Monday, 30 April 2018

We are counted in when
others would count us out

Saint Philip (left) in a stained glass window in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Monday, 30 April 2018,

Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway.

3.30 p.m.:
The Eucharist,

Readings: Acts 8: 26-40; Psalm 22: 25-31; I John 4: 7-21; John 15: 1-8.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

We have come to the end of our road trip as priests and readers in the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, visiting the three working, functioning, cathedrals in the diocese.

It has been a long road trip, we have learned a lot on the journey, and now it seems appropriate to celebrate the Eucharist together at the end of our journey together.

The readings we have shared are those for yesterday [29 April 2018], the Fifth Sunday of Easter, and in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8: 26-40) we are reminded of two other great Biblical journeys:

The journey the unnamed Ethiopian eunuch is making from Jerusalem back through Gaza and Egypt to his home in Ethiopia; and the journey the Apostle Philip (tomorrow is the feast of Saint Philip and Saint James) is told to make from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is out of his way, quite a diversion on the road to Caesarea.

If you have used your ‘sat navs’ to get to Limerick, then to Killaloe, and finally here to Clonfert, you have probably been told a few times that your ‘sat nav’ needs to ‘recalculate’ or ‘recalibrate.’ Image how confused ‘sat navs’ would have been trying to make sense of the journeys these two men were making!

If there is a lesson in this reading that has meaning this afternoon, it is not to travel like either of these two men. Nor is it to drive like the Ethiopian, reading and leaving the work to some modern-day horses, automatic drivers, without keeping our eyes on the road (see verse 28).

But the Ethiopian is an important figure in the New Testament story of the mission of the Apostolic Church.

There is no reason to assume that he was a Gentile. He may well have been a Jew. There was a group of black Ethiopian Jews, the Falasha or Beta Israel, who migrated en masse to Israel from 1979 on.

But he could not worship fully in Jerusalem, despite his best intentions (see verse 27), because he was eunuch. He could never have been what some people describe as a ‘muscular Christian.’

In addition, he may have been discriminated against because he was black and because he was a court official – in an occupied country, the people could see any foreign courtier as a collaborator with the occupying power.

We are not told what happened to the Ethiopian court official afterwards. We are not even told his name.

What is important is not his present, nor his past. What is important is what happens now: he is baptised, he is grafted onto the vine that is Christ, he is counted in.

We matter to Christ not because of who we are or how others see us, but because we abide in Christ and because he abides in us.

Christ is Risen!

John 15: 1-8

[Jesus said:] 1 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.’

Liturgical colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter V):

Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
Grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post-Communion Prayer:

Eternal God,
in word and sacrament
we proclaim your truth in Jesus Christ and share his life.
In his strength may we ever walk in his way,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Hymns:

This reflection was prepared for Monday 30 April 2018.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

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