Sunday Scripture Readings

fifth sunday of Easter, April 28 Acts 6:1-7; Psalm 33; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12 OUR GOOD NEWS: The Church draws strength from healthy diversity. Because the first Christians were exclusively Jewish, their community re-flected a major division already existing in Judaism. "Hebrews" were Palestinians who spoke Aramaic and read their Bible in the original Hebrew. "Hellenists" were Greek-speaking Jews with ties to Jewish colonies throughout the Roman Empire, reading their Scriptures in Greek translation. These two groups roughly differed along conservative-liberal lines in culture, style, attitude toward Gentiles and observance of the Mosaic Law. Many of the pious Hellenist widows who came from the Dispersion to end their days in Jerusalem needed support. Friction between these factions within the Christian community became exacerbated by studied neglect of such "foreign" widows. Church leaders proposed a major innovation to deal with this injustice. They would delegate some of their authority to others, presumably from the Greek-speaking faction. Proposed qualifications equally apply to every Church office in any generation: good reputation, openness to guidance from the Spirit, gifted with practical wisdom. The 12 officially appointed those whom the whole community chose, following the pattern of Moses installing Joshua as his successor (see Nm 27:15-23). Through "laying on of hands" they passed on power previously reserved to themselves, conferring responsibility and imparting strength along with the community's blessing. Candid airing of grievance by a segment within the community thus led to prompt and innovative response from leadership, resulting in new vitality. Surprisingly, acknowledging rights of "Hellenists" did not alienate but attracted leaders among the "Hebrews" - "Many priests embraced the faith." "Exult, you just, in the Lord!" Today's psalm selection urged the worshiping faithful to unrestrained cries of joy at the good things God has done. Failure to praise would be ungrateful and even offensive. The marvelous thing about God is that he says what he means without deviousness ("upright") and can be counted on to do everything he has promised ("trustworthy"). The responsorial verse is a one-line summary of divine initiative and our expected response. "Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you."

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