Sister Rea McDonnell, SSND, offers daily reflections on the Liturgical Readings for each day. If you wish to share your own reflections or have comments or questions, please feel free to email Sister Rea. For information about Sister Rea's publications, visit our online gift shop.
Although this is known as Good Shepherd Sunday, we will lift out another theme: abondanza! In the gospel Jesus tell us just why he came and why he stays, God-with-us: that we might have life in abundance. Not to test us, correct us, even guide us, but so that we might know God's love and faithfulness in great gushes of life! Not a trickle from a faucet, not an 8-ounce glass, not gallons, but a never-ending fountain of living water from deep within us: the Spirit. We respond with the psalmist, "My cup overflows!"
Who in your life has put flesh on the shepherding activity of the Risen Christ? What has that person done for you? How have you responded? Picture that person enfolded in the arms of the Good Shepherd. Then picture yourself there too. Tell Christ how you feel.
Thank you, Christ Jesus, for your abundant kindness toward us, your deep fountain of Spirit-life within us. Help us to overflow today with your life and love.
Today, as the Conclave in Rome begins, it is providential that our sequential reading of Acts shows us how the early church made its decisions. The conversion of the Gentile Cornelius and his household is told today in Peter's own words, when he is confronted by those who would exclude Gentiles from the early church. First, Peter is prepared by a vision in which God rebukes Peter, "That which God has made clean, you may not call unclean." (Has God made women clean? Are homosexuals loved by God? Etc....) Peter is called from his religious experience by messengers from Cornelius. Later Peter explains to his accusers, "The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating." As Peter is preaching to Cornelius, the Holy Spirit again acts quite independently of custom and human law and falls abundantly on the whole household. Peter asks those who would keep the community exclusively Jewish, "Who am I to hinder God?"
Ask the Spirit to show you any "discrimination" or prejudice that lurks in your heart, to heal your fear of those people, and to replace the fear with acceptance and love. Pray for those whom you might wish to exclude. Pray for our Cardinals.
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for choosing us Gentiles to receive your abundance. Pour out your healing, unity, and peace on all peoples of this world. Make us instruments of your unity.
Jesus assures us today that no one can snatch us from his hand. The Good Shepherd clings to us. Even in times of persecution, as described by Acts, life will arise. Because the followers of Jesus were persecuted in Judea, they scattered around the Mediterranean with the good news. Antioch becomes a center and Barnabas calls Paul to work with him, teaching the new members, even Greeks, Gentiles.
Ask the Spirit to remind you of a time (just one for now) when you were persecuted, ignored, laughed at, or hurt in any way. Remember the incident or relationship in as great detail as you can. Where was God in that experience? Ask the Spirit to show you the new life that came from that very pain. (Not too recent a hurt, since we need time to heal.) Respond.
Thank you, Jesus, for holding us close to you, letting no thing, no one snatch us away. Thank you that out of our many daily dyings, your new life arises in us.
The church made its decisions by listening to the religious experience of Peter, as we learned on Monday. Today we hear of a community of five listening for the Spirit. Fasting and praying opened them to hear the call of the Spirit to lay hands, a commissioning, on Barnabas and Saul. "So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit," went to teach in Jewish synagogues in new areas. "One sent" in Greek is apostolos, as Jesus describes himself today, "What I say, I say as the Father told me." John's gospel calls him the apostle of God.
Ask the Spirit to help you remember this week so far. To whom were you sent? What encounters, meetings, phone calls, letters, email etc., did you initiate? What was the content of these? Where was God in those experiences? Ask for the grace to be more aware of your being an apostle.
Jesus, help us to say only what we hear the Spirit speaking in our hearts. Give us wise, kind, grateful words to build up and encourage your people.
In Acts we have moved from a focus on Peter to Paul's message. The gospel today begins a continuous reading of the Last Supper discourse. Yesterday we concentrated on our being sent. Today Jesus explains how we are to be received. "Whoever receives the one I send, receives me, and whoever receives me, receives the One who sent me."
Ask the Spirit to lead you through yesterday's list of those to whom you were sent, to see how you were received. How was it for you? Even if those whom you encountered were not aware that in receiving you they were receiving Jesus and the One who sent him, ask for the grace for you to be more aware. Pray for all those whom you met this week.
Jesus, sacrament of God, thank you for transforming us to be sacraments of you. Help us be more aware of the Spirit's guiding us to act, speak, and be you.
What Jesus promises at his last supper, Paul puts into action, first preaching to the Jews, and then turning to the Gentiles. "There are many dwelling places," Jesus assures us -- room for all. It is Jesus himself who goes to prepare a place for us, and he exhorts us not to let our hearts be troubled.
In response to Thomas's question about how to get where Jesus is going, Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life." Notice that it is Jesus, not the Roman Catholic church, who IS the way. No one church has all the truth, no one nation has all the life. We are all welcome in the Father's house, "through" Jesus.
What troubles you these days? First, tell Jesus all about them. Then hear Jesus speak directly to you, calling your name: "______, do not let your heart be troubled." What "way" in your life is a bit muddled, confused at the moment? Look at Jesus saying to you, "______, I am the way." How will you respond?
Lord Jesus, we do have faith in God and in you. We cling to you in all our troubles, and in our joy and gratitude. Help us not to fear death, our own or others. You are the way to God. We adore you.
We have two major teachings in our two readings. First, Paul and Barnabas apply words of Isaiah to themselves, words that other evangelists had applied to Jesus. God speaks, "I have made you a light to the Gentiles." Prophets do not make predictions; it is we (and generations before us) who have applied the words of the prophets to Jesus, to ourselves, to world situations. Secondly, Jesus responds, "Philip, if you have seen me you have seen the Father." So many people fear God, or God's will, or hell or.... If we would keep our eyes fixed on Jesus we would have nothing to fear. Jesus' will is always for mercy, forgiveness, belonging, unity--for all the true hungers of the human heart. We can see that concretely in gospel stories.
See Jesus saying directly to you, using your name, "______, if you see me you have seen God." Apply that saying to you, your life. What does "seeing" Jesus teach you about God? After you are finished thinking about that, ask the Spirit to show you. Listen. Rest a while in Jesus.
Thank you, Jesus, for putting flesh on the compassion and the steadiness of God's love for us. You are the word made flesh, and we thank you for dwelling not only among us, but within us as Risen Lord!
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