Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2016
One of the purposes of the Acts of the Apostles was to introduce Gentile converts to the Jewish roots of their new religion, and to explain how the religion broke out of the historical exclusiveness of Judaism. This reading describes some of the steps along that path.
The Book of Revelation sought to encourage persecuted Christians. Here it takes as a symbol the ancient, city Jerusalem, long a token of God's favor to the Jews. The image of a new Jerusalem speaks of God's favor extended and made permanent.
John, chapter 13, begins Jesus' long Passover supper discourse. Here he speaks of his coming passion as his glorification. In the same breath he reminds his disciples to love one another.
The Historical Setting: Acts, as these Notes say often, was written to introduce Gentile converts to their new religion's Jewish roots. It explains how divine providence used human passions to let the religion break out of its early exclusiveness and embrace the world. The frenetic travels of the apostles, the persecutions, the organizational changes, are all part of this story.
For the record, "that city" in the first sentence (verse 21) is Derbe (see verse 20).
Your Proclamation: In preparing to proclaim this passage, decide early how you'll pronounce the place names, and practice. The "correctness" of your pronunciation matters less than the smoothness of it. The idea is to give the congregation the idea that the apostles traveled widely and briskly, because they were eager to spread the word of God.
The appointment of "elders" is interesting. The New American Bible, 1971 edition, points out that Paul is careful to appoint officers only after a local church community has proven faithful through hardship. This suggests that the lector should give special emphasis to Paul and Barnabas's statement, "It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships ..."
The Historical Setting: Like the exhortations of Paul and Barnabas, the book of Revelation was written to bolster the faith of persecuted early Christians. Today's passage begins the final section of the book.
The image of a new Jerusalem: The ancient city Jerusalem had long been for the Jews a token of God's presence with them. God had aided them in capturing and holding it, in making it their capital, in building the Temple there, and in returning to it after their exile in Babylon. Within the holiest chamber of the Jerusalem Temple, they kept the stone tablets of the Law given to Moses in an enthroned chest known as the ark of the Covenant. God was thought to dwell in a particular way in the space above the ark. This all gives richness to the image of a new Jerusalem. This is, in the end, a metaphor for the Church, which is always called to reveal to the human race God's presence among us.
Your proclamation: The central religious question any person or group can ask is, "Is God with us or not?" That amounts to asking "Are we ultimately on our own here, or do we have a hidden partner who both helps us and holds us accountable for our response to that help?" The answer of the book of Revelation is clear, and the lector should announce it resoundingly in this reading: "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race."
Certificate of First Holy Communion of the author's paternal grandmother. Multilingual people of Hungarian stock, Grandma's family left the Austro-Hungarian Empire (specifically, turf that is now in Romania) in the early 20th century, and came to Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. They joined Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church. Click here for a large (8MB) copy of the certificate.
Lector's Notes should be easily readable on any device, including small-screen ones like cell phones and tablets. This is among the first of a few hundred pages to be converted to a responsive format (responsive to the kind of screen you are using). So when you're not serving as lector, and you arrive at church and mute your cell phone, you can brief yourself on the readings you're about to hear. Format conversion is a work-in-progress and will be so until maybe April of 2018.
This page updated February 19, 2016