A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Archive for May, 2015

Will the circle be unbroken?

Over the years people have wondered about the beginning and the end of things that go in cycles.  For example, the calendar year.  December 31 is the end of the old year, and January 1 is the beginning of the new year.  New year’s eve is ordinarily the time to figure out what the new year may bring.  Will it be better–or worse than the last year?  Hence, the time to make resolutions.

The feast of Pentecost is much like the new year’s eve situation of making resolutions.  The reality is that Pentecost turns out to be the  focal point of whether or not we will choose to carry on the ministry of Jesus into the world.  Let me explain.

The church celebrates the feasts of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth both when he was here physically and and after his return to heaven.  This annual cycle is what we tend to call “the liturgical year.”

Normally, we would say that the liturgical year goes through four stages.  1)-Advent/Christmas; 2)-Lent/Easter; 3)-Ascension/Pentecost; and 4)-Ordinary time.

First.  The liturgical year begins with Advent, which presents us with the dominating theme “God with us.”  Our belief is that God became human through the person of Jesus Christ.  So, referring to Jesus, there are several biblical references to “Immanuel,” which in Hebrew means “God with us,” thus affirming the dominant theme.  The word “Advent,” from the Latin, means “coming.”  The feast of Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, the arrival of “Immanuel” (God with us).

Second.  As an adult, Jesus begins his public ministry, most likely, after his baptism in the Jordan.  The Gospel accounts refer to the presence of the Holy Spirit at the baptismal ritual. Soon, Jesus performs his ministry displaying acts of justice, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding.  During this time he meets resistance from some of the Jewish leaders.  This results in the period of Lent where he experiences suffering and subsequent death. A few days later Jesus rises from the dead showing his victory over all forms of darkness.  His resurrection displays his power of life over death.

Third.  Just before Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, his ministry must continue to be carried on.  This task is to be undertaken by his disciples, that is, those who have a strong sense of belief in Jesus.  So he commissions them.  As was true in his case, so it will be in the case of all his future disciples.  Namely, after their baptism they will receive the Holy Spirit  who will give them courage and strength to continue Jesus’ ministry to others.  Consequently, Pentecost becomes the turning point where all the disciples take over Jesus’ ministry to the ends of the earth.

Fourth.  The period we call Ordinary time indicates that in our ordinary life, we have to make constant decisions as to whether or not we are ready to be faithful witnesses to carry on the ministry of Jesus to others.  Remembering our baptism and the responsibility we assumed to proclaim Jesus to others remains our constant choice.  But it is the Spirit (“creative power of God”) that gives us the courage and energy to keep saying “yes” to the challenges presented daily to us.

It is the annual cycle of the liturgical year, much like an ongoing circle, that keeps reminding us of our baptismal obligations to be of service.  And as long as we keep saying “yes” to the Holy Spirit, the circle of the liturgical year, and thus Jesus’ ministry, will not be broken.

 

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