We must never forget that the Gospel that Christ preached was a Gospel of compassion and love and simplicity. In the text set before us today Jesus explains that his message is a very simple one that can be understood very well by children and ordinary people. However, so called sophisticated people are much more likely to misunderstand his words and find problems with his teaching.
Today we celebrate the feast of two great saints; saints we consider, after Christ, to be the very cornerstones of the Church. Two great saints and yet two very human creatures. Paul the persecutor of Christians; Peter who denied Christ three times. And yet it is entirely typical of the way God deals with his people that these two unlikely characters should become such important figures in the establishment of the Church.
Today in our Gospel we are presented with a series of sayings by Jesus which it is generally regarded come from quite different sources and indeed from very different situations. Matthew has put them together and presents them as a series of instructions given by Jesus to the Twelve Apostles about how to carry out their mission.
Today we mark the feast of Corpus Christi, or to give it its full title the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It is an important feast in the Liturgical Calendar and it gives us the opportunity to reflect in more detail on the marvellous mystery of the Eucharist that is celebrated each day in Catholic Churches throughout the world.
With the Feast of Pentecost we have come to the end of the Easter Season but now before we return to Ordinary Time we briefly reflect on the Mystery of God himself in this Feast of the Holy Trinity.
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.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket