have not understood what they will be about.  That will have to wait for the fuller outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Samaria is mentioned here practically in the same breath as Judea.  In last week’s first reading (Acts 8:5-8) we read the account of the conversion of many Samaritans without questioning the appropriateness of receiving them into the Christian Way as non-Jews, a major issue in the 1st century church.  Each group, Jews and Samaritans, considered themselves the true bearers of the one and same tradition.  After centuries of division and hostilities between the two groups, Christianity bridged the gap.  The gospel accounts of Jesus’ contact with and mention about Samaritans are probably included as a backdrop for later Christians to accept the uniting of peoples in one faith.

Given their common authorship, it is interesting to read and note the differences in the ascension accounts provided here and in Luke 24:50-53.   

Reading II, Ephesians 1:17-23  Paul is the master of the run-on-sentence with this beautiful prayer for the people of the Ephesus region.  It would have been a perfect prayer for the apostles during the days following Jesus’ Ascension prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit as it has been for Christians throughout the centuries and is for us today.  That is what makes this letter the “living word” of God.  During his more than two years in the region, Paul had been an instrument, either directly or indirectly, in the conversion of hundreds of people from both Jewish and Greek mystical religions.  Converts from Judaism had a clear understanding of there being only one God.  Those from the Greek religions, however, did not.  They believed in multiple gods of varying degrees or spheres of power and importance.  To, as we say today, “get their mind wrapped around” the concept of one God was difficult, so Paul simply tells them that Jesus is above whatever gods in whom they had previously put their confidence. 

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Andy helped me with my camera one evening as I was preparing to take a picture for another People in the Pews.  I told him his turn was coming!

I took a different approach on his – I sent him an e-mail asking  “What would you like to tell me (and others) about your faith story, which includes things like feelings about the congregation, service, music, etc…

Andy says, ” I love St. Dominic Church! Being a part of Joyful Noise over the past six years has been a great way to serve the church and get to know the community better. I have also served as a confirmation small group leader the past two years and I really enjoy my confirmation group!”

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Please note any corrections or objections to content in a comment below and changes will be made.

This wonderful Easter setting  celebrating Christ’s  continuing presence among us is especially appropriate for Christ’s presence in these students’  First Communion.

(Picture below compliments of Luigi Sison)

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Please join me in welcoming those at St. Dominic who participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults – R.C.I.A. – at the Easter Vigil of 2011.

From left to right:  Jaimee Hoefert, Andrew Ayetey, Debbie Mergens, Hugh Kenety, Rick Nelson, Liz Swanson.  Catherine Oliver is not in picture.

For more information about R.C.I. A. go to  http://www.ecatholic2000.com/rcia/rcia.shtml.

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The bulletin for May 29, 2011 has been published and can be found here: http://churchofstdominic.org/cluster/bulletin

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Ann on a 71st birthday trip

Dear Ann,

You shouldn’t be crying!!  **

Don’t you realize what an inspiration you are to many people? At least you are to me. I don’t think it’s so sad that you have Parkinsons and that it’s slowly taking abilities away from you. I think it’s so beautiful how you keep pushing and trying and running the race! That you are choosing to live in FAITH!

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John 14:15-21  The Greek word “paraclete” literally means “one who calls out for another” and could be translated as spokesman, mediator, intercessor, comforter, or a defense counselor.  Here it is translated as “advocate”.  For whom will the Holy Spirit be the advocate?  In 1 John 2:1 Jesus is called the Advocate before the Father for any person who sins.  There is not really a need for an advocate before the Father since the Father and Son are one and the Son expresses what is in the heart of the Father.  The text from 1 John is more an extra assurance for Christians who forget that unity of Father and Son and tend to fall into some Old Testament concepts of an angry God. 

The Holy Spirit is an Advocate in Jesus’ name for Christians, but before whom will the Holy Spirit defend us or present our case?  Since there is no division within the three Persons of God, the Holy Spirit does not defend us before the Father.  In verse 26 we are told that the Holy Spirit Advocate will teach and remind us of all that Jesus had done and spoken.  Likewise, in John 15:26 Jesus says the Advocate testify to him.  The Holy Spirit then is an Advocate for Christians as they face the “court” of the world in which they live.  The Holy Spirit provides support and defense against the challenges Christians will face as they live the faith.  Mark 13:11(also Matthew 10:19-20 and Luke 12:11-12) indicate that the Holy Spirit will speak for Christians and give them the words to say when they are brought before civil authorities for being followers of Christ.  The Holy Spirit will not come merely for a visit but will remain forever, continuing to speak the truth of Jesus to us and through us.  No moment would show so clearly the convergence of these two dynamics as the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost followed by their proclamation of Jesus to thousands of people in the streets of Jerusalem that same day.     

Reading 1, Acts 8:5-8, 14-17  The emperor Augustus awarded the city of Samaria, ancient capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, to Herod the Great in 30 BC.  Herod renamed the city Sebaste (the feminine form of the name Augustus in Greek) and rebuilt it into a beautiful Greek-style city with a new city wall, theater, acropolis and colonnaded main street.  Luke uses the older name for the city which was also the name of the region between Galilee and Judea.  When a persecution broke out in Jerusalem following the murder of Stephen, followers of the Way “scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1).  Acts 8:4-25 recounts the early ministry of the church in the Samaria region.

The Philip referred to here is probably the deacon, not the apostle by the same name.  This seems to be borne out by the fact that the converts in Samaria had been baptized but had not yet received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 10-11the Church leaders debate the issue of whether or not Gentiles may be baptized.  The fact that the conversion and baptism of the Samaritans takes place prior to that moment seems to indicate as different attitude or approach.  The Samaritans considered themselves the true upholders of the Jewish religion which they believed to have been changed by the Jews returning from the Babylonian captivity.  Both groups claimed to represent the true Jewish faith and so the leaders of each group forbade contact with the other.  The point here is that Samaritans already practiced circumcision and followed what they believed to be the dictates of the Mosaic Law.  This would explain the ease with which they were accepted for baptism as members of the church with no controversy. 

Reading II, 1 Peter 3:15-18  As mentioned in a previous commentary, Peter was martyred in Rome between 64 and 67 A.D.  The first letter attributed to him in the New Testament, likely written from Rome in the time leading up to Peter’s death, is addressed to Christians in regions he had evangelized and who were being affected to some extent by the same persecution under Nero who became emperor in 54 A.D. at the age of 17 and ruled until his death at the age of 31 in 68 A.D.  Peter encourages Christians to be strong in the testimony of lives of love for one another and to maintain a positive hopeful attitude based on the promises of our faith.  People should be drawn to ask Christians what motivates them to live in such a way.  Then the verbal testimony can be shared with “gentleness and reverence”.  During times of persecution, Christians will be able to give testimony by suffering unjust treatment without returning evil for evil.  The truth will eventually come out and people of good heart will be drawn to faith in Jesus Christ through such testimony.

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