First Reading: Acts 15:1-2.22-29
It did not take long before the first Christian communities were disagreeing about doctrine. Here we follow a major issue: do you have to be circumcised (in other words become a member of the People of Israel) before you can follow Christ? Some (such as the men from Judea in this reading) said 'yes', others said no. The significance of this account in Acts is not that there was disagreement, but how it was resolved. Paul and Barnabas are sent to Jerusalem to discuss the problem with the apostles and elders, and when a decision is made, they return with it.
For many listeners in Church, this will seem a rather obscure issue! Somehow the reader has to create the sense of how important it was. Take your time with the first paragraph (always remember that congregations take quite some time to settle before they start listening to the First Reading!) One slight problem is that the discussion in Jerusalem is omitted (verses 3-21), so you jump straight to the solution. A good pause before paragraph two is recommended. In reading the letter from the apostles, emphasise words like "unsettled" and "disturbed". At the end it is important to emphasise the role of the Holy Spirit in making the decision. Since the list of precepts at the end sounds rather odd to our ears (but would not to a Jewish oreven Greek audience) underline that these are "essential burdens".
Second Reading: Apocalypse 21:10-14.22-23
We are nearing the end of the book and the vision is getting more and more thrilling! If the book of Apocalypse were a symphony, this passage would be a huge triumphant and glorious theme, resounding throughout the whole orchestra: no less than the appearing of the new, radiant Holy City! The reader has a difficult task with these sections of Apocalypse: you are painting a picture in words, which must be glowing, respendent, bejewelled and radiant - just like the city you are describing - but you must not go "over the top"! Spend some time with the reading, and try to see what John is seeing in his vision. In particular emphasise the adjectives - the words which add colour and depth to the vision: "enormous", "radiant", "precious", "crystal-clear", and so on.
Be careful with the final paragraph: it is a single sentence, so make sure you break it up in your mind: emphasise that it is God himself who is the radiant light of this city...and glance at the flame of the Easter Candle when you finish!
Click on the link to get this week's Gospel based Wordsearch. Feel free to copy and paste it into your parish publications.