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Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C, May 12, 2013 Lectionary index # 61

If your parish celebrates the Ascension of the Lord this Sunday, click here to find those Lector's Notes.

Twenty-second digests for the congregation: Arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.

The presider may speak these before the first and second readings, and before rising for the gospel acclamation. Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.

Seventh Sunday of Easter, year C, May 12, 2013
Before the first reading:

The Acts of the Apostles were written to introduce Gentile converts to the Jewish roots of their new religion, and to explain Christianity's rupture with Judaism. The story of the deacon Stephen's teaching and martyrdom highlights those issues.
Between psalm and second reading:

The Book of Revelation sought to help early persecuted Christians hang on to their faith. Today's passage shows how high are the stakes. It refers to the tree of life; in the creation story in Genesis, Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden to keep them away from that tree. In this passage, Christ's followers receive the rights to that tree.
Before the gospel acclamation:

We continue Jesus' address at his farewell supper. He expresses the deepest intimacy with his Father, and prays that his disciples enjoy that, too. The consequences will be communion among the believers, and that will convince the world that Jesus is the Son of the Father.

To pay for use of the words above, please subtract an equal number of optional words from other places in the liturgy (click here for some suggestions).

First reading, Acts 7, 55-60 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

Our Liturgical and Literary Setting: You can get the whole context of the story of Stephen only by reading Acts, chapter 6 and chapter 7. But even the fragment in today's Lectionary selection hints at some rich themes: As these Notes frequently state, one of the purposes of Acts was to introduce Gentile converts to the Jewish roots of their new religion, and at the same time explain Christianity's rupture with its ancestor tradition, and Christianity's openness to non-Jews, for which there was little precedent. The story of Stephen, especially if read in its entirely, certainly speaks of the break.

Your Proclamation: As for how to read this passage aloud, make Stephen's words sound like Stephen would have sounded. On your lips, his words should sound more dramatic than the recitation of the surrounding narrative. But then, when you report that he "saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God," some of his awe should be in your voice, too.

Second Reading, Revelation 22, 12-14, 16-17, 20 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical and Literary Background: The first readers of this book were facing life-and-death struggles with persecutors. Revelation tries to encourage them and to convince them that the stakes are as high as they can be. So note the promised "right to the tree of life." This refers to Genesis 3:21-24. There God ruminates about "the man" having snatched forbidden fruit from one tree, and decides to expel him from the garden, because "he must not be allowed to stretch forth his hand to take fruit from the tree of life also, and thus eat of it and live forever." John is telling us that in Jesus, the ancient prohibition of eternal life has been lifted. The earliest drama in the Bible has been brought to completion on this, the Bible's last page.

That's a measure of the importance of this passage. For the original audience, this sums up their reasons to hold on in their present hardship and to look forward to a different future. These paragraphs are like the energetic final bars of a great symphony. And as in a symphony performance, earlier parts may have seemed disconnected, and listeners (and performers) may have been distracted, but in the finalé, everyone knows where it's going and is paying attention. Imagine yourself the conductor. As they say in the music business, now you have to bring this home.

Your Proclamation: In announcing this, be careful to distinguish between John's voice and Jesus' voice. Jesus has to sound authoritative and reassuring. John, the narrator, should sound hopeful and enthusiastic. If you practice this before a friend or family member, your coach should be able to tell who's talking without reading the text.

To alert the congregation that something special is afoot here, you could start by announcing "The Conclusion of the Book of Revelation" rather than the usual title.

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Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
Father Roger Karban of Belleville, Illinois, USA, writes a newspaper column about every Sunday's readings. Here are his essays for today's passages, from: courtesy of The Evangelist, official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, or of The Belleville Messenger, of the Diocese of Belleville.

Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here, at the site of FOSIL, the Faithful of Southern Illinois.

Retired Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson prepares detailed notes for a study group.
Click here for his notes on Acts 16:16-34, Psalm 97, Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21, and John 17:20-26 (same second reading and gospel passages as in the Catholic lectionary today).
The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes Saint Louis University's excellent Sunday liturgy-preparation site

(Caveat lector. As of April 14, 2013, Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact URL of SLU's offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).

The Lectionary selections in the frame at the left, if any, are there for your convenience. The publishers of the page in that frame have no connection, except for membership in the one Body of Christ, with the publisher of this page. Likewise the publishers of the pages on the links above.

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Last modified: April 14, 2013