Check with your parish Liturgy Committee. Today you may be observing the feast of the Ascension of the Lord in your diocese. Click here for those readings and notes.

Ask your presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):

Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B, May 17, 2015

Before the first reading:

Not yet filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples of Jesus attend to some old business. In the long run, the business turns out to be unnecessary.

After the psalm, before the second reading:

The writer continues to assert the connection between sound doctrine and sharing the love of God with our sisters and brothers.

Before the gospel acclamation:

John depicts Jesus as honest about the rejection that his followers expect and accept. And Jesus reassures them about their ultimate destiny.

First Reading, Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26

The Literary Background: The paragraphs in Acts 1 immediately before these tell the story of the disciples witnessing Jesus' ascension into heaven, then returning to Jerusalem. The only activity described is constant prayer. Then comes this passage.

The apostles' eagerness to fill their vacant twelfth position might make us ask what's so special about twelve. Why couldn't eleven Spirit-filled leaders have done the job? Well, twelve is the number of the tribes of ancient Israel, each historically led by a patriarch, then by a judge. These Jewish followers of Jesus are still thinking in fairly strictly Jewish terms. They've heard Jesus speak about their taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, but the import of that has not sunk in yet. They have yet to experience Pentecost, when people from all the ends of the earth are to hear these men preach as if in multiple languages. So they're still thinking in terms of fulfillment of ancient promises, not in terms of entirely new promises and prospects.

Proclaiming it: When you read this aloud, speak slowly and distinctly the phrases "concerning Judas, who was guide for those who arrested Jesus." Be sure the congregation hears the name, so they know the reason for the activities that follow. Likewise, emphasize the phrases "[Lord,] show which of these two you have chosen" and "Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias." This tells the congregation the method the apostles used to choose the candidate, which they saw as letting God make the choice.

Second Reading, 1 John 4:11-16

The Historical Situation: At the risk of wearying regular readers, Lector's Notes borrows again from the Introduction to 1 John in The New American Bible:

To the best of our knowledge, the original recipients of the first letter of John were 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).

The inspired writer, of course, wants to ease the pains caused by these rifts, and assure his readers that the saving truth is open to them and clear.

Examining the verses of the reading in this light, we notice:
Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
Perhaps this sentence is meant to counter point #11 of the errors of the heretics.
No one has ever seen God. See point #9; to have seen God would grant one special knowledge of God. You don't need that to be saved.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.
Reenforces the argument against the heretics' error #11.
This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Reassures the faithful that they have a reliable sign that they do remain in God.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Contra the errors described at points #5, #6 & #12, above.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
Another refutation of error #6.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. Summarizes the relationship between love and the knowledge of God.
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

Proclaiming it: The author of this passage is a poetic mystic. His sentences are spare but packed with meaning. They're a challenge to the oral interpreter, which is what you are as a lector.

I would take the commas as places to pause in the middle of most sentences. The comma is like a break between an implied question and its answer. Consider:

Implied QuestionsAnswers
God loves us. So what should we do?Love one another.
What happens if we love one another?God remains in us.
How do we know God remains in us?He has given us the Spirit.
What happens to those who acknowledge Jesus as Son of God?They remain in God and God remains in them.
What is God?God is love.
What happens to those who remain in love?God remains in them and they remain in God.

Above all, read these gems s-l-o-w-l-y, giving them time to "sink in" to the minds and hearts of those listening to your. It's also quite acceptable to command their attention by pausing at length between the time you reach the lectern and the moment you begin to speak. If you start talking while the altar server is scurrying to put the sacramentary in place, and the people are still settling into their seats or flipping through the misallette for today's page, you're implying that what you have to say is of minor importance.

 
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Links to other smart commentaries on this week's readings

Credit for the picture at the top:
Mural at Chimayo [New Mexico, U.S.A.] - Gathering to Worship, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54346 [retrieved May 8, 2015]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/2744904354/in/set-72157606611500226/.

Lector's Notes should be easily readable on any device, including small-screen ones like cell phones and tablets. This is among the first of a few hundred pages to be converted to a responsive format (responsive to the kind of screen you are using). So when you're not serving as lector, and you arrive at church and mute your cell phone, you can brief yourself on the readings you're about to hear. Format conversion is a work-in-progress and will be so until maybe April of 2018.

This page updated May 8, 2015