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READING ON FRIDAY 20th MAY
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)
READINGS ON SUNDAY 15th MAY - FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
First Reading Acts 11:1-18
Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So, when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticised him, saying, "Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?" Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely, I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.' But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.' This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.' And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptised with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’"
Gospel Reading John 13:31-35
When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, "Where I am going, you cannot come. I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
REFLECTION ON THE GOSPEL AND THE PAINTING by Patrick van Der Vorst
In the Gospel reading, Jesus says the word ‘glorify’ five times. He mentions how he glorifies his Father and how his Father glorifies Jesus. As these words of glorification are spoken at the Last Supper, they may sound rather strange just before Jesus is to suffer and die. It seems like a paradox: we associate glory with magnificence, beauty and light, whereas when we think of suffering, we think of darkness, pain and misery. Jesus puts it all together but what glorified God was not the suffering itself, but the love with which the suffering was freely accepted and endured. It was total, perfect love that Jesus had for his Father. That love made him endure suffering.
Our mid-15th-century painting by Dieric Bouts depicts in exquisite detail the Last Supper during which the words of today’s Gospel reading were spoken, just after Judas had left. In the painting, Judas is still there, sitting opposite Jesus to the left, rendered with typical shadowy features to convey his imminent departure and betrayal. Judas is holding his hand behind his back, not willing to participate further with the rest of the apostles, who all have prayerful poses.
Christ is exactly at the very centre of our painting. He is the focus. He is blessing with his right hand and in his left hand he holds the communion wafer over a silver chalice that contains the consecrated wine. In front of the chalice is a large metal bowl with a brownish gravy, an indication of the lamb that was eaten as part of the ritual Passover meal. Also note the abundance of the fabric of the white tablecloth. According to Flemish custom at the time, tablecloths had a swathe of extra material for the diners to wipe their mouths on.
Above all, there is a space between the two men at the front of the table, ready for us as a viewer to take our place at the Lord’s supper.
EASTERTIDE We are now in the period of Eastertide. The Great Fifty Days of Eastertide form a single festival period in which the tone of joy created at the Easter Vigil is sustained through the following seven weeks, and the Church celebrates the gloriously risen Christ:
Triumphant in his glory now, his sceptre ruleth all, earth, heaven and hell before him bow, and at his footstool fall. (Fulbert of Chartres)
Early Christians gave the name Pentecost to this whole fifty-day span of rejoicing, which Tertullian calls ‘this most joyful period’ (laetissimum spatium). It is sometimes also called ‘Great Sunday’. In those places where the custom of lighting the Easter Candle at the beginning of Easter is followed, the lit Candle stands prominently in church for all the Eastertide services.
The Alleluia appears frequently in liturgical speech and song; Morning Prayer begins with the traditional collection of Pauline texts known as the Easter Anthems, and white or gold vestments and decorations emphasize the joy and brightness of the season.
On the fortieth day there has from, the late fourth century, been a particular celebration of Christ’s ascension. He commissions his disciples to continue his work, he promises the gift of the Holy Spirit and then he is no longer among them in the flesh. The ascension is, therefore, closely connected with the theme of mission. The arrival of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost completes and crowns the Easter Festival.
The steeples of Saint Mary’s and Saint Bartholomew’s.
Brothers and sisters in Christ praying for each other, our communities and our world. May God bless us all abundantly at this time.