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.
The gospel describes Easter night when Jesus breathes peace on his disciples, and the same group a week later, only this time Thomas is with them. The first reading describes how loving and generous the first community was, sharing all things in common and being sure no one was in need. John's letter continues that theme of loving and links to the gospel's theme of faith. Everyone who loves God loves Jesus, and thus we love all the children of God. "The victory that conquers the world is our faith," John writes. Remember that in scripture, faith is not intellectual assent to divinely revealed truths; faith is an attachment to, a clinging to, a commitment to God. It is a glad shout with Thomas as he touches Christ: "My Lord and my God!"
Imagine Jesus coming to stand before you as really as he stood before Thomas, showing you his wounds. What does your heart cry out? Keep your eyes fixed on him as you repeat slowly this cry of adoration and love.
Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief. Breathe your peace into our hearts and into our world. As the Father sent you, please send us to bring your forgiveness, reconciliation and unity to those we meet today.
Last we saw Nicodemus, who today comes to Jesus at night with his questions, he had boldly asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. He has come a long way between John 3 and John 19! Peter too has grown from his cowardly denial of Jesus to proclaiming him boldly no matter what the threats of the Sanhedrin. In our day we need that boldness, and Cardinals Mahoney and Keeler have led the way. Mahoney of Los Angeles refuses to obey any law that keeps him from works of mercy to immigrants. Keeler of Baltimore calls the House Resolution declaring undocumented immigrants "evil." A former ambassador to the Vatican said in public that Pope John Paul did not condemn the preemptive war on Iraq, but we know differently. We must say so.
Ask the Spirit to fill you with boldness. Ask to remember a time when you did speak up for truth, justice, or peace. For what would you (like the cardinals, if this law passes) be willing to become a felon? For what would you risk (like Peter) excommunication from your church?
Fill us, your church, Holy Spirit with the boldness of Peter, John and the first community. Help us to be ready to speak the truth to power, and to find even small ways to start now.
Although Peter's baptismal homily mentions Mark, Peter's son, we do not think the apostle wrote the homily, nor that Mark and Peter were companions. This ending of Mark's gospel was probably added decades later. And of course, the media currently is playing up the Gospel according to Judas. What are we to think? We think that we do not put our trust in history but in a living word of God, Jesus. Scripture does not guarantee us historical, geographical, biographical or scientific truth, but as the Vatican II document promise, "that truth which we need for our salvation." We need the gospel's commission to preach the gospel to every creature; that word is directed to us. We need the first century's author (whoever he is) to encourage us to humility, to vigilance, to steadfast faith in the face of suffering. Then, God will "restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you." That is truth for our salvation.
Pray for the gifts of humility, awareness of God in all things, faith and faithfulness especially as you look around our suffering world. Look at each creature you will meet today (or tomorrow) and ask that you may be good news for each one (plants, animals, water, etc.).
Jesus, thank you for this gospel, for inspiring Mark to write, for inspiring us to read and to participate in the events of your life even as we read. Your word is spirit and life! Alleluia!
"There is no chaining the word of God!" That sentence is made visible through the release of the apostles from prison by "an angel" who instructed them to "Go, take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life." "This life" is explained in the gospel as the love God has for the world -- so much love that God share God's own Son that we all may have "this life."
Take a long, loving look (a description of contemplation) at "this life". What would you tell the church about "this life"? What does it mean to you? With whom might you share this good news? (None of us are off the hook because we are shy. All the baptized are sent to "tell the people everything about this life" So some of us will have to pray for boldness.)
Today's psalm: "Glorify our God with me. Let us praise God's name. Look to God that you may be radiant with joy." Thank you, our God, for your great love, named Jesus.
Good news in the gospel: "God does not ration the gift of the Spirit." The Spirit makes us as bold as that first community who again are dragged before the Sanhedrin. Peter and the apostles reply, "We must obey God rather than human beings." Peter goes on to name Jesus as leader and savior. Leader is a translation of the Greek archegogos or one who goes first, a pioneer. Savior comes from the Hebrew yesh which means to set free. Peter's witness infuriates the Sanhedrin and they want to execute the apostles.
How has Jesus been a leader for you? A pioneer? One who sets you free? Since God doesn't ration the Spirit, ask for the fullness of the Spirit. Be bold in your asking.
We boldly beg for the fullness of the Spirit, our God. Thank you, for we know that you will bring to perfection the good work your Spirit has begun in us. Let us share your Spirit today.
Abruptly the gospel scene shifts from the nighttime instruction to Nicodemus to the sunny hillside where Jesus feeds the hungry crowd. More importantly perhaps, he hides himself rather than let the crowd make him king. He resists power, applause, honor. And in Acts the apostles count it honor to be flogged for speaking the name of Jesus. "All day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus."
How does Jesus continue to feed you? What do you consider honor? How could you teach and/or proclaim Christ today in your home, workplace, neighborhood, church?
Pour out your Spirit of wisdom, Jesus, so that we may see what is truly honorable, that we may keep your perspective on religious, national and international issues. Give us your mind, we pray.
Conflict in our church is nothing new. In Acts, the Greek-speaking Christians accuse the Jewish group of neglecting the Greek widows. The apostles want to "devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word," and so the "deacons" (from the Greek for servers) are chosen to see to the poor. Today's section from Acts concludes: "Even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith." Here is an example of a new perspective on honor. These men were born into the priesthood and had much honor accorded them; as new Christians they would simply be brother Christians.
Pray for our priests and ministers that they may devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Pray for our deacons that they may find simple service of the poor enough, and in fact, great honor. Pray for the gift of humility and of awareness of others' needs.
We ask you Jesus, always praying that we may all be one, for a healing of conflict throughout our world wide church. Let us be instruments of justice, unity and peace.
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