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Rejoicing in the Easter Mysteries  
Jerome Hall, SJ  

As May begins, our parishes are in the middle of a season of Christian initiation. We not only celebrate with our newly baptized members but with those making their First Communion and Confirmation. We need to allow our liturgies to teach us about the ways the Lord is working through these sacraments.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, our readings and prayers direct our attention to Jesus' self-description as Shepherd. The Hebrew Scriptures describe God as the shepherd of Israel, guiding and protecting the people. John's account of the Gospel applies the image to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who is sent to pasture God's flock, to lay down his life for them, and to bring them safely home. The Church, Christ's body, continues his mission of guiding and protecting God's sheep.

For what are we praying?
In our Opening Prayer, thankful for the gifts of conversion that we are receiving, we ask for strength.

Almighty and ever-living God,
give us new strength
from the courage of Christ our shepherd,
and lead us to join the saints in heaven . . . .

Let us live, we ask, the same sort of courageously responsive lives that Jesus and the saints have lived, and so come to have communion with them in heaven.

Liturgy of the Word
The miraculous events recounted in Acts are seen as opportunities for teaching about God's power in Jesus Christ. In our First Reading (Acts 4:8–12), Peter and John have responded to a lame man's plea for alms by healing him in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This healing drew the elders to question the disciples. We hear Peter's Spirit-filled response: "If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is the stone rejected by you, the builders. . . . There is no salvation through anyone else. . . ."

Peter's speech contrasts God's action with that of the leaders of the people: you crucified Jesus, but God raised him; you rejected him, but God made him the cornerstone. God's action makes Jesus, who has passed through death to the life of the Resurrection, the one through whom all other persons come to their ultimate salvation from sin and death. Neither Moses nor any other religious figure has had the experience of death and Resurrection; only Jesus is the way to the Father. Christ is the one through whom God gives saving grace to all those who live in love; he is glorified in their goodness and justice.

Our Second Reading (1 John 3:1–2) continues John's reflection on the relationship among the Father, Christ, those who believe, and "the world," which does not see with the eyes of faith: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. . . . Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." The world could not recognize Jesus as the beloved of the Father; as they rejected Christ, so they reject those who trust their lives to God in Christ. Those believers are already God's children, even though the kingdom has not yet arrived in its fullness. Now we live in God's love, in the Spirit, but then we will see God as God is.

The Gospel of the Good Shepherd (John 10:11–18) picks up the Johannine theme of knowing and loving: "I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. . . . This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again." Jesus is obedient even to the point of death: he lays down his life for the sheep. The Father responds in love, raising and glorifying him. The glorified one continues to shepherd us in the Holy Spirit; we recognize his voice and trust him with our lives. His saving voice calls us to live in his love, caring for our brothers and sisters. In what areas do we recognize ourselves as good shepherds? Where is the generosity in our lives? Where do we reach out to the lost and the needy? How has our parish reached out to those sheep who may be frightened and feeling alone? How do others experience the love of the Good Shepherd in our actions?

For what, then, are we praying?
We ask the Lord, in the Prayer over the Gifts, that we be able to celebrate so fully that we are transformed by what we do:

restore us by these Easter mysteries.
May the continuing work of our redeemer
bring us eternal joy.

As we pray together we see Christ's continuing work of redemption: we are freed to listen to God's word and to respond by opening ourselves to God's love. Christ will continue to work through us as the week progresses, reaching out to our neighbor in love. May Christ's action in us, and in all the Church, we pray, accomplish everything that God intends; may we, together with the rest of the world, be brought to the fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord.

In our Prayer after Communion, we pray:

Father, eternal shepherd,
watch over the flock redeemed by the blood of Christ
and lead us to the promised land.

Although we have not yet arrived in the Promised Land, we're on the way, led by the Good Shepherd and fed by the bread of life and the cup of salvation.

On this twenty-ninth day of Easter we remember that our neophytes were baptized a month ago. Consider inviting them for coffee or a meal. Remember, too, the young people receiving sacraments of initiation during Easter; encourage them in their eucharistic enthusiasm. Today, as we celebrate Mothers' Day, we ask God's blessings on our mothers and on the mothers of our parish with a prayer from the Book of Blessings.

For what are we praying?
In our alternate Opening Prayer, we pray to the Father:

You have revealed to the nations your saving power
and filled all ages with the words of a new song.
Hear the echo of this hymn.
Give us voice to sing your praise
throughout this season of joy.

Trusting in the one who has done the work of establishing the Paschal Mystery, we ask for true freedom and the stamina to keep singing praises throughout the Easter season.

Liturgy of the Word
Our First Reading (Acts 9:26–31) establishes the link between Paul and the Twelve: "When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem, and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord. . . . The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria . . . was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord. . . ." As Paul moved about with the Twelve, he showed his fellowship with them in the faith; the Twelve, in turn, proclaimed their acceptance of him as a disciple. By emphasizing their relationship, Luke indicates that the Holy Spirit is guiding the newly founded Church, broadening the disciples' understanding of their mission and empowering them to preach the Gospel.

Our Second Reading (1 John 3:18–24) reminds us to love one another: "Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. . . . [God's] commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us." Were it not for the Spirit who dwells in us, we would be unable to love one another. Our love is rooted in the Father's love for Jesus, who gave his life for us and sent the Spirit to keep us one with him.

The Gospel (John 15:1–8), from Jesus' Last Supper discourse, speaks of our sharing his life. Jesus tells his disciples, "I am the vine, you are the branches." Jesus' life flows into us; we are alive because we share his life. His word disciplines, shapes, and directs us; his blood deepens our love for him, so that our lives bear the same fruit of reconciliation and mercy that Jesus' did. Jesus explains that living out discipleship honors the Father. "By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples." The vine image and its Last Supper setting makes this passage a complement to the Bread of Life discourse (John 6). In this Eucharist, we drink the cup of our Communion in the blood of Christ, his life poured out for us. The point of our Communion is not just our sanctification but also the fruit of mercy and justice which, in him, we bear.

For what, then, are we praying?
In our Prayer over the Gifts, we speak of the divine "commercium," the business transaction by which God transforms our gifts:

By this holy exchange of gifts
You share with us your divine life.
Grant that everything we do
may be directed by the knowledge of your truth.

May our lives be built, we ask, on the truth that God is love, and may all our actions express our faith. Once again we're asking for the gift of opening ourselves to receive the meaning of our life from God's hand.

In the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer (P 24), our thanksgiving and petition are joined:

We praise you with greater joy than ever in this Easter season,
when Christ became our paschal sacrifice.
In him a new age has dawned,
the long reign of sin is ended,
a broken world has been renewed
and man is once again made whole.

The Communion Antiphon, "I am the vine and you are the branches," proclaims our unity in Christ's body and blood.

As we near the end of the Easter season we may if the springtime move us to look for the growth in our lives? Where do we find the flowering of the new life for which we prayed during Lent?

For what are we praying?
Our Opening Prayer reflects that, without God's help, our lives will become drab, even in the springtime.

Ever-living God,
help us to celebrate our joy
in the resurrection of the Lord,
and to express in our lives
the love we celebrate.

We pray for our Sunday celebration: give us the breath and the voice to sing together; give us ears to hear the faith in our neighbor's song and prayer; bind us together in the body of Christ! Our prayer, however, reaches beyond this liturgy: let us know how much you love us; let us love you in everything we do; let us love one another, as Christ loves us!

Liturgy of the Word
We hear first (Acts 10:25–26) of God's extending the apostles' preaching and sending them to the Gentiles. Luke makes clear that the mission to the Gentiles came from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit sent Peter to the house of Cornelius, a Roman: "Peter proceeded to speak and said, 'In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.' While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.

In descending on Cornelius and his household, the Spirit pushed the Church to recognize that God's plan reached beyond the people of Israel, and that it was not necessary to become a Jew to follow Jesus. This is a pivotal passage in Acts, showing that the Spirit's direction to Peter was at the heart of the mission to the Gentiles. Paul, whom we identify with that mission, carried out a task that God entrusted to the Twelve and, through them, to the entire Church.

John continues to speak to us (1 John 4:7–10) about the saving love of God: "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins." This teaching is rooted in our experience of God's gift to us in Jesus. God sent Jesus so that we might have life; Jesus, pouring out his life for us, did the Father's will; the Father loves Jesus, glorifies, and raises him. The Son, obedient to the Father, sends the Spirit to the disciples; the Spirit is life and gives the Father's life to the disciples through the Son. When John tells us that God is love, he means that God reveals self through saving love for us and through love for Jesus our Savior.

Today's Gospel (John 15:9–17) follows directly from last week's "bear much fruit and become my disciples." It sets Jesus' love command in its proper context of the relationship between the Father and the Son. "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. . . . I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another." Our bearing fruit, it seems, cannot be separated from our love for one another. We cannot bear fruit apart from the vine whose life is the love of God and neighbor. Where do we see our parish acting out love of neighbor? Where is our joy in service? We need to keep looking for the ways in which the Lord's grace is bearing fruit!

For what, then, are we praying?
In our Prayer over the Gifts we ask:

Make us worthy of your sacraments of love
By granting us your forgiveness.

Give us the grace, we pray, of accepting your forgiveness, of knowing that you forgive our sins and of reaching out to reconcile other sinners, whether they be alienated from the Church, from family or friends, from God, or from themselves.

The Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer (P 25) recalls Christ's paschal sacrifice, by which we receive the Spirit of forgiveness, life, and love:

As he offered his body on the cross,
his perfect sacrifice fulfilled all others.
As he gave himself into your hands for our salvation,
he showed himself to be the priest, the altar, and the lamb of sacrifice.
The joy of the resurrection renews the whole world . . . .

In our Prayer after Communion, we ask that this celebration change the way we live:

You restored us to life
by raising Christ from death.
Strengthen us by this Easter sacrament;
may we feel its saving power in our daily life.

This solemnity is less a commemoration of a historical event than a proclamation of Jesus' glorification. Though Acts speaks of the Ascension as ending 40 days of post-Resurrection appearances, the Gospels put it either on the day of the Resurrection or shortly thereafter. We celebrate that Jesus died and was glorified, and that as the Lord of glory, he sends the Holy Spirit on the Church.

Today's readings and prayers urge us to follow Christ, to live our Baptism, to be recreated in the spirit of love.

For what are we praying?
Our Opening Prayer begins from the joy of the fulfillment of God's plan:

Make us joyful in the ascension
of your Son Jesus Christ.

Trusting in God's power to save, we ask to follow Christ. Our petition touches both our present-day discipleship and our ultimate happiness in the new creation in heaven:
May we follow him into the new creation,
for his ascension is our glory and our hope.

Liturgy of the Word
Today we listen to the beginning of Acts (1:1–11): "In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered. . . . John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. . . . [Y]ou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." God's plan, Luke tells us, involves our Spirit-filled witness to the Paschal Mystery. It is in the Spirit that we live in Christ; by God's grace our lives will preach the Lord's triumph over sin and death.

Last year our Second Reading, from the first chapter of Ephesians (1:17–23), focused on the enlightenment that the Spirit brings. We may use that passage again this year, or the Year B reading (Ephesians 4:1–13): "I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift."

Live, Paul tells us, in a manner worthy of God's call to new life in Christ. Be one in love and service, as God is one. Live in grace, which has been given to each of us with the same liberality with which Christ poured out his life for us. Where is our parish outstanding in service? How are we feeding the hungry and comforting the sorrowful? How are we hearing and responding to the quiet anxiety of those who have lost financial security?

Each of the accounts of the Ascension reports a final command of the Lord. In today's Gospel (Mark 16:15–20) we hear the canonical ending of Mark. The earliest texts of Mark, the scholars tell us, ended with the empty tomb and the disciples' bewilderment. A very early addition, accepted by all Christians as inspired (hence, "canonical"), explicitly links Jesus' life and death with the ministry of the Church: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. . . ." [T]he Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs." Although Jesus was taken up and glorified, Mark insists, he is not absent from the Church and the world. As the Church continues his mission, Jesus works with the disciples and confirms their preaching. He works with us in our liturgy, our teaching, and our deeds of mercy.

For what, then, are we praying?
In our Prayer over the Gifts, we ask again to be brought with Jesus Christ into the fullness of life:

May his gifts help us rise with him
to the joys of heaven . . . .

The Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer (P 26) returns to the theme that Christ's glorification demonstrates God's plan for us:

Christ, the mediator between God and man,
judge of the world and Lord of all,
has passed beyond our sight,
not to abandon us but to be our hope.
Christ is the beginning, the head of the Church;
where he has gone, we hope to follow.

The joy of the resurrection and ascension renews the whole world . . . .

In that joy we offer our lives in thankful praise, together with all the saints. Our Prayer after Communion addresses the gift which we have received as we've celebrated together:
In this eucharist
we touch the divine life you give to the world.
Help us to follow Christ with love
to eternal life where he is Lord for ever and ever.

All the proper prayers of today's Mass speak of following Christ to the fullness of life. He ascends to the Father, we believe, to bring us with him. May we live his love now, we ask, and find that love fulfilled in the life of heaven!

Those dioceses that celebrated Ascension on Thursday, May 21, observe this post-Ascension Easter Sunday. On this forty-third day of Easter, we're still asking to comprehend what the Lord has done in Jesus' Paschal Mystery.

For what are we praying?
The glorified Christ continues working among us; in the Opening Prayer, we ask for awareness of his presence:

Help us keep in mind that Christ our Savior
lives with you in glory
and promised to remain with us until the end of time.

The alternate Opening Prayer unpacks the laconic simplicity of the Latin collect:
Reaching from end to end of the universe
and ordering all things with your mighty arm:
for you, time is the unfolding of truth that already is,
the unveiling of beauty that is yet to be.

Your Son has saved us in history
by rising from the dead,
so that transcending time he might free us from death.
May his presence among us
lead to the vision of unlimited truth
and unfold the beauty of your love.

Whichever prayer we use, we express our trust in Christ's faithful and powerful presence in our midst as we pray and live the Christian life.

Liturgy of the Word
Jesus had chosen 12 disciples to represent the 12 tribes of the restored and renewed people of Israel. Judas' betrayal had broken the fellowship of the Twelve; in the time before Pentecost, Luke tells us, God restored the Twelve through the prayer and action of the Church (Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 10c-26): "Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers—there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons . . . . It is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection. So they proposed two . . . . Then they prayed. 'You, Lord . . . show which one of these two you have chosen . . . .' The lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles."

The choice of Matthias, made while the disciples are awaiting the coming of the Spirit, is clearly presented as an action of the Lord, who chooses another witness who saw and heard everything Jesus did. Even before the Spirit descends on the disciples, Luke insists, the glorified Lord is with them.

Our Second Reading continues John's reflection on the relationship between God and the disciples (1 John 4:11-16): "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit. Moreover, we have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world. Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him."

In Jesus, the beloved Son, we have received God's saving love. Our love for one another bears witness to God, who sent Jesus to pour himself out for our salvation; our love for one another proclaims that God loves us, and responds to that love in the same way that Jesus did. The Spirit teaches us to love; Come, Holy Spirit!

In the Gospel (John 17:11b-19) we hear from Jesus' high priestly prayer for his disciples. It is here that John speaks of Jesus' dedication or consecration of himself, and of his prayer that the Father consecrate the disciples in the truth of God's love: "Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me . . . . But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. . . . Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth."

Hearing Jesus' prayer for his disciples, we're moved to ask for the gift of being consecrated to what Pope Benedict calls the evangelical truth that God is love. It is by God's grace that our lives are united in Jesus' consecration of himself, so that we become the holy and living sacrifice that brings salvation to the world.

For what, then, are we praying?
Our Prayer over the Gifts asks God to change our lives by the way we pray together:

Accept the prayers and gifts
we offer in faith and love.
May this eucharist
bring us to your glory.

We ask that we may see you present and working in this celebration, and may you open our lives to your presence, your glory, so that we truly follow Christ from this life to the everlasting joy of heaven.

The Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer (P 27) sings about God's plan for us all:

In his risen body he plainly showed himself to his disciples
and was taken up to heaven in their sight
to claim for us a share in his divine life.

Remembering God's action in Jesus' Pasch, we ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit upon us, so that we may become one body, one spirit in Christ.

In our Prayer after Communion, we speak to God who saves us:

God our Savior,
hear us,
and through this holy mystery give us hope
that the glory you have given Christ
will be given to the Church, his body,
for he is Lord . . . .

On this Sunday of anticipation, we ask that our celebration deepen our hope of the resurrection. May we have the joy of seeing Christ and the Spirit at work in our prayer; may we open ourselves completely to receive the gift of the Spirit.

The ordo, our book of directions for celebrating the day's liturgies, suggests that on the Vigil of Pentecost we celebrate in a more leisurely fashion than would normally characterize our Saturday Vigil Eucharist: "Encouragement should be given to a prolonged celebration of Mass in the form of a Vigil, whose character is not baptismal as in the Easter Vigil, but one of urgent prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit."

In this order we begin with our usual procession and opening rites, including, if possible, the sprinkling of the assembly.

For what are we praying?
The alternate Opening Prayer reminds us of the special nature of our prayer on this Vigil:

Fifty days have celebrated the fullness
of the mystery of your revealed love.

See your people gathered in prayer,
open to receive the Spirit's flame.
May it come to rest in our hearts
and disperse the divisions of word and tongue.
With one voice and one song
may we praise your name in joy and thanksgiving.

This prayer sums up the Church's action and prayer during the 50 days of the Easter feast. It also introduces the themes that will run through the readings of the vigil.

Introductory Scriptures
As he did at the Easter Vigil, the presider invites the assembly to listen attentively to the scripture, to open their hearts in meditation upon God's wonderful deeds, and to pray that the work of the Spirit may be made more manifest in the world. The vigil gathers together the First Readings and Responsorial Psalms of the seventh week of Easter.

To prepare us for Luke's Pentecost story, which we will hear tomorrow, we begin with the story of Babel Genesis 11:1-9). In their pride, the people of Babel had no awareness of their total dependence on God; they sought their own glory: "Come, let us . . . make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth." In response to their prideful forgetting of the Lord, the Lord confused the speech of all the world. It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth. We listen, recognize ourselves as people who also forget the Lord's presence, but who, by grace, have a language of praise in which to sing (Psalm 33) God's mercy.

The optional Reading I from Exodus 19:3-8a, 16-20b shows how God gathered the Israelites and made them one people who could recognize God's action, hear God's command, and respond in love: "Moses went up the mountain to God. Then the Lord called to him and said . . . 'You have seen for yourselves how I treated the Egyptians and how I bore you up on eagle wings and brought you here to myself. Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.' . . . The people all answered together, 'Everything the Lord has said, we will do.' "

The Spirit, in whom the people of Israel could hear God's word and accept the Sinai covenant, now works a new birth of understanding among peoples. Despite their good intentions, the people fell away from the covenant and turned to gods of riches, prestige, and pride. Their unfaithfulness brought bitter disappointment and the death of the nation. We hear from the optional reading (Ezekiel 37:1-14) that, in exile, the word of God came to Ezekiel: "Son of man, can these bones come to life? . . . I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the Lord. I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord."

The body of Christ, gathered in our parish church for this vigil, is the restored and renewed Israel, filled with the Spirit of life. During Lent and Easter we have looked for signs of that new life in our world, country, diocese, and parish, in families, and our lives. We gather our thankfulness and our hope in God's faithfulness, singing our response (Psalm 107).

In the Sinai covenant, God spoke through Moses. God's spirit fell upon prophets and judges, upon major figures who did God's work. In the day when God fulfilled all promises, Joel prophesied, the spirit of God would be given not just to the great, but to all of Israel (Joel 3:1-5): "I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. / Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, / your old men shall dream dreams, / your young men shall see visions; / even upon the servants and the handmaids, / in those days, I will pour out my spirit / . . . / Then everyone shall be rescued / who calls on the name of the Lord, / for on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant, / as the Lord had said, / and in Jerusalem survivors / whom the Lord shall call."

Joel's prophecy is fulfilled in the coming of the Holy Spirit, which we have been celebrating for these Fifty Days, and which we pray for especially today. In Christ, all the baptized receive a full share of the Spirit who unites them with Christ and gives them communion with the Father. That Spirit's gifts fulfill Joel's prophecy in a breadth the prophet did not anticipate. In response we sing (Psalm 104) "Lord, send out your Spirit!"

After the reading(s), the vigil is concluded. We sing the Gloria and the presider calls us to prayer.

For what are we praying?
The short collect pulls together themes from the four readings. This Opening Prayer needs to be prayed slowly and lovingly, from a heart filled with wonder that God will do everything that has been promised:

You fulfilled the Easter promise
by sending us your Holy Spirit.
May that Spirit unite the races and nations on earth
to proclaim your glory.

Liturgy of the Word
In the reading from Romans (Romans 8:22-27), we hear how all creation yearns for the fullness of God's kingdom. In our labors and yearning, God's Spirit comes to our aid: "We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groaning. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will." Paul's distinction is helpful: we have already received the Spirit, whose first fruits are our life in Christ and our fellowship with the saints; the fullness of the Spirit will be ours in heaven. As we live faithfully, the Spirit prays in us, and conforms our lives to God's will.

In response, and in preparation for the Gospel, we sing the medieval song: Veni, Sancte Spiritus. The Gregorian tune is complicated enough that our musicians will want to find a setting that has a refrain for the assembly. The sequence is followed immediately by the Alleluia!

We hear from the Gospel (John 7:37-39): "On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, 'Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As Scripture says: "Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me." ' He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified."

For John, as for Mark, only through the cross do we see and understand that Jesus is the Savior. Jesus is glorified on the cross; on the cross he hands over the Spirit in his final act of love. During Jesus' ministry the Spirit rested on him, but was not yet given to others. Only in his glorification is the Spirit given to us.

For what, then, are we praying?
In our Prayer over the Gifts, we ask the Lord to make our celebration so transforming that our lives manifest God's salvation:

Send your Spirit on these gifts
and through them help the Church you love
to show your salvation to all the world.

The Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer (P 28) refers to all the readings we have heard. It's an exuberant prayer, filled with amazement at God's love:

Today you sent the Holy Spirit
on those marked out to be your children
by sharing the life of your only Son,
and so you brought the paschal mystery to its completion.

Today we celebrate the great beginning of your Church
when the Holy Spirit made known to all peoples the one true God,
and created from the many languages of man
one voice to profess one faith.

The joy of the resurrection renews the whole world.

In that joy we offer ourselves, in Christ, and ask for the Spirit to transform not just us, but all the world. Although we do not see that final transformation, we believe that God's answer to our prayer is given in our Holy Communion. We come forward, singing the Communion Antiphon: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink, alleluia!"

Just as in the first eight days of Easter, we're dismissed with a double Alleluia! We go forth singing for joy, ready for our final day of Easter.

This fiftieth day of Easter marks the fulfillment of God's plan of self-communication to the human race. Through the Holy Spirit, we are brought into Jesus' experience of the Father's love. In the Spirit we are able to respond, loving God and neighbor with the perfect love of Jesus Christ.

For what are we praying?
The Opening Prayer looks to the Spirit's work in the hearts, the affections, and the lives of all Christians.

Let the Spirit you sent on your Church
to begin the teaching of the gospel
continue to work in the world
through the hearts of all who believe.

The alternate prayer makes its petition more leisurely:
Father of light, from whom every good gift comes,
send your Spirit into our lives
with the power of a mighty wind,
and by the flame of your wisdom
open the horizons of our minds.

Loosen our tongues to sing your praise
in words beyond the power of speech,
for without your Spirit
man could never raise his voice in words of peace
or announce the truth that Jesus is Lord . . . .

Either prayer text needs to be prayed slowly and lovingly, arising from the assembly's silent prayer and looking expectantly to the Lord's goodness.

Liturgy of the Word
The First Reading (Acts 2:1–11) is heard every year: "The time for Pentecost was fulfilled. . . . '[W]e hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.'" The Holy Spirit, in a sign of the new creation, makes all those who are present understand the disciples' preaching of Jesus' Resurrection. This miracle of hearing not only reverses the effect of the sin of the people of Babel but illustrates the Spirit's activity in all effective preaching of the Gospel. Only in the Spirit do we understand and respond to the good news of God's love.

It is optional to proclaim last year's reading from 1 Corinthians (12:3b–7, 12–13) or the reading from Year B (Galatians 5:16–25): "If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. . . . [T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, selfcontrol. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit."

Paul reflects with us on our experience of the Holy Spirit. Where do we find love, joy, peace, patience, and the other fruits of the Spirit? Where in our parish life do we find those fruits? As we welcome the Spirit more fully into our lives, we notice that we are being guided by the Spirit, and that we can follow our hearts in love of God and neighbor. In this way we find ourselves living in the freedom of the children of God.

The options for the Gospel are the reading from Year A that we hear on Easter Sunday (John 20:19–23) or the Year B passage from Jesus' Last Supper discourse (John 15:26–27; 16:12–15). We will consider the Year B reading: "When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning. I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. . . . Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you." The activity of the Spirit in the Christian life is described. The same Spirit who dwelt with Jesus has been given to us. It is a Spirit of love and forgiveness, of gentleness and mercy, which reveals God's intention to us and frees us to live in peace and confidence in God's love.

For what, then, are we praying?
Our Prayer over the Gifts requests a fuller understanding of the liturgy we celebrate:

May the Spirit you promised
lead us into all truth
and reveal to us the full meaning of this sacrifice.

The Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer (P 28) develops the theme of God's uniting the human race through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit:
Today we celebrate the great beginning of your Church
when the Holy Spirit made known to all peoples
the one true God,
and created from the many languages of man
one voice to profess one faith.

In Eucharistic Prayer III we praise the Father for the Spirit's activity and explicitly ask for the Spirit to transform us and the whole world: From age to age you gather a people to yourself, / so that from east to west / a perfect offering may be made / to the glory of your name. / And so, Father, we bring you these gifts. / We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit / . . . / Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, / may be filled with his Holy Spirit, / and become one body, one sprit in Christ. / May he make us an everlasting gift to you . . . .

In our Prayer after Communion we ask:

May the food we receive in the eucharist
help our eternal redemption.

This food is not just our sacramental Communion, but also the word which we hear proclaimed, preached, and responded to, as well as the prayer that we make together. If we have sung and prayed with conviction, our faith has become more alive as we have celebrated together. We ask:
Keep within us the vigor of your spirit and protect the gifts you have given to your Church.

Three solemnities are celebrated within the weeks immediately following Pentecost: Trinity Sunday, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Trinity Sunday reflects on what we have learned about God as we have celebrated the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. God is in relationship: the Father loves the Son; the Son returns the love of the Father; the Spirit binds them together in personal unity. The Father sends the Son to work our salvation; the incarnate Son, in the Spirit, hears the voice of the Father's love and responds by opening his life to receiving the meaning of his life from the Father's hand; the Spirit rests on the Son, speaking to him of the Father's love and giving him power to share that love in the perfect human response to the Father. With Jesus' glorification, the Spirit is sent to unite believers with Christ, so that they will love God as Jesus does, by loving their neighbor with the love of God. The Trinity, then, is the mystery of our sanctification—God with and for us!

For what are we praying?
Our Opening Prayer is uncharacteristically detailed. From the point of our sanctification, it refers to the relationship among the Father, the Word, and the Spirit:

You sent your Word to bring us truth
and your Spirit to make us holy
through them we come to know the mystery of your life.
Help us to worship you, one God in three Persons,
by proclaiming and living our faith in you.

Liturgy of the Word
The living God is not like the dispassionate gods of the Greek philosophers. "Our God," we say, because God is involved with the human race and chooses a people as his own. Deuteronomy (4:32–34, 39–40) tells of God's self-revelation in the burning bush and the Sinai covenant and God's action to liberate the people from their slavery: "Did anything so great ever happen before? . . . Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?" Through their observance of the covenant, the people will respond to God's saving action. In manifesting self, then, God brings the people into a relationship that will shape their entire lives.

In the Sinai covenant, God established a relationship with the people. In Christ Jesus, God brings us into the relationship that the Father has with Christ (Romans 8:14–17): "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry 'Abba, Father!' The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him."

At the Easter Vigil we asked God to stir up the Spirit of adoption in the Church. The Spirit, at work in our worship, makes us realize that we are children of God and have nothing to fear. As we suffer with Christ, we are certain of God's love; we cry "Abba!" and trust the one who was faithful to Jesus. The cross is indeed at the heart of the Gospel; united in Christ's suffering, we hold on to the Father's love, and discover that it is the most powerful force in our lives.

Through Jesus' life, death, Resurrection, and sending of the Spirit, God brings us into the life of Christ. Our Gospel (Matthew 28:16–20), gives us the command to baptize in the name of the Trinity and the promise of Christ's abiding presence: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

For what, then, are we praying?
After the more expansive Opening Prayer, we may be surprised at how terse the other proper prayers are. If we pray the texts carefully, however, we will discover the points of wonder and awe that connect us to Easter.

Our Prayer over the Gifts asks that our celebration touch our hearts and open our lives to receive God's saving love:

Make these gifts holy,
and through them
make us a perfect offering to you.

The Preface of the Holy Trinity (P 43) summarizes the three persons' relationship in our experience of salvation. We know this mystery because, in Christ, God brings us into the life of the Trinity. This is accomplished through the cross, in which we see not just Christ glorified, but the Father's outpouring of self in the gift of the Son and the action of the Spirit binding us together in the communion of the Trinity.

The prayers of this solemnity turn our attention to the relationship which the Three Persons establish with us. We live in union with Christ, in communion with Father in the Holy Spirit; by God's grace our entire lives come to be made up of relationships characterized by divine love. The Trinity is, indeed, a mystery of our salvation.

In a sense, the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is a companion to the solemnity of the Trinity. How are we brought into the life of the Trinity? God does this through the faith that we receive and celebrate in Baptism and Eucharist. The Easter feast emphasizes all three sacraments of initiation; today we concentrate on the renewable sacrament by which our Baptism is renewed and we are brought more fully and consciously into Christ.

The liturgy's readings emphasize the blood of the covenant through which we are brought into the covenant relationship. This would be a good day to encourage parishioners to receive from the cup.

For what are we praying?
Our Opening Prayer is directed to Christ:

You gave us the eucharist
as the memorial of your suffering and death.
May our worship of this sacrament of your body and blood
help us to experience the salvation you won for us
and the peace of the kingdom . . . .

As Pope Benedict reminded us in Sacramentum Caritatis, the highest form of worship of the Eucharist is the celebration of the Mass. May our prayer help us to experience our salvation and God's peace in our living, and finally, in its fullness, in heaven.

Liturgy of the Word
The Sinai covenant was ratified in a solemn celebration that expressed and sealed the people's acceptance of God's commands as well as God's choice of the people (Exodus 24:3–8): "When Moses came to the people and related all the words and ordinances of the Lord, they all answered with one voice, 'We will do everything that the Lord has told us.' Moses then wrote down all the words of the Lord and, rising early the next day, he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, having sent certain young men . . . to offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as a peace offerings to the Lord, Moses took half of the blood and put it into large bowls; the other half he splashed on the altar. Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, 'All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.' Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people . . . ."

The people's participation in the covenant was sealed through the ritual gesture of Moses' sprinkling people with the lifeblood of the animals sacrificed; God's participation was symbolized through the pouring of the blood on the altar. Our participation in the new covenant is sealed through the blood of Christ. Jesus Christ, the sacrificial lamb of the new covenant, seals that covenant with his blood. The Second Reading, however, concentrates on his role as high priest, offering the Father his life, his blood of the new covenant (Hebrews 9:11–15): "When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption." On the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies with the blood of the animal which had been sacrificed in prayer for the people's conversion and renewal in covenant faithfulness. Hebrews describes Jesus' offering of self through the outpouring of his blood on the cross; his sacrificial action was completed in his self-offering death, and he has entered into the presence of God as mediator of our salvation.

Our Gospel is from Mark's account of the Passion (Mark 14:12–16, 22–26). Eating the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus blesses bread, breaks it, and gives it to them: "'Take it; this is my body.' Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. . . . 'This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.' Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

By drinking the cup, "My blood of the covenant," the disciples receive in advance a participation in the event of Jesus' saving death. Mark makes clear that God's kingdom is accomplished for and in Jesus' pouring himself out on the cross.

In obedience to the Lord's command we, too, drink the cup of the blood of the covenant. By doing so, we commit ourselves to live as Jesus did, to be poured out in love for our neighbor. Where do we see this happening in our lives and that of the parish? Where are our lives being configured to Christ's saving death? If we have a hard time finding those places, we might look for those areas of our life where we're aware of the Resurrection, for it is through the cross that the Lord has brought new life.

For what, then, are we praying?
In our Prayer over the Gifts, we pray for unity in the one whose body and blood we share:

May the bread and cup we offer
bring your Church the unity and peace they signify.

For the Preface, we may choose either P 47, which we also pray at the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, or P 48. The first Preface sings of our amazement at the love we receive in Jesus Christ. The second clearly identifies our eating and drinking as the means the Lord uses to transform us in Christ. By God's design, our worship leads us through sacramental Communion to the fullness of life in Christ. Together with Christ, and in union with his self-offering, we ask the Lord to transform us and to bring the world to new life.

In our Prayer after Communion, we again address Christ:

You give us your body and blood in the eucharist
as a sign that even now we share in your life.
May we come to possess it completely in the kingdom . . . .

This solemnity, which is always celebrated on Friday, the day of Christ's Passion, focuses on the heart as the symbol of love. Jesus lived by his heart; his love for the Father was expressed in love of his neighbor; love is his way of living. This solemnity, and the devotion to the Sacred Heart which relates to it, focuses our prayer to be lovers of God and neighbor, as Jesus is. All of our liturgical prayer asks for the gift of loving as Christ does; today we focus our attention on this gift. On this feast of love we ask ourselves how we are reaching out to help our neighbor. Where is our parish outstanding in concern for people in need? How are we supporting one another?

For what are we praying?
We begin, in our Opening Prayer, with thanks for the relationship that God has established with us:

We rejoice in the gifts of love
we have received from the heart of Jesus your Son.
Open our hearts to share in his life
and continue to bless us with his love.

Sharing in Christ's life, we will know his joy as we serve our neighbor, learning to receive the Father's love by loving as Jesus does.

Liturgy of the Word
God's faithful love takes flesh in Jesus. We remember the mercy with which God led the people out of slavery, and hear the promise of God's continued presence and protection (Hosea 11:1, 3-4, 8c-9): "When Israel was a child I loved him, / out of Egypt I called my son. / I will not destroy Ephraim again; / for I am God and not man, / the Holy One present among you; / I will not let the flames consume you."

We respond with a confident song of deliverance (Isaiah 12:2-6): "You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation."

God's plan of self-communication is wonderful beyond anything we could imagine. In Christ that plan is revealed (Ephesians 3:8-12): "To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God. For this reason I kneel before the Father . . . . so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

With Paul, we kneel in amazement at the mystery of love into which God invites us, and we pray for one another, that our whole lives may be filled with wonder and awe at God's goodness.

Standing to welcome the Gospel, we hear Jesus' invitation: "Take my yoke upon you," to which we respond, "Alleluia!"

The Gospel returns us to Good Friday (John 19:31-37): "When [the soldiers] came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe."

Jesus has completed is work, and God is glorified in him. From his side flow the water of Baptism and the blood of the Eucharist. In these sacraments his love of neighbor is expressed and given to people of every race and nation, from one generation to the next. Again and again, we celebrate Christ's love, and ask to be given hearts that love as he does.

For what, then, are we praying?
In our Prayer over the Gifts, we throw ourselves into God's arms, knowing that we'll be embraced with infinite care and tenderness:

Look on the heart of Christ your Son,
filled with love for us.
Because of his love
accept our eucharist and forgive our sins.

The Preface of the Sacred Heart (P 45) sings of all those places where we speak of God's being glorified in Jesus' passion and death:
Lifted high on the cross
Christ gave his life for us,
so much did he love us.
From his wounded side flowed blood and water,
the fountain of sacramental life in the Church.
To his open heart the Savior invites all men,
to draw water in joy from the springs of salvation.

Responding to that invitation, in the Holy Spirit, we open ourselves to receive the meaning of our life from God's hand, as Jesus did.

We eat and drink our Communion in his body broken and his blood poured out, singing, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come!"

Our Prayer after Communion consists of three petitions:

May this sacrament fill us with love.
Draw us closer to Christ your Son
and help us to recognize him in others.

As the Lord grants this prayer, we'll find our lives changed and our hearts renewed. In thanks, we go forth singing!

Today we return to the numbered Sundays and to the thematic pairing of Old Testament and Gospel passages.

Today is Father's Day, an opportunity to celebrate parents and godparents, priests and religious, as well as the other people in our parishes whose commitment, mentoring, and purposeful gentleness have helped us grow in the love of God and neighbor. The Book of Blessings provides a prayer that could well be used just before today's final blessing.

For what are we praying?
The motive for our confidence is the loving care through which we know God's presence; our petition is life-changing:

Guide and protector of your people,
grant us an unfailing respect for your name,
and keep us always in your love.

Relying on God's goodness, we ask for the gift of reverence, so that we may live in awareness of God's presence. We know that the Lord will keep on loving us, and we acknowledge our total dependence on that love while also asking God to keep us faithful in loving our neighbor with the love of God. This is a wonderful prayer with which to return to Ordinary Time; from our silence it can rise with the quiet confidence that is born of our common experience of Lent and Easter.

Liturgy of the Word
Our First Reading (Job 38:1, 8–11) is a part of God's response to Job. In his conversation with the friends who tried to console him, Job insisted that his suffering was undeserved, and opined that, in justice, God should have protected him and his family. God's answer ranges through the richness and complexity of creation; we hear one section of that majestic reply: "Who shut within doors the sea, / when it burst forth from the womb; / when I made the clouds its garment / and thick darkness its swaddling bands? / When I set limits for it / and fastened the bar of its door, / and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther, / and here shall your proud waves be stilled!" How, God asks Job, can you understand enough to question me? Where were you when I created the world that you call unjust? The Lectionary chooses this section of God's response to contrast God's control over the sea with Jesus' calming the storm. Job's lack of understanding, in turn, is mirrored by that of the disciples.

Next (2 Corinthians 5:14–17) we return to Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, from which we were hearing before Lent began. Second Corinthians, the scholars tell us, collects several letters that Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth. They have been visited by some wonder-working preachers who described Jesus as a divine being walking the earth. They drew attention to their eloquence, their miracles, and the ecstasies into which they fell as they prayed; they preached themselves and a Gospel of material success. Paul insists that it is the crucified one who saves us and that only through the cross do we have salvation. To support his claim as an authentic preacher, Paul emphasizes the power of God that shines through weakness. He boasts not of eloquence but of the sufferings that he bears for the Gospel. Through Christ's cross, he tells us, God has transformed all our relationships: "The love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." Our salvation is in Christ crucified. In Christ we find our happiness, living no longer for ourselves, but for him. Eucharistic Prayer IV refers to this passage.

Our Gospel (Mark 4:35–41) begins as a sailing story and quickly becomes a story about faith: "Leaving the crowd, [the disciples] took Jesus with them in the boat . . . . A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. . . . [The disciples] woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Quiet! Be still!' . . . Then he asked them, 'Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?' " Indeed, Mark tells us the disciples do not yet have faith. They ask, "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?" Only in the light of Jesus' cross will the disciples understand who Jesus is; only then will their faith take away their fear. After our Lenten and Easter feast, this Gospel passage has returned us to one of Mark's major themes.

The disciples' fear leads to their question, "Do you not care?" In hard times we, too, find ourselves asking God this question. When Job asked, God gave only an incomplete answer. To us who remember Jesus' death and Resurrection, God responds not in a speech, but as we live in the awareness of God's love for us in the crucified one. God is with us, in good times and in bad. We are reminded, then, to keep examining our consciousness, so that we notice the Lord's presence. How is Christ acting in our parish, in our families and in our own lives? Where are we involved in the works of mercy and justice?

For what, then, are we praying?
In our Prayer over the Gifts, we ask to celebrate well:

May this sacrifice of praise
purify us in mind and heart
and make us always eager to serve you.

Every Eucharistic Prayer, together with the Communion procession which it speaks of, gives a confident answer to the disciples' question "Do you not care?" To God we say, "Of course, you care; we know who you are, and so we ask you to send the Holy Spirit on us and our offerings, and on all the world." God responds by giving us Communion in the body and blood of Christ; our eating and drinking is the sacrament of the salvation which we will know in its fullness in heaven.

The introduction of Eucharistic Prayer IV tells of the divine plan of salvation: "Father, you so loved the world / that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior. / . . . / In fulfillment of your will /he gave himself up to death; / but by rising from the dead, / he destroyed death and restored life. / And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him, / he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, / as his first gift to those who believe, / to complete his work on earth / and bring us the fullness of grace."

In the midst of this season of life and exuberant growth, our readings and prayers ask for the gift of seeing God at work, and expecting great things from the Lord.

For what are we praying?
Our Opening Prayer begins with the confidence of those who are baptized and continues with a simple petition.

You call your children
to walk in the light of Christ.
Free us from darkness
and keep us in the radiance of your truth.

In Christ we have been enlightened: we can see God at work in the world, we see the path that leads to life, and we know how to walk in justice and love. Still, however, we need light; we pray for freedom from fear and from missteps on the way, together with the protecting light of God's love.

Liturgy of the Word
Last week's readings spoke of God in relation to the wind and the sea; today we hear (Wisdom 1:13–15; 2:23–24) about God's power over death. God is alive, and the source of life. What, then, do we say about death? "God did not make death, / nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. / For he fashioned all things that they might have being / . . . / For God formed man to be imperishable; / the image of his own nature he made him. / But by the envy of the devil, / death entered the world, / and they who belong to his company experience it."

Because human beings are created in the divine image, there is something anomalous about death. Wisdom, together with a great deal of the biblical tradition, concludes that death must be the result of sin. We may flavor that belief a little differently, pointing out that all the beings in our world have a biological lifespan, so that death is part of life. All of us, however, can find that death reminds us that we are not always in perfect harmony with God, and that we cannot save ourselves from sin or from death. The Gospel will show these themes of salvation through the prism of Jesus' saving death.

Paul seized on a famine in Palestine as an opportunity to bind the Gentile and Jewish Christians more closely together. He took up a collection among the churches which he had founded, and sent the money back to Jerusalem, so the Christians would be able to buy food. Today's Second Reading (2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13–15) comes from his appeal letter: "For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich." This first great collection began a tradition which has identified the Church throughout our history. As a sign of the unity of the Church and as an expression of the self-giving love of God, the Greek-speaking churches sent money to feed the Christians in famine-stricken Jerusalem. Paul urged the Gentile Christians to be as generous toward the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem as Christ had been with them. That generosity would build the unity of the Church and demonstrate that God's love is the most important thing that binds us together. Paul's collection is, in a sense, continued in our collections for the desperately poor around the world. Are we remembering to pray and work for the people for whom we've taken up collections over the past year? Are we reminding our government representatives of our common human obligation to care for the poor? Are we actively receiving God's gift of caring for our neighbor with the love of God? Our diocese and our parish are indeed reaching out in our name. Can we more fully support this common effort with our prayer, our conversation, our time and our treasure?

Mark gives us two healing stories (Mark 5:21–43) that highlight the power of faith and point forward to the cross. The main story concerns the daughter of Jairus: "One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with [Jesus], saying, 'My daughter is at the point of death.' " As Jesus is going to Jairus' home, he encounters a woman who had been afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She touches him in faith, and is healed. Jesus recognizes and praises her faith. This story is omitted in the short form (5:21–24, 35b–43) of today's Gospel. As Jesus is speaking with the woman, the news arrives that the child has died. Jesus, confident and unafraid, continues to the house, puts out the mourners and takes the child's hand: " 'Little girl, I say to you, arise!' . . . He gave strict orders that no one should know this, and said that she should be given something to eat." Neither the disciples nor the child's parents understand who Jesus is or what he has done. Like the prophets Elijah and Elisha, Jesus raises a dead child. Like them, too, he is careful to have as few witnesses as possible, lest he be seen merely as a wonder-worker, rather than as the one who preaches God's kingdom. In Mark's telling, the story of Jairus's daughter is interpreted through the healing of the woman whose faith has saved her. Jesus the healer has power even over death, but that power is connected with the death which he will suffer out of love for the Father. His healing actions cannot be understood except in light of his pasch, which is not yet accomplished.

For what, then, are we praying?
In our Prayer over the Gifts, we praise God for putting us in contact with the saving death of Jesus:

Through your sacraments
you give us the power of your grace.
May this eucharist help us to serve you faithfully.

The liturgy, we say, protects us from thinking of Jesus merely as wonderworker, and opens us to receive the gift of God's grace. In thanks, we ask to serve faithfully as disciples of the crucified one, not seeking reward, but looking for the good of our neighbor.

This solemnity celebrates God's action in building up the entire Church, but we celebrate it especially as a feast of the Roman church, which traces its founding back to the ministry which both apostles exercised in Rome.

For what are we praying?
The alternate Opening Prayer begins with a Pauline-sounding cry of thanks, and proceeds to a petition for joy in living the Christian life:

Praise to you, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who in your great mercy
have given us new birth and hope
through the power of Christ's resurrection.

Through the prayers of the apostles Peter and Paul
may we who have received this faith through their preaching
share their joy in following the Lord
to the unfading inheritance
reserved for us in heaven.

Liturgy of the Word
As if we were still celebrating Easter, we begin with Acts (12:1-11). Herod has begun to persecute the Church; Peter is imprisoned, but is freed by God's angel. Luke connects God's action and the prayer of the Church: "In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. . . . Peter thus was being kept in prison but prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God on his behalf. On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, 'Get up quickly. . . . Put on your cloak and follow me.' . . . They emerged and made their way down an alley, and suddenly the angel left him."

Although the enemies of the Gospel had hoped to put Peter on trial and discredit the new way, God protected Peter and the Church. In Luke's vision, the glorified Christ was working to spread the Gospel. Christ still acts in us; where do we see our fellow parishioners preaching the Gospel with power and grace? Where are we feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and bearing witness to Christ's Resurrection? In all those places God's angel is protecting the Church.

In response we sing (Psalm 34:2-9): "The Lord delivered me from all my fears."

As we returned to the Sundays of Ordinary Time, we heard Paul boasting about his configuration to the suffering Christ. In our Second Reading (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18) we hear his confidence that God has accomplished great things through his ministry: "I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. . . . The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it."

Both Paul and Peter were kept faithful by God's grace. We, in turn, have received the faith in the community founded and sustained by their ministry. How are we giving ourselves to the mission that the apostles received? How do we see the Lord keeping us faithful?

In the Gospel (Matthew 16:13-19), we hear Jesus' question: "Who do you say that I am?" Together with Peter we have responded, and we know some of the fruits that God has brought from our faith and devotion. To us, as to Peter, comes the reminder: "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father." We are called, then, to minister in thankfulness and humility, with reverence for the Lord who sends us and for the body which we serve.

For what, then, are we praying?
Usually we ask for our prayer to be joined to that of the saints. Today, in the Prayer over the Gifts, we ask for the apostles to join their prayers to ours. On this feast we may be more confident of the holiness of the worshipping assembly, for we remember God's action in guarding and preserving the Church through Peter and Paul.

May your apostles join their prayers to our offering
and help us to celebrate this sacrifice in love and unity.

The Preface of Peter and Paul recalls the complementary missions of these great apostles:
Peter raised up the Church
from the faithful flock of Israel.
Paul brought your call to the nations,
and became the teacher of the world.
Each in his chosen way gathered into unity
the one family of Christ.
Both shared a martyr's death
and are praised throughout the world.

The Prayer after Communion is a prayer for our continued conversion and for the unity of the Church. By God's grace, we expect the celebration of the Eucharist, together with the faith we received through the apostles, to bind us together more closely in the love of Christ:
Lord, renew the life of your Church
with the power of this sacrament.
May the breaking of bread
and the teaching of the apostles
keep us united in your love.

With this feast, and with its companion celebration of the first martyrs of the Church of Rome, we complete our passage from Easter to Ordinary Time, and from springtime to midsummer. In these two months our liturgy has highlighted the action of God's saving love in our midst. May our celebration continue to transform us and configure us more and more to Christ!

Jerome Hall, SJ,
is an assistant professor in the Word and Worship Department at Washington Theological Union.
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