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Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B, April 26, 2015
Lectionary Index #50

Twenty-second digests for the congregation: Arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.

Who should announce these before the first and second readings, and before the gospel acclamation? They're not Scripture, nor homiletic, so they shouldn't be delivered from the ambo. They're a modest teaching. So let the presider say them from the chair. Let the lector turn toward the presider and listen.
Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.


Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B, April 26, 2015
Before the first reading:

The original audience of the book of Acts were Greek converts to Christ. They were curious about how a religion that had started among Jews had come to embrace them. Saint Luke tells how Peter's strong preaching of Jesus made Jewish leaders draw the line.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

For a community torn apart by the exaggerated claims of some of its dissident members, John writes a soothing solution. Just as Jesus went unrecognized by many, so the true believers are misunderstood. And contrary to the claims of some to have special knowledge of the ways of God, there are things yet to be revealed to anyone.
Before the gospel acclamation:

For the same community, John gives a picture of Jesus' tender care for his followers, and a clear statement that authority belongs to him because he obeys his Father and is self-sacrificing for his flock.

First reading, Acts 4:8-12 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: Here's the introduction to Acts that Lector's Notes first borrowed on the recent Fourth Sunday of Advent, from scholar Jerome Kodell, O.S.B, in The Collegeville Bible Commentary -- New Testament (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1992), paraphrased:

Saint Luke wrote for an audience quite different from those of Mark and Matthew, different, too, from the Thessalonians and many other recipients of Paul's letters. Luke's readers lived a generation or more later than the apostles, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., and outside the Holy Land. They had never been Jews. They were cosmopolitan, middle-class and Gentile, living in a skeptical society, yet attracted to a religion with long historic Jewish roots. But that new religion only came to its fulfillment by reaching out to all humankind. To tell that story, to ground his audience in their adopted religious heritage, and to keep them focused on the religion's mission, Luke needed to tell the story of Jesus anew in this gospel, and needed a second book, the Acts of the Apostles.
The Literary and Liturgical Setting: The editors of the Lectionary seem to want to give us another forceful proclamation of salvation through the risen Christ. But Luke was giving his readers that in context. In chapter 1 of Acts, Jesus ascends to heaven and the apostles choose a successor to Judas. In chapter 2, the Holy Spirit descends, the crowds are amazed to hear the disciples prophesy in many languages, Peter gives his first speech about Jesus, and the disciples live in harmony. In chapter 3, Peter cures a cripple, to the amazement of many, so Peter evangelizes them. This prompts the temple guards to arrest them (in the first verses of chapter 4) and haul them before the leaders, elders, scribes, et alii. Today's reading is part of Peter's defense.

The original readers of Acts (see above) would have found here:

Proclaiming It: Do your listeners the favor of putting in context Peter's words "we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple." Before starting your proclamation, say:
In the verses prior to today's reading, Peter has invoked the name of Jesus to cure a cripple, then preached to the amazed onlookers about Jesus, been arrested for so preaching, and brought before the authorities to explain himself.

In your proclamation, be Peter, of course. Give a rousing, convincing speech. Sound convinced and courageous. Your first sentence is long and complex. Its crescendo should peak at "it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean."

But be Luke, too, the author, hinting to your original readers why Jesus was rejected by those to whom he first came: "then you and all people should know ... He is the stone rejected by you, the builders" (a citation of Psalm 118:22). For Jesus is still rejected today, and not just by Jews. Today's Christians should no more take that for granted than the first Christians could. It demands explaining, and even more it demands a remedy (but that's for your assembly's homilist to take on).

Second Reading, 1 John 3:1-2 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: The author of Lector's Notes admits to many years of puzzlement before the terse but pregnant verses of the First Letter of Saint John, which we proclaim on the Sundays of Easter in liturgical year B. But in 2003, I found the following description of the communities who received the original letter, adapted from the Introduction to the letter, in The New American Bible. This clarifies a lot for me, as I hope it does for you. The original recipients are specific Christian communities,
  1. some of whose members were advocating false doctrines (2:18f-26; 3:7).
  2. These errors are here recognized and rejected (4:4);
  3. although their advocates have left the community (2:19),
  4. the threat posed by them remains (3:11).
  5. They have refused to acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ (2:22),
  6. the Son of God (2:23)
  7. who came into the world as true man (4:2).
  8. They are difficult people to deal with,
  9. claiming special knowledge of God
  10. but disregarding the divine commandments (2:4),
  11. particularly the commandment of love of neighbor (4:8),
  12. and refusing to accept faith in Christ as the source of sanctification (1:6; 2:6-9).
  13. Thus they are denying the redemptive value of Jesus' death (5:6).
Now let's look at the reading verse by verse.

Reading II
1 John 3:1-2

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
That the world "did not know him" refers to points 5 & 6 above. That this prevents the world from recognizing us, too, may be an instance of something found throughout John's writings, the identification of Christ and the Christian community.
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.
That something important "has not yet been revealed" is a response to those who claim to have received special knowledge about the things of God.

Proclaiming It: Both verses emphasize that we are God's children, so you should, too. Slow down, then, at "we may be called" [briefest pause] "children of God." [Longer pause] Continue, "Beloved, we are God's children now ..."

In the next clause, emphasize shall because it contrasts what we know with what we don't know. The next sentence is intriguing, is it not? What does it mean to "be like him" and to "see him as he is"? (If you know, you should be writing and I should be reading, but then you'd be a Gnostic and I'd have to disregard your teaching.) Anyway, recite this verse with with a tone that acknowledges the alluring mystery of it.


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Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
Archived weekly column of the late Father Francis X. Cleary, S.J. (Log in using 0026437 and 63137.) From the site of the Saint Louis Review


Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group
Dan covers 1 John 3:16-24 as second reading today. See Dan's page of Easter 3 for a discussion of our second reading of today.

Father Roger Karban of Belleville, Illinois, USA, writes a newspaper column about every Sunday's readings. Here are his essays for today's passages, from: courtesy of The Evangelist, official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, or of The Belleville Messenger, of the Diocese of Belleville.

Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here, at the site of FOSIL, the Faithful of Southern Illinois.

The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes Saint Louis University's excellent Sunday liturgy site.

(Caveat lector. As of February 27, 2015, Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact URL of SLU's offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).

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Last modified: February 27, 2014