The Feast of Pentecost occurs on the same day as the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which they call today Shavuot. This is no mistake. Allowing for various adjustments to the calendars over the years Easter occurs on the Jewish feast of Passover and their Feast of Weeks takes place fifty days later. Pentecost literally meaning fifty days also occurs fifty days after Easter and therefore on the same day as the Feast of Weeks.
The Bishop of Rochester, John Fisher, on the morning of his execution, was led from his dungeon out to Tower Green. The cortège paused for a moment at the door of the Tower, so that responsibility for the prisoner could be handed over from the governor to the sheriff. Fisher produced his pocket bible and read from John 17:3: ‘This is eternal life, that they should know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ He put the book away and said most profoundly, ‘This contains enough doctrine to last me for the rest of my life.’
What wonderful soothing words Jesus speaks to his disciples: I will not leave you orphans. I won't let you down, I won't go away never to return. No, I will be with you. Thus, we move forward in our consideration of the Easter Mystery. We move from the contemplation of Christ's appearances after the resurrection over the last few Sundays to a meditation on the continued presence of Christ in the Church through the Holy Spirit.
In our Gospel text today we hear Jesus speaking at the Last Supper about where he is going. It is worth noting that in the previous chapter John records how Jesus told the Apostles in heart-rending terms that he was soon to leave them.
In the Catholic tradition this Fourth Sunday after Easter is called Good Shepherd Sunday and is kept as a Special Day of Prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood and the Religious Life.
The text set before us in the Gospel today has been described as one of the most beautiful stories in the pages of world literature. There is great artistry in the way Luke presents the story and gradually builds up the various layers of meaning.
Very often you see pictures of St Thomas touching the wound in Christ’s side but in actual fact the Gospel does not record this event. Christ certainly showed him his wounds but it is never mentioned that Thomas reached out his hand to actually touch them.
Today we celebrate the most important of all the Christian Feasts, the Resurrection. But this cannot be isolated from what has gone before. Actually the three great feasts of Holy Week are all of a piece: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday and they should not really be seen in isolation from each other.
Today we celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and we begin that great week we know as Holy Week in which we commemorate the last hours of Christ’s life on hearth and his glorious resurrection.
It seems a bit strange that the Church presents us with this gospel reading today on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, it seems to be clearly about the resurrection and yet we haven’t got there yet, we are still plodding through Lent and have to get through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday before we get to the resurrection. What’s going on; have the Church’s liturgical engineers got it all wrong?
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket