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Select Exegesis
May, 14 2014

5th Sunday of Easter (A)

Sr. Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.

Acts 6:1-7 Ps 33: 1-2, 4-5, 18-19 1 Pt 2: 4-9 Jn 14: 1-12


     Our Gospel reading for this Sunday begins with Jesus’ farewell discourse and prayer for his apostles.  He describes his work on earth as completed in one sense, and in another sense to be finished when he comes again to take them to himself.  This prediction of Jesus’ second coming was confusing to them because at that time they had not yet realized that he was about to leave. 

Thomas asked the question as to the way that Jesus would go to prepare a place for the apostles, and he received the answer that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  Jesus is the only way to the Father, and knowledge of the Father is solely through Jesus.  The Master’s prayer for them took the form of a meditation, and thus it was in some sense hard to follow.  It also involved a call to faith (Jn 14:12), and thus every step and turn was not mapped out.  At the same time it involved a promise that they would do even greater works in their ministry because of their intimate fellowship with him. 

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles represents one of the organizational issues that the leaders of the early church had to deal with in their ministry of the administration of the daily life of the community.  The friction between the Hebrew members and the Greek members of the community did not die easily.  We should not be surprised at the complaints of the Hellenists against the Hebrews when their widows were neglected.  This was only one of the many problems that the Twelve had to deal with as the numbers of members increased, and their procedure in dealing with it involved summoning the disciples together to work out a solution. 

Even so early in the history of the group, we see a distinction developing between the roles of the Twelve and the function of the seven men who were chosen to serve at table so as to make a more equitable distribution of food in the community.  The seven are often taken to be the first deacons, for the Greek for serving at table seems to allow such an interpretation.  However, that may not yet have been fully the designation of the deaconate  that has developed more in our day.  The men were to be of good repute, full of the Spirit, and of wisdom.  We notice from their names that they were Greeks.  That indicates that new members were incorporated into the work of the community by the apostles who prayed and laid their hands on them. 

Thus as our second reading says, the community was being built into a spiritual house, to offer sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  The architectural imagery presents Jesus as the cornerstone of the building, and though he was rejected by many he became the head of the corner, and believers became a holy people to declare the wonderful deeds of him who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light.  (1 Pt 4: 4-9) 

With the Psalmist we can sing, “Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous!...  Sing to the Lord a new song.”  (Ps 33)


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