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.
Often this is called Good Shepherd Sunday. For Jesus good shepherding means knowing each of us, and knowing in the Jewish culture means union. Many people find the image of our being "sheep" most distasteful, however. So John's first letter assures us that our true dignity is in being children of God. "We are God's children now, and what we shall be has not yet been revealed." Here is a hint of what we shall be, from the Offertory of every Mass: "May we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity." We are in the process of becoming divine.
How can you let Jesus share in your personal humanity? How can you be more deeply united with him today, freely inviting him know the depth of you? How much do you want to know him in depth?
Jesus, open our ears to recognize your voice and to trust your leadership more completely. We pray that there may soon be one flock and you, the one Shepherd. Come quickly!
Rich readings. The gospel might be summed up in Jesus' promise that he has come that we might have life in abundance, not a drop, not a trickle but a flood of life! The psalm cries out in thirst for the living God. The story in Acts is very important in Luke's theology which is so inclusive. Peter is accused by Judaizing Christians of eating with the uncircumcised Cornelius and his household. Peter "explained it to them step by step." He had had a vision of unclean animals and heard God's command to eat them. "Never!" insisted Peter, the perfect! Peter needed the vision and the voice three times, with the finale: "What God has made clean, you dare not call unclean." Just then Gentiles call for Peter to come to the house of Cornelius, and even before Peter can begin to preach the Holy Spirit fell on the whole household. Peter dares to share his religious experience not only with his friends but with those who are suspicious, who want converts first to become Jewish. Rites of ritual purity are done away with, God has made all clean, and the Spirit is supremely free.
With whom do you dare share your religious experience? How is it received? How do you receive another's story of what happens when they pray? What is our church community calling unclean? Ask God how God feels/thinks about this exclusion. Listen. Pray for openness to the Spirit in our church, and for your own freedom to move with the Spirit.
Come, Holy Spirit, with your power and creativity. Help us to reverence every bit of creation and all peoples, no matter how different they may seem. Fill us with abundance of Christ's life!
First we hear of persecution, which scattered the faithful. The mission, however, flourished because wherever they went the first Christians proclaimed Jesus as God's chosen and their leader. God keeps bringing life out of death. Barnabas, a name which means son of encouragement, sees grace at work in a major center of the Mediterranean world, Antioch, but needs help with the expanding numbers. He turns to Saul, bringing him from Tarsus to begin their co-working. "It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians."
Where do you see grace at work today? With whom are you co-working to expand God's work in the world? When has it been your experience that life does spring from death, persecution, rejection?
With the psalmist we cry to you, our God: "Our home is within you." Thank you for including us in the body of your Risen Servant. May we, embodying him, be attractive signs of your presence and work in our world.
"The word of God continued to spread and grow." Sometimes Luke's second volume, Acts, is called the gospel of the Holy Spirit, and sometimes the gospel of the Word. With close attention to the Spirit, a small group learns that they are to set Barnabas and Saul on a mission to the Mediterranean world. "Let all the nations praise you!" they could cry with the psalmist. The content of this mission is the word and the Word. "I do not speak the word on my own," Jesus assures us, but he listens to God and speaks only what he hears God saying.
And we? To pray is not only to pour out our hearts to God, but to listen quietly, attentively to the Word which the Spirit speaks in our depths. What can you hear God saying to you today? What word resonates in you? Repeat it slowly, reverently now and imagine it moving through your body, your mind, and out from you to enfold the nations in God's precious Word.
Fill your people, Spirit of the Risen Lord, with the zeal of these first missionaries. Let Jesus be so real to us that he fills our hearts, minds, and lips with the powerful word of God's merciful and faithful love.
It seems the Jewish people never tire of hearing the saving events. When Paul is asked to speak in the synagogue, he begins recounting their communal experience of God's setting the people free from slavery in Egypt. So powerful is this originating experience that they coin a Hebrew word, yesh, save, which means to be set free in the open, to be given space and time. Notice how it is Jesus' own name, Yeshua. In the gospel Jesus offers us two other "titles," and they are paradoxical. First we recall the saving event of how he washed feet; he is footwasher, our servant. And, on the other hand, he is so identified with the God of the exodus that he calls us to believe that he is I AM, God's name revealed to Moses in the burning bush. The Alleluia verse names him faithful witness, firstborn of the dead.
What paradoxes do you find in our faith? Who is Jesus for you at this time in your life? What do you call him? What does he call you? Listen for his voice. Rest in that voice.
Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of faith. We do believe that you and your God are so one that you, the great I AM, stoop to wash our feet. Help us to be footwashers, especially of your poor and lonely ones.
"God raised him from the dead!" Paul proclaims. Hopefully we never tire of hearing of the events saving us, setting us free. How are we to be set free? Jesus gives the way, the truth and the life in himself. "You have faith in God," he tells not only those at his last supper but each one of us.
What saving events help you be more free? How have you discovered that Jesus is the way for you, the truth for you, the life that floods your whole being? What more do you want? (Feel free to be greedy for the gifts of God!) Hear Jesus say directly to you: "You have faith in God." Respond to him.
Jesus, you have gone to prepare a place for us, and yet you are always with us, Emmanuel, deep in our hearts, deep in our communities, deep in our world. Light us up from inside that all may see your life lived through us.
Here is a major turning point for the young community. When Paul's and Barnabas' teaching is rejected, they turn to the Gentiles who are delighted to hear the good news. As the violence from the Jewish leaders grows more vicious, the apostles shake the dust from their feet and move on, "filled with joy and the Holy Spirit." God's will is never the "violent abuse" that they suffered. In the gospel Jesus reminds Philip just to look at him in order to see the Father. Jesus never sanctioned violent abuse but asked us to pray for our persecutors. God and Jesus passionately desire peace, justice, inclusion, unity.
What do you desire with all your heart? Are there any little pockets in your heart of fear or mistrust of God as you were taught about God? Ask the Spirit to show you. Be quiet. Listen. Then look at Jesus' ministry. How did he behave? To see him is to see God and to know God's will.
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you because by your holy will, you have set us free. Deepen our desires that we may share your passionate desires for all that is good.
Acts details the successes and failures which the newly converted Paul experienced in preaching Christ. First, the Christians were afraid of Paul, but Barnabas stood up for him. When he debated with Greek-speaking Jews, however, he was almost killed. So the "brothers" sent him home to Tarsus, and the church "was at peace." Paul was trying to bear the fruit that Jesus promised those who remained in him, like branches on a vine, receiving their life-blood directly from him. God is glorified, no matter what the outcome of our generativity. The whole paschal mystery is "the triumph of failure", as a book by Edward Leen called it. What is important is that we abide in God and God in us, in loving union. "We know that Christ remains in us from the Spirit he gave us," John's first letter concludes today. This union gives God glory.
A good way to celebrate Sunday is to take a walk in the beauty of spring. Look deeply at each living thing, knowing how branches live from the trunk, grass from its roots, flowers from their stems. Feel the pulsation of life in the growing things around you. Then stand still and feel the pulse of the Spirit filling you with Christ's life. How will you respond. (A definition of contemplation is "a long, loving look at the real.")
Jesus, our vine, our source of life, thank you for sharing your new image of God as vine-grower, or in Greek, "farmer". Our farmer-God, grow us strong and fruitful that we may love "in deed and truth."
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