Sunday, April 28, is the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C, Cycle I).
Pope Francis, early in his pontificate, has drawn attention to the three Catholic celebrations this week. April 30 is the feast of Pope Pius V, the reforming pope from the turn of the 16th century. May 1 is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. May is the month of Mary.
On his first morning as pope, Francis showed his devotion to Mary by taking a trip to the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, after giving short notice of his pilgrimage. There, he prayed at the altar of Pope Pius V, the pope who cleaned up a corrupt Church, and some speculated that Pope Francis had in mind a similar agenda of reform. Finally, he chose the March 19 feast of St. Joseph as his inauguration day.
This follows a devotional pattern he set in Argentina as a cardinal, where he once said: "Let’s look to St. Joseph, Mary and the Child to ask fervently that they defend the Argentine family in this moment. ... May they support, defend and accompany us in this war of God."
In our May Rosaries this year, we can join his prayer and ask God to strengthen his reform efforts and protect the family.
Acts 14:21-27, Psalm 145:8-13, Revelation 21:1-5, John 13:31-33-35
Today’s readings are a great example of the message the Church has been sharing throughout the Easter season. Easter Sunday Mass readings break down into three different components.
1.The Resurrection and the spiritual life.
Each week, the Sunday Gospel is sharing insights from Jesus himself on what the Resurrection means in the spiritual life.
Today, he tells us: "I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another."
This is quite a difficult saying. Of course we cannot on our own love one another as God loves — he is God; we are not. But Jesus is not asking us something impossible.
How is it possible for us to love one another as he has loved us? It is made possible through the death and resurrection of Christ. In our baptism, we are baptized into his death and resurrection. We become sharers in his life, members of his mystical body. By our participation in the Church’s life, we can fulfill this commandment. Which brings us to …
2. The Resurrection and the Church’s life.
Each week, the first reading is being taken from the Acts of the Apostles, sharing the stories of how the early Church organized itself and set about transmitting the Gospel.
Today’s is a great example.
Paul and Barnabas travel around, gaining "a considerable number of disciples." Their success is at the same time uncompromising and uplifting: "They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.’" They create the early Church by carefully appointing elders and by keeping in touch with the new dioceses.
This is the same Church that continues to this day. In this Year of Faith, we can learn from them: First, there is no reason to water down the faith. We can share it in its integrity and still gain disciples — in fact, it is more successful that way. Second, we should share success stories, just as they did, in person or via social media. News of new initiatives, new Catholics and exciting developments does a great deal for other Catholics.
3. The Resurrection and the life to come.
Finally, each Sunday brings us a reading about the life to come. The Resurrection doesn’t just mean our earthly life changes: It opens a heavenly life to us as well.
This week, we hear: "Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. … The One who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’"
These heavenly readings should be great sources of hope for us because they complete the picture. Life on earth is a struggle, with successes and setbacks, but, ultimately, we are in God’s hands — and the end of the story is his.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.