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.
We are rushing toward the feast of the Spirit. Acts of the Apostles is more properly called Acts of the Spirit. Luke wrote his volume about Jesus' journey to Jerusalem, and his second volume about the Spirit's journey to Rome. The gospel too offers the works of the Spirit. In John, Jesus calls the Spirit the Paraclete--meaning Advocate, Comforter, Encourager. What does the Spirit do? Above all, Jesus says in today's gospel, the Spirit stays with us, abides in us, so that we cannot be what every human fears: to be orphaned.
Look over your past week and ask the Spirit to call to mind where the Spirit has been at work in you, through you, on your behalf. Then stay quiet and listen. Let the Spirit of truth bubble up from deep within you the truth of the Spirit in you.
O God, we are ready to give an account of the hope which is in us. That hope is your Spirit at work, resting, living, breathing, loving, and we thank you for such a great gift!
Joseph is usually celebrated on May 1. Any other year we could push him quietly off the liturgical calendar, but this spring we have a special claim on Joseph and his work. Joseph is our new pope. Benedict XVI has already spoken of the burden he carries, and who better to help than his baptismal patron? Jesus speaks of the Spirit of truth who testifies on Jesus' behalf, and we pray that our new pope witnesses always to Jesus. Acts tells of Paul's looking for a group of men at prayer, and finding instead a group of Jewish women, gathered to pray. Not only are Jewish women not obligated to pray, sometimes they are forbidden to pray in public. That does not quench the Spirit who is moving Paul in his mission. She and the other women "listen eagerly" and are baptized. We pray, that as Benedict has promised, he will listen eagerly, and that he will encourage the gifts of women.
Take all your feelings, thoughts, hopes, needs for this new leader of our church and lay them openly before Jesus. See how Jesus responds to you.
Joseph, thank you for caring for Jesus in his youth. We ask you to care deeply for the Body of Christ as we grow old in this world. Pray for us all, Joseph, and for the one who bears your name.
Paul exhorts the Corinthians and us to "stand in the good news." He calls all of us who have had an experience of Jesus risen and alive apostles. Not just the Twelve. In today's readings, he writes of Jesus' appearing "To the Twelve...then to all the apostles." We are apostles. The gospel is chosen because of Philip's question. Jesus' response is one of our central doctrines: to see Jesus is to see God. Jesus wants the Father to be glorified by the Son. How does that happen? St. Irenaeus says that the glory of God is the human being, fully human and fully alive. Jesus definitely is fully human and fully alive. God is glorified!
What is the good news in which you stand? How would you formulate it? How will you hand it on as an apostle? If you have not had a personal and felt experience of Jesus alive, ask for it now, with all the fervor you can muster. Nothing would please God more than that Jesus should "appear" to you and make you a bearer of good news!
Jesus, we beg you to let every heart which searches find you. Let them know that God's will is your will, and you will love and forgiveness, inclusion and a new kin-dom. Make us eager apostles!
Jesus promises that the Spirit will guide us into all truth. What our world needs now is the truth proclaimed by Paul to the pagans in Athens, "From one ancestor, God made all the nations to inhabit the whole earth." That ancestor in one sense is Adam/Eve, making us all kin. However, another common ancestor for Christians, Muslims and Jews, is Abraham. All peoples, Paul asserts, are searching for God, even "groping" for God--so close that "In God we live and move and have our being." The world, Paul continues, will be judged "with justice by a man appointed...and raised from the dead." Most of the Greeks scoff at the notion of resurrection. Most of us, perhaps unconsciously, scoff at the notion of Jesus as a man judging justly. Because the Spirit speaks and declares to us, according to the gospel, we need to listen.
What does the Spirit declare to you about Jesus, his humanity, his justice? Listen. What does the Spirit speak to you about our kinship, from one ancestor? Listen. What does the Spirit teach you about living, moving, having our being in God? Listen.
Thank you, our God, for encompassing us in your fertile womb, making us all siblings in your womb where we live and move and have our being. May your Spirit teach us to enjoy all our siblings!
In Acts we have glimpses of how the early church operated. Paul works for a living and spends the sabbath doing his evangelization, much like the worker-priests of France. When the Jews want no part of Paul's message he turns then to the Gentiles, and house churches are the norm. Rather than the formal synagogue, a building in which all face front, men separated from women, now Christians gather around a family table in a circle to share a sacred meal. In house churches they wait for the "little while" Jesus promises in the gospel when they will see him again.
Do you hope to see Jesus? How? Beg again for that heart-felt experience of him alive and with you. As yesterday we listened, today look for Jesus and the pattern of his dying and rising -- in simple daily events like the sun setting, and rising again; in big events like a child leaving home.
Sometimes, Jesus, the "little while" drags on. Even in spring and sunshine our spirits can droop because we need to feel your presence and your love. Let us feel you today in the circling love of you and your people. Thank you.
Jesus speaks of the pain of a woman in labor who then can rejoice in the child she has born. Acts tells of random violence against Sosthenes, ruler of the synagogue, by religious Jews. These Jews have dragged Paul to the proconsul, Gallio, who refuses to prosecute Paul, will have nothing to do with "words and names and your own law." Rightly so. A separation of church and state. When Gallio dismisses them, they turn on Sosthenes and beat him in front of Gallio. Sounds like some today who use violence in their so-called religious fervor, whether violent words in Congress, threats against the judiciary, hatred of Muslims (and sometimes Catholics). How can any rejoicing come from these pains? Only God can change hearts. Only God can bring life from death.
Let us pray for those who are violent and hate-filled in the name of God. That can encompass the people of Northern Ireland; the Catholic Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and its neighboring refugee camps; the various Muslim sects persecuting one another. So many more we never hear about. Offer your compassion to God who must weep over how people use God to beat one another.
O God, we share your pain at the religious violence in our world. Please bring life out of this death, and peace out of this injustice and disunity. We ask this in the name of our unifier, your Holy Spirit.
A new apostle enters, Apollos, so eloquent and "burning in spirit" concerning Jesus. He was teaching accurately about Jesus but Paul's co-workers Prisca and Aquila take him aside and help to deepen his understanding and faith. Prisca's teaching Apollos refutes Paul's warning that women should not be allowed to teach; the conclusion is that a later manuscript writer added that warning since Prisca's teaching an already bright man is not disputed.
Who helps you deepen your understanding of Jesus and your faith/trust in him? It may be a spouse, friend, parish group, spiritual director, Sunday homilist, etc. Let your imagination bring these apostles to you before you and thank them for their burning spirit.
We thank you, Jesus, for all your apostles in our lives. Grace us again each day with a burning spirit, that we may spread knowledge and love of you to all whom we meet.
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