Tag Archives: Farewell Discourse

Weekday Readings: 5th Week of the Easter Season

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Monday Acts 14,5-18; John 14, 21-26
Tuesday Acts 14,19-28; John 14, 27-31
Wednesday Acts 15,1-6; John 15, 1-8
Thursday Acts 15, 7-21; John 15, 9-11
Friday Acts 15, 22-31; John 15, 12-17
Saturday Acts 16,1-10; John 15,18-21

The gospel readings for the remainder of the Easter season are from the Farewell Discourse from John’s gospel. Jesus says he is going to the Father. What does that mean, his disciples wonder.

“I will not leave you orphans,” Jesus says, yet he will not be with them as he was before, but he will be with them as God is always with them. Now, the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, will teach them all things; Jesus’ presence  will be signs.

The Acts of the Apostles continue to describe  the church’s journey in time. This week’s readings describe the successful missionary efforts of Paul and Barnabas among the gentiles in the Asia Minor cities of Lystra, Derbe, and Pisidia. The mission raises questions in the Jewish Christian community at Jerusalem. Are the gentiles taking over? To meet what some considered a threat and others an opportunity,  a council was called in Jerusalem, which has  enormous consequences for the church.

Conflict causes the church to grow, Pope Francis said some time ago: “But some in Jerusalem, when they heard this, became ‘nervous and sent Barnabas on an “apostolic visitation”: perhaps, with a little sense of humor we could say that this was the theological beginning of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: this apostolic visit by Barnabas. He saw, and he saw that things were going well.”

Previously in his homily, the pope said that persecution or crises bring growth, often hidden. In the 1960s and 70s, as the church in the western world experienced critical times and decline, tremendous growth took place in Africa, Asia, and South America. Today there are 1.2 billion Catholics in a world of 6 billion people.

And it’s not over yet.

The End is Only a Beginning

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We begin reading the Farewell Discourse from John’s gospel along with the Acts of the Apostles this 4th week of Easter. Facing their loss of Jesus the disciples seem helpless as he says farewell. “I have a lot to say to you, but you cannot bear it now,” he says. The Lord recognizes their paralysis.

In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, on the other hand, Paul and his companions are not helpless at all. They’re boldly on their way to places that may not seem impressive to us now, but were impressive places then: Psidian Antioch, Philippi, Athens, Corinth. Three were important Roman colonies, strategic cities on the Roman grid, steps on the road to Rome itself. Athens, of course, was a key intellectual center of the empire, though maybe a little down-trodden when Paul got there.

Paul welcomed people into his growing ministry. Meeting Lydia, the trader in purple dyes at the river, he baptizes her and her household. How many did she bring to the gospel? Priscilla and Acquila, the two Jews that Claudius expelled from Rome during the Jewish riots of AD 42, became his trusted partners.

Maybe it’s good that we read these two scriptures together.

The Acts of the Apostles tell of a church confidently on its way to the ends of the earth to fulfill its mission.

The Farewell Discourse, on the other hand, says that sometimes a church can be paralyzed in its thinking and acting. But the Lord is the shepherd of both. What seems like the end can be only a beginning.

My Peace I Leave You

The gospel readings for the remainder of the Easter season are from the Farewell Discourse of Jesus from John’s gospel. (Chapters 13-17) At Passover, Jesus’ hour arrives when “he had to pass from this world to his Father.” (John 13,1) The mystery of his death and resurrection is here.

At his announcement, uncertainty and questions disturb his disciples. They’ve known and loved him intimately; now he tells them he’s leaving, for awhile, and they will no longer see him, for awhile. They seem to hear only the word “death.” During the farewell discourse, the disciples, like Mary Magdalene in the garden, try to cling to him. “Do not cling to me. I have not ascended to my father and your father, to my God and your God.”

They’ll be living in the “in-between-time.” They wont see him again as they’ve known him physically; nor will they see him in glory, unless it’s the glory reflected from his cross. Jesus promises not to leave them orphans, but he won’t be with them as he was with them before in the flesh. He will be with them as God is with them.

The “in-between-time” is the time of the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, who will teach them all things. Jesus too will be present, but in sacramental signs and words and deeds they remember.

The “in-between-time” is our time too. Like the disciples, we want to see, to touch, to know more, to have what’s promised us fulfilled. But this is the “in-between-time.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus promises his disciples the gift of peace. He calls it his peace, a particular kind of peace, a believer’s peace, peace for the “in-between-time” when we don’t see yet and the mystery of the cross only hints at glory.

Jesus’ words appear in the prayer we hear before Communion at Mass. “Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, ‘Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.’ Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your church, and grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will. “

We sin against this peace by cynicism, lack of patience, weak faith– sins of the “in-between-time.” We wish this peace to each other; we pray that God grant us this peace as we receive the Eucharist.