Acts 6.1-7; Psalm 32; John 6.16-21
St Luke is a writer of utmost subtlety, and his account of the development of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles (the second volume of his account of the Good News of Jesus and its transformative power) often contains understated ironies.
So in today’s reading a problem is brought to the Apostles: in the daily distribution of food [cf Acts 2.44-46; 4.32] Hebrew speakers (that is, those who were ethnically Jewish) were being favoured over Greek speakers (that is, those who were ethnically Gentiles). The Twelve responded to this complaint with hauteur. ‘We are preachers of the Word of God’ they declared. ‘We can’t be expected to deal with such trivial matters. Appoint some Gentiles to perform this ministry.’
The word ministry is the Latinate English translation of the Greek word diakonos, or servant. [cf Luke 22.26] (Minister is cognate with familiar English words like minimal.) Luke offers no commentary; instead, he names the six chosen ‘deacons’ and then in the succeeding chapters one of them, Stephen, preaches with eloquence far beyond that of the Twelve; and another, Philip, transmits the Gospel to Africa. The racial conflicts revealed by this particular incident will continue to plague the Church throughout the pages of the New Testament and beyond it, but the Witness of these ‘ministers’ and their proclamation of the Gospel will serve to carry the Gospel message far beyond the boundaries of race and clan.
I John 1.5—2.2; Ps 102; Matt 11.25-30
During a relatively short life (1347-1380) Catherine, set on fire with divine love, devoted herself to contemplation of Our Lord’s passion, having vowed at the age of seven to give her whole life to God.
During the 14th Century the plague known as the “Black Death” wiped out a third of European population. The Hundred Years’ War (a series of conflicts in which England and France were the chief protagonists, from 1337-1453) convulsed Europe, whilst the papacy, under the manipulation of the French crown, decamped from Rome to the city of Avignon.
Catherine’s contemplative life led her to active involvement in the politics of Church and State for the last five years of her life. She persistently admonished Pope Gregory XI (whom she addressed as “Babbo,” that is, “Daddy”) to return to Rome; possibly it was her influence that persuaded him to do so in late 1386-7.
Catherine is one of the most remarkable women of history, and her voluminous writings give her a place in the history of literature. St John Paul II declared her a Patron of Europe in 1999, and we may rightly ask her intercession in the tumults and plagues of our own time.
Acts 5.27-33; Psalm 33; John 3.31-36
Christ our Great High Priest is adduced in the Collect of this day’s mass: it is his intercession [Romans 8.34] that makes possible our reconciliation to God and our liberation from the power of sin. [Romans 6.6]
A priest is a reconciler between God and God’s creation. He ‘stands in the gap’ created betwixt us and God by our rebellion. [Psalm 105(106).23] Jesus’ perfect integration of divinity and humanity in one united life makes it possible for him to be at once the conduit through which earth’s penury is brought to the merciful face of God and the conduit through which God’s strengthening and restorative grace is transmitted to us.
Jesus’ effectual priesthood is contrasted to the impotence of the institutional priesthood of the Jerusalem Temple. Their inability to convey wholeness [Hebrews 10.11] stems from their earth-boundness. Jesus who came down from heaven also rose up from the earth: and in him the gifts of the Spirit, poured out abundantly [Luke 6.38], become equally accessible to all those who have been united to him. [Romans 8.11]
Acts 5.17-26; Psalm 33; John 3.16-21
“We found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates, but when we unlocked the door we found no one inside.” The dramatic intrusion of an angel opening prison doors in the middle of the night is a kind of analogue to the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb. “Go … and tell the people all about this new Life” the freed disciples were exhorted, just as the women who came to the tomb at dawn were spurred to “go quickly and tell.” [Matthew 28.7]
What they are to declare is the triumph of light over darkness. Are we among those who prefer darkness to light, who fear exposition and revelation? God comes into the world not to condemn us, but to call us out of darkness into light, out of slavery into freedom, out of death into Life worthy of the name.
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The National Office for Vocation has an exciting event coming up!
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Thursday 5th May at 7:30pm – 9pm ‘The Conversation’
Listen in and ask our panel of guests key questions on vocation, discernment and their work within the Church.
Discerning your vocation? Want to hear others talk and discuss theirs? Join us for The Conversation, where we have a panel of guests to discuss how they live out their vocation and the work they carry out in the Church.
Our panel of guests include:
Helena Judd (Radio Maria)
Deacon Toby Duckworth (Transitional Deacon at the VEC)
Richard Mills (Catenians)
Elliot Vanstone (Mission Adviser - Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales)
Annabel Ward (Youth 2000)
Catherine Wiley (Catholic Grandparents Association)
And more to be announced...
This event takes place on Zoom and live on Radio Maria England. It is free to join, come with burning questions and submit them in the chat.
To book on free of charge visit EventBrite
We look forward to welcoming you and joining in ‘The Conversation’.
Apocalypse 12.10-12; Psalm 125; Hebrews 10.32-36; John 15.18-21
St George’s Day interrupts our sequence of readings, but the legend of his slaying of the dragon cannot but remind us of the work of Christ who by his death on the cross brought down the ancient foe of humankind. The dragon’s voracious appetite is described in the
13th Century Golden Legend: though lambs were brought to him, he insisted on a feast of children, until George’s bravery closed his maw for ever.
George was a soldier in Diocletian’s army who came to believe in Christ and was punished for this apostasy by decapitation on this day in the year 303. Some forty thousand, including the Empress Alexandra, were said to have been converted by his martyrdom, a real witness to his trust in the God who delivers his servants from bondage to death.
I Peter 5.5-14; Psalm 88; Mark 16.15-20
Spin doctors aren’t new to our era. In the far expanses of the Roman Empire criers would come into town proclaiming “Good News! Good News!” and proceed to announce the latest of the Emperor’s words, deeds and designs.
“The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ” St Mark began writing—his Gospel thought by most careful readers today to have been the first such effort—and as if in one breathless, voluble utterance he recited what others had related to him, the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God [Mark 1.11], until, as if his pencil suddenly snapped, he stopped on a dangling preposition. A young man in a white robe had declared to myrrh-bearing women that the Jesus they sought was not dead but risen. “You must go and tell his disciples” he insisted; but they “ran away from the tomb because they were frightened out of their wits; and they said nothing to a soul, for they were afraid.” [Mark 16.8]
Someone added a few paragraphs to bring the work to a more satisfying conclusion, but some may think the jagged, abrupt ending proclaims the Good News even more profoundly, Good News so overwhelming that it reduces us to babbling incoherence [Mark 9.6], Good News so transformative that it stops us in our tracks and changes our direction [Mark 10.52], Good News that over earth’s darkness [Mark 15.33] the sun is rising. [Mark 16.2]