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.
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. (Another 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."
Note how earlier in Acts Peter and John were persecuted after the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem jumped to his feet. Now Paul and Barnabas are heralded as gods by the Gentiles after Paul tells a cripple to stand, and he too jumps up. No matter what the consequence, both Peter and Paul act for the glory of God and are instruments of God's healing of cripples. Jesus offers us an inflow of God's love and the Holy Spirit who will teach us everything, and remind you of all that I told you."
Ask the Spirit to show you where parts of your personality are crippled, paralyzed, in any way dis-eased. Ask for the inflow of God's healing, and God's dwelling in your self. Jesus says directly to you: "My Father will love you and we will come to you and make our dwelling with you." Ponder that loving union happening within your self, flawed as it may be.
Thank you, Jesus, for joining us together with one another in you, in God, in the power and love of your Holy Spirit. We long for a deepening of your Spirit at Pentecost. Make us ready to jump up in your service!
We follow the travels of Paul and Barnabas around Asia Minor and back to Antioch where they began their partnership, co-laboring as Paul would call it in his letters. They give a report of all that God had done among the Gentiles, and soon will be summoned to Jerusalem to give an account to their "enemies", the Judaizing Christians. Jesus has a word for them and for us: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." In Acts 15 we will attend to the conflict in the early church: whether Paul and Barnabas were right in allowing Gentiles to be baptized without circumcising the men and making men and women pledge to keep the Jewish Law. Or whether they violated the norms of the community. (Judaizers wanted Gentiles to become Jews first and then Christians).
Peace as the world gives? Surely Jesus jokes? Even in the first community there is conflict. What does peace mean to you? How is the peace Jesus gives different? Where at this moment is your heart troubled? What/whom do you fear? Hear Jesus directly address you: "Peace." Picture his peace as an inflow of color and warmth and let it circulate through your blood stream. Breathe deeply. Enjoy the peace of Christ. Rest.
Holy Spirit, open our minds and hearts to see laws and norms in perspective. Open us especially to the peace of Christ and his inclusive loving, loving through us.
Judaizing Christians would often follow Paul and insist that the new Gentile converts had to follow the Law. "There arose no little dissension and debate." We who are torn among right wing Catholics and liberal Catholics are in much the same situation. Do we follow Law? Do we know and respond to the Spirit? The gospel gives us a way, a truth and a life: "Whoever remains in me and I in that person will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing." No matter our position on morality, on doctrine, on authority, we are always joined with one another and our life-giving vine, Jesus. Both "sides" do bear fruit, do they not? Isn't God good?! Jesus concludes today: "By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
Become my disciples? Are we not already? Maybe not. Discipulus/a in Latin is a learner. Ask the Spirit to teach you where ( perhaps unconsciously) you are closed to learning. Let the Spirit bubble up the truth in you. Ask to be opened to all facets of truth. Who has all the truth about God, Jesus, the Spirit, the way to live, to pray, to respond? Ask for openness.
Jesus, make us one with all Catholic Christians, no matter what our positions. Let us all bear your fruit and glorify our God. Make us one with all Christians, and with all God's children, no matter what their faith or lack of it.
True dialogue that leads to peace includes the sharing of faith, speaking of our religious experience. In Acts. Peter tells of his vision that "nothing is unclean" and his experience of the Spirit's falling on Cornelius and household. Hidden in Peter's narrative is a most important question: why should Gentiles have to obey a Law that even the disciples never could keep? And an important answer: "We believe that we are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus", just as they are. Paul and Barnabas share their experience of the Gentiles joining the community. Another important piece of dialogue: "The whole assembly fell silent." In the gospel, Jesus confirms their process of remaining in his love. "As the Father loves me, so also I love you." AS! Amazing grace! And he concludes today: "My joy is in you."
Can you believe it? You are saved through grace alone? You are loved by Jesus AS God loves him? In the same way as God loves Jesus, so he loves you? Jesus takes joy in you? Perhaps it is easier to believe in a doctrine than in this personal love of Jesus for you as you are. Rest in Jesus' love for you, and in his amazing grace.
Lord, we believe you love us and that you rejoice in us. Help our unbelief!
The educator Sidney Simon offers a classification for the people in our lives. In the farthest circle are our acquaintances: a clerk at the grocery, our family physician, etc. In German this person would be called a neighbor as in "love your neighbor." A more inner circle, according to Simon, are our companions, and Acts offers the description of how the early Christians shared (com) bread (panion) with one another. Still closer are our friends, in German a "co-person." Jesus speaks of his disciples (and us) as friends "because I have told you everything that I have heard from my Father." The deepest relationship in Simon's schema is intimacy. Jesus and God are intimate; Jesus assures us that we are more than servants, more than friends. Jesus and we are intimates.
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.
Thank you, Jesus, for choosing us as your friends, as your co-persons, as the ones whom you send to bear your fruit. Let our intimacy with you make us fruitful today.
Paul chooses Timothy to be his companion and together they follow the directive of the Spirit. Twice the Spirit "prevents" or "does not allow" them to go to certain areas, but then Paul has a vision in which a Macedonian (northern Greece) invites him to come and help. They conclude "that God had called them to proclaim the Good News to them." If we wish we might have visions and know so clearly where God calls us, we need to attend to all the feelings that arise in us, all the desires of our hearts, becoming more and more aware of them each day. We might examine our consciousness every day to see what feelings stir the Spirit, and which drag us more into isolation. As we attend daily to our feelings and desires we, like Paul, can grow more alert to the promptings of the Spirit.
Examine yesterday (or today, if you are reading this at night). First, for what do you give God thanks? What did you do? How did you feel? What did you want -- all through the day? Where was the Spirit at work? Where did you find God? How was your heart expanding or shrinking? Offer the day with its joys and sorrows to God.
Jesus, keep us alert to the movements of the Spirit in our hearts, in our families and communities. Thank you for all the grace at work in our world. Thank you for your Spirit.
The Spirit is coming! Pentecost is almost here! The readings all heighten our urgent longing. First, the Spirit acts "outside the box" and is poured out on Gentiles (Acts). The psalm refrain offers another name for the Spirit: "saving power." Dynamis means power in Greek and in Luke and Paul, it is a name for the Spirit. (All those working the 12 steps know how that power sets free!). Perhaps the best name for the Spirit is love, the theme in John's first letter and gospel. "God is love...In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that God loved us..." That is why in the same letter the author can assure us that perfect love (God's) casts out fear. Good news: we are loved by Jesus as God loves Jesus, we are friends and intimates of Jesus, and Jesus takes his joy in us. We are to bear fruit and hand on that love.
Today you might contemplate Jesus breathing the Spirit's love and saving power on all the nations of the world. Join Jesus in his deep and powerful breathing. Join him in breathing Love into each love of yours. No words are necessary.
Holy Spirit, saving and loving Breath of God, fill us and our world with hope and joy. Heal all violence. Make us one in Christ.
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Baltimore Province
6401 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21212-1016
Comments or questions? E-mail us
Technical questions about this website? E-mail our WebSpinner