Sunday Liturgy Commentary
Sixth Sunday of Easter – 14 May 2023
Lectionary Readings: Acts 8:5-8.14-17; Ps. 66:1-7. 16. 20; 1Pet. 3:15-18; Jn. 14:15-21
Theme: How Awesome Are Your Deeds
The readings of this Sunday’s liturgy come from the period spanning approximately the last third of the first century and into the first third of the second. Each conveys the urgency of a particular situation; yet, in each we can also discern the reverent amazement of the Psalm’s proclamation, “How awesome are your deeds!”
In Acts, the sense of urgency is due to the severe persecution inflicted on the church in Jerusalem, that scattered the community. In Samaria, the exorcizing and healing ministry of the deacon, Philip, prompted the apostles, Peter and John, to go to pray with the newly-baptized there, invoking the Holy Spirit upon them, through the laying on of hands. Richard Dillon comments that such visits of delegates of the mother church, to a new community, bonded the two (NJBC, 743). “How awesome are your deeds, O Lord!”
The passage from 1Peter reflects a more pastoral, less missionary, church after 65 A.D., when care of the new communities became a major concern (cf. NJBC, 1343). The letter counsels the communities of Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Asia, and Cappadocia to sanctify or reverence the presence of Christ as “Lord” in their hearts, affirming the theological insight of the indwelling of Christ in the hearts of the faithful. “How awesome are your deeds, O Lord!”
The word “commandments” (14:15. 21) frames the gospel passage that is designated for this Sunday. Adele Reinhartz remarks that commandments are central to the covenantal relationship between the believer and God (JANT, 207). The context of the Last Supper highlights the importance of the commandments to which Jesus refers. In trying to identify the specific commandments under consideration, we need to go a little before and beyond John 14:15-21. In 13:34, we find the singular form and a more explicit statement: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” A parallel expression in 14:23 employs “word” in place of “commandment”: “those who love me will keep my word.” To what, more specifically, does Jesus refer when he speaks of having or keeping his commandment(s) or word? In 15:12, he states very clearly: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” which reflects the “Great Commandment”: to love the Lord, your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself (cf. Mk. 12:29-30 and Dt. 6:5; Lev 19:18). Our passage concludes with Jesus’ ultimate promise: “… I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them …” (14:20-21). We conclude recalling once again the Psalm’s proclamation: “How awesome are your deeds, O Lord.”
For Reflection and Discussion: 1) Reflect on a personal experience that still evokes your awe at God’s deeds in your life. 2) What do you find most challenging in the commitment to live the “Great Commandment”?
Bibliography: Brown, Raymond E. et al., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1990); Levine, A-J. and Brettler, M. Z., The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford U. Press, New York, 2017).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Diane Willey, nds, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna 2005, 2006