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 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.
"Let nothing be called unclean what God has declared clean," Peter is told earlier in Acts. Now we see Paul being converted in somewhat the same way. He looks for a group of Jewish men in Philippi to whom he can preach, and instead he finds a group of women, often considered unclean by Jews. Paul, however, is coming to know that "in Christ there is no male nor female. All are one in Christ Jesus." Lydia, a business woman, is the leader of this group of praying women and after hearing Paul speak, she is baptized and offers Paul her home. When much later Paul writes to the Philippians there are still women leaders in the house churches. Jesus promises the "Spirit of truth" in the gospel, and Paul lets the Spirit lead him to these women.
What divisions do you see in our society and church? Rich/poor; black/white; undocumented/ documented; male/female; Muslim/Jew; liberal/conservative etc, etc. Ask the Spirit to show you the truth. Pray for a healing of these divisions.
May we be one, as you, Jesus, are one with God. Please continue to break down barriers between people and nations. Make us ever more aware of your Spirit of truth.
In yesterday's portion of John's gospel, Jesus not only promised the Spirit of truth but persecution. In today's portion of Acts we see the persecution of Paul and Silas. However, after a severe beating, they are still able to sing in jail. An earthquake then releases them but they do not leave. Their jailer is frightened of being punished for their escape, but they are more interested in speaking "the word of the Lord" to him and his household. The jailer bathes their wounds, his family is baptized, and the whole group eats a meal together. Our portion of Acts ends there. What happens next? "The magistrates sent the police, saying, ‘Let these men go.'" Being non-violent does not mean being stupid. Paul refuses to be sent away secretly by the city leaders but insists that since they were beaten publicly, that the magistrates themselves come publicly to free them. They do, and apologize to Paul and Silas.
Reflect on the drama of it all: instead of taking advantage of the jail door opened by the earthquake, instead of being grateful for release, Paul insists on his human and civil (for he is a Roman citizen) rights. What would you have done in that situation? Ask for the courage to be non- violent and still firm. Ask for the inner peace to sing when persecuted.
Happy are we when persecuted for your name's sake, Jesus. We do believe that last beatitude. Help our unbelief.
Paul experiences another kind of persecution in Athens. He is laughed at, although the speech Luke puts in his mouth is quite elegant. For example, he assures his sophisticated listeners that God has put a yearning for God in every human heart. People "perhaps even grope for God" although God is very near. He quotes a Greek poet who wrote: In God we live and move and have our being. But Paul's conclusion about God's raising Jesus from the dead unleashes their scorn. In the gospel Jesus promises that Spirit of truth will lead us to all truth and will speak what the Spirit hears from Jesus. Because Paul has been led to speak in the Spirit, he can shake the dust from his feet and move on to Corinth where he will have a fruitful ministry.
When has the Spirit guided you "to all truth"? When did you know more than you knew you knew, or spoke more wisely than your years? Ask the Spirit to remind you of these times of in-spir-ation and give thanks.
We ask you, Holy Spirit, to inspire all people to act with justice, to love with mercy, to walk with humility, to trust God wholeheartedly. In-spire us all to unity and peace. Thank you.
Our foundress, Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger, SSND, wrote: All the works of God go forward slowly and painfully, but their roots are all the sturdier and their flowering is all the lovelier. How true that is for Paul. Laughed out of Athens, he finds his dearest friends in Corinth, Priscilla and Aquila, tentmakers like himself. Here, when he is reviled by the Jews for preaching Jesus in their synagogue, he makes the momentous move to the Gentile community. This is the work of God, that we Gentiles should be included in the new community of Jesus. How slowly and how painfully Paul's mission moved forward. Jesus confirms this when he says today: "You will grieve, but your grief will become joy."
Remember times of sorrow throughout your life. (Ask the Spirit to remind you.) What came from these griefs or disappointments? What in your life at this moment is sturdy or flowering? How did that happen?
Lord Jesus, we believe that all things do work together for our good, that God wants only our shalom, peace, health, wholeness and well being. Help our unbelief.
Would that we could have a vision like Paul's in which the Lord assures him. "Go on speaking..." When he is dragged before the Roman proconsul, the magistrate will have nothing to do with matters internal to Jews and he is freed. Later, with Priscilla and Aquila, he sails off to Syria. New missions will be born. Jesus reminds his friends at the Last Supper that grief will be turned to joy, and uses then symbol of a woman in labor. What joy when the baby is finally born!
Perhaps we have not had a vision like Paul's but we have heard the Lord speaking directly to us? Ask the Spirit to call any of those times to mind. How did this "word of the Lord" turn out? Savor God's personal word to you.
Speak, Lord, for we your servants are listening. Let us hear you in all we encounter today, joy or sorrow, or just the very ordinary events. Let us carry your word in our hearts like Mary.
In the gospel Jesus prepares us for his departure, his return to his Father. In Acts, Paul too is on the move, "bringing strength to all the disciples." Now Luke introduces us to Apollos, a scholar of the Jewish Scripture "taught accurately" about Jesus, speaking boldly in the synagogue. However, here is the first mystagogia. Priscilla and Aquila hear him and lead him more deeply into the mystery of Jesus, explaining "to him the Way of God more accurately." See how Christ dissolves barriers: a Jewish woman teaches a Jewish man. Although Luke obviously admires the eloquence of Apollos' arguments, Luke reminds us that the church's newcomers "believe through grace."
How do you grow and change? How do you grow in wisdom and grace? Remember and give thanks.
Jesus, you promise that our joy will be complete. Complete the good work you have begun in us, we ask you, and pour out your spirit of joy, peace and unity on us and on the world.
Luke reminds Theophilus that his first book was the good news of Jesus. Sometimes his second book, Acts of the Apostles, is known as the gospel of the Spirit, with whom the disciples will soon be baptized. Mark's conclusion of his gospel is almost a summary statement of all that we have read in Acts during the seven weeks of Easter celebration. Let us focus on the poetic reading from Ephesians. The author prays, and we with him (or her):
May the God...of glory give you a spirit of wisdom....
May the eyes of your heart be enlightened...
May you may know hope...
May you know the riches of God's glory...
May you know the greatness of God's power, which God worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead and seating him at God's right hand...
Return to the phrase that stirs your desire. Rest in your desire, knowing that God too wants that for you. Then pray for each family member, friend, colleague. Pray each for the world.
How great is your desire for us, dear God. How much you must have desired Jesus' return to you. Deepen our desires, not just for your gifts, but for you, for Jesus, for the Spirit. Thank you.
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