30 April 2010

01 May 2010, Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 13:44-52


On the following sabbath

almost the whole city

gathered to hear the word of the Lord.

When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy

and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.

Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said,

“It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first,

but since you reject it

and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life,

we now turn to the Gentiles.

For so the Lord has commanded us,

I have made you a light to the Gentiles,

that you may be an instrument of salvation

to the ends of the earth.”



The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this

and glorified the word of the Lord.

All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,

and the word of the Lord continued to spread

through the whole region.

The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers

and the leading men of the city,

stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas,

and expelled them from their territory.

So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them

and went to Iconium.

The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.


Gospel
Jn 14:7-14


Jesus said to his disciples:

“If you know me, then you will also know my Father.

From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to Jesus,

“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time

and you still do not know me, Philip?

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.

The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,

or else, believe because of the works themselves.

Amen, amen, I say to you,

whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,

and will do greater ones than these,

because I am going to the Father.

And whatever you ask in my name, I will do,

so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”


Meditation: Psalm 98:1-4


Sing to the Lord a new song. (Psalm 98:1)


Some days it’s hard to sing a new song, isn’t it? We wake up singing the same old one: My spouse doesn’t understand me. I’m afraid. So-and-so hurt me. That old song isn’t always wheezed out in gripes and complaints, either. Sometimes it’s intoned in a dull plainsong lacking any excitement, adventure, or joy—a monotone of routine: Go to work. Do the laundry. Cook the meals. Change the diapers. Pay the bills. Nothing new about any of it.

But every day, one thing is true: God has triumphed! His wondrous deeds and his justice, his kindness and his faithfulness mean victory over every threat to a joyful existence. His compassion and mercy are new every morning as he continually offers us a new heart and a new spirit. All because Jesus was raised from the dead, enabling us to live a new life. We have plenty of reasons to sing a new song to the Lord, a song that declares the wonderful, powerful deeds he has wrought in this world and in our lives.

So go ahead and sing! Sing of the many reasons you have to trust him. Sing a song that proclaims God’s power in your life and his ability to heal you, to relieve your worry, and to free you from the chains of sin and fear. Declare his power—and his desire—to provide for your needs, to forgive your sins, and to lead you in the way of forgiveness. Sing of his generous gifts of wisdom, energy, patience, and whatever else you need to live this Christian life. Sing of that life itself, a life of peace, freedom, joy, trust, hope, confidence, and patient acceptance of things you can’t change.

Sing, speak, or list such things on paper. Rehearse that list daily. Find Scripture passages that state or reinforce your new song. Sing or speak those words aloud during your prayer. Find some truth that has particular meaning in the situations you face, and repeat it frequently, whether in your thoughts or on your lips, throughout the day. Put away the old song, and sing joyfully to the Lord. Break into song! Sing praise!!

“Lord, you are good! You have triumphed over everything that weighs me down. Your faithfulness lifts me up, and your kindness carries me through my day.”

30 April 2010, Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 13:26-33


When Paul came to Antioch in Pisidia, he said in the synagogue:
“My brothers, children of the family of Abraham,
and those others among you who are God-fearing,
to us this word of salvation has been sent.
The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders failed to recognize him,
and by condemning him they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets
that are read sabbath after sabbath.
For even though they found no grounds for a death sentence,
they asked Pilate to have him put to death,
and when they had accomplished all that was written about him,
they took him down from the tree and placed him in a tomb.
But God raised him from the dead,
and for many days he appeared to those
who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem.
These are now his witnesses before the people.
We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you
that what God promised our fathers
he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus,
as it is written in the second psalm,

You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.

Gospel
Jn 14:1-6


Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Meditation: John 14:1-6

I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 14:6)


Jesus is the way. He is the perfect Son of the Father who did only what the Father told him to do. He didn’t cling to his own vision of what his life should look like. In this, he showed us the way to live. He loved the Father with complete trust. He knew that he was in his Father’s hand, and it was there that he rested. Now ascended to heaven, Jesus calls us to live the way he lived—in trust and surrender to our Father’s call. He will teach us, guide us, mold us, and make us into his children. He will show us how to rest in his presence, just as Jesus did.

Jesus is the truth. Every word he spoke was the truth. When he made a promise, it was fulfilled. Every miracle he performed, every parable he told, every sermon he preached demonstrates the love our heavenly Father has for us and the way he wants us to live in love with each other. Everything that Jesus did as he walked the earth, and all that he does now as he works in and through his church, is a proclamation of this love. This truth is the foundation for the whole of creation—it is the foundation for each of our lives.

Jesus is the life. To know Jesus is to be fully alive because he has given us a share in his own divine life. Whenever we take communion, we receive this divine life into our own fallen hearts. Imagine: Jesus has chosen to live in us. He has chosen to place his own life in our hearts and to make that life the wellspring of our own lives. He comes to satisfy our deepest needs and to rejoice with us at every good gift. He comes to teach us, to fill us, and to guide us.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. In him, we lack nothing. He has given us so much more than pardon for our sins. He has given us a whole new way of living, a life in union with his heavenly Father. Don’t be afraid to reach out and grasp it today!

“Jesus, I love you. Open my eyes to see and know you more. Open my heart to receive your life more deeply today!”

30 April 2010, Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 13:26-33


When Paul came to Antioch in Pisidia, he said in the synagogue:
“My brothers, children of the family of Abraham,
and those others among you who are God-fearing,
to us this word of salvation has been sent.
The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders failed to recognize him,
and by condemning him they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets
that are read sabbath after sabbath.
For even though they found no grounds for a death sentence,
they asked Pilate to have him put to death,
and when they had accomplished all that was written about him,
they took him down from the tree and placed him in a tomb.
But God raised him from the dead,
and for many days he appeared to those
who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem.
These are now his witnesses before the people.
We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you
that what God promised our fathers
he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus,
as it is written in the second psalm,

You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.

Gospel
Jn 14:1-6


Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Meditation: John 14:1-6

I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 14:6)


Jesus is the way. He is the perfect Son of the Father who did only what the Father told him to do. He didn’t cling to his own vision of what his life should look like. In this, he showed us the way to live. He loved the Father with complete trust. He knew that he was in his Father’s hand, and it was there that he rested. Now ascended to heaven, Jesus calls us to live the way he lived—in trust and surrender to our Father’s call. He will teach us, guide us, mold us, and make us into his children. He will show us how to rest in his presence, just as Jesus did.

Jesus is the truth. Every word he spoke was the truth. When he made a promise, it was fulfilled. Every miracle he performed, every parable he told, every sermon he preached demonstrates the love our heavenly Father has for us and the way he wants us to live in love with each other. Everything that Jesus did as he walked the earth, and all that he does now as he works in and through his church, is a proclamation of this love. This truth is the foundation for the whole of creation—it is the foundation for each of our lives.

Jesus is the life. To know Jesus is to be fully alive because he has given us a share in his own divine life. Whenever we take communion, we receive this divine life into our own fallen hearts. Imagine: Jesus has chosen to live in us. He has chosen to place his own life in our hearts and to make that life the wellspring of our own lives. He comes to satisfy our deepest needs and to rejoice with us at every good gift. He comes to teach us, to fill us, and to guide us.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. In him, we lack nothing. He has given us so much more than pardon for our sins. He has given us a whole new way of living, a life in union with his heavenly Father. Don’t be afraid to reach out and grasp it today!

“Jesus, I love you. Open my eyes to see and know you more. Open my heart to receive your life more deeply today!”

29 April 2010

29 April 2010, Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 13:13-25


From Paphos, Paul and his companions
set sail and arrived at Perga in Pamphylia.
But John left them and returned to Jerusalem.
They continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia.
On the sabbath they entered into the synagogue and took their seats.
After the reading of the law and the prophets,
the synagogue officials sent word to them,
“My brothers, if one of you has a word of exhortation
for the people, please speak.”

So Paul got up, motioned with his hand, and said,
“Fellow children of Israel and you others who are God-fearing, listen.
The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors
and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt.
With uplifted arm he led them out,
and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert.
When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan,
he gave them their land as an inheritance
at the end of about four hundred and fifty years.
After these things he provided judges up to Samuel the prophet.
Then they asked for a king.
God gave them Saul, son of Kish,
a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
Then he removed him and raised up David as their king;
of him he testified,
I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;
he will carry out my every wish.
From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise,
has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
to all the people of Israel;
and as John was completing his course, he would say,
‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he.
Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’”

Gospel
Jn 13:16-20


When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.
I am not speaking of all of you.
I know those whom I have chosen.
But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.
From now on I am telling you before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send
receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Meditation: Acts 13:13-25


If one of you has a word of exhortation for the people, please speak. (Acts 13:15)


Many times in Acts, Paul had opportunities like this one to share the gospel, often in a synagogue. He always told the story of salvation, but he didn’t always tell it in exactly the same way. In today’s reading, the story focuses on David: Paul presents Jesus as the “Son of David” fulfilling God’s promises to Israel’s beloved king. In other tellings, the emphasis is on Moses, the lawgiver or on Abraham, the man of faith.

In all these tellings to Jewish hearers, we see God preparing his people for the Messiah. But when Paul preached to Gentiles or mixed audiences, he tended to stress the way the chosen people rejected Jesus, opening the way for God to fulfill his plan to bring salvation to the whole world.

Then again, on several occasions, Paul told his own conversion story (Acts 22:1-21; 26:12-23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Galatians 1:11–2:14), again shaping the story in a way that would benefit his readers or listeners.

We have all experienced God working in our lives, but there are many different ways to shape our stories, depending on the situation and our audience. We should always be asking: “What is God asking me to say to this person?” and make that a central focus when we share about our lives. Should we share about a time when God brought us to repentance, comforted us in a difficult time, or filled us with his love?

Sometimes it is also good to tell ourselves stories about what God has done for us. How quickly we forget how far we have come, how clearly we have experienced the Lord! We can never wear out such stories.

Whenever you tell your story, be sure to start with this one unshakeable truth: “God loves me and has always acted in love toward me.” And be sure to tell your story—whether to yourself or someone else—with the assurance that “all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). So follow St. Paul’s example and his own advice: “Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:8).

“Jesus, I love to tell the story of what you have done for me. Give me fresh eyes to see how you have been pursuing me, protecting me, and supporting me throughout my life.”

28 April 2010

28 April 2010, Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 12:24—13:5a


The word of God continued to spread and grow.

After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission,
they returned to Jerusalem,
taking with them John, who is called Mark.

Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers:
Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene,
Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,
“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them.”
Then, completing their fasting and prayer,
they laid hands on them and sent them off.

So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit,
went down to Seleucia
and from there sailed to Cyprus.
When they arrived in Salamis,
they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues.

Gospel
Jn 12:44-50


Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me believes not only in me
but also in the one who sent me,
and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.
I came into the world as light,
so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.
And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them,
I do not condemn him,
for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.
Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words
has something to judge him: the word that I spoke,
it will condemn him on the last day,
because I did not speak on my own,
but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”


Meditation: Acts 12:24–13:5

The word of God continued to spread and grow. (Acts 12:24)


It is truly amazing how the word of God has spread from twelve apostles to encompass the whole wide world! It all started with Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell upon those gathered in the upper room, enabling them to proclaim the wonders of God in many languages and tongues. Three thousand people heard the gospel that day and became believers.

Shortly after that, Peter and John healed a beggar who could not walk, providing an opportunity to add another two thousand to their number. After this, the apostles began to meet regularly in the Temple area, where many miracles were performed, and many more heard the word of God preached to them for the first time.

With the martyrdom of St. Stephen, a persecution broke out against the believers, and many believers were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. They continued to preach the gospel wherever they went. Because of this dispersion, the word of God spread to Tarsus, Caesarea, and Antioch. Finally, with the missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas, the word of God reached as far as Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, and even Spain.

Two thousand years later, the word of God continues to grow and spread as Christians across the globe bear witness to the power and love of God in their lives.

God wants to use you as he spreads his word and his love across the world—he really does! He promises us that his word will never return to him empty, but will accomplish the purposes for which he sends it out (Isaiah 55:10-11). You can be sure that every opportunity you take to share your faith will be blessed in some way or other. You may see a person come to instant conversion. You may simply be watering a seed that someone else has planted. Or you may be planting a brand new seed yourself. Whatever the result, know that God sees every good thing you do, and he rewards it. Remember: He is even more eager than you to see people embrace the gospel. Of course he will bless your efforts!

“Thank you, Lord, that your word never returns to you empty! Give me the courage to tell of your love to those I meet. Teach me how to offer hope to those who need the light of Christ.”

27 April 2010

27 April 2010, Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 11:19-26


Those who had been scattered by the persecution
that arose because of Stephen
went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch,
preaching the word to no one but Jews.
There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however,
who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well,
proclaiming the Lord Jesus.
The hand of the Lord was with them
and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem,
and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch.
When he arrived and saw the grace of God,
he rejoiced and encouraged them all
to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart,
for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
And a large number of people was added to the Lord.
Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch.
For a whole year they met with the Church
and taught a large number of people,
and it was in Antioch that the disciples
were first called Christians.

Gospel
Jn 10:22-30


The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem.
It was winter.
And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon.
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,
“How long are you going to keep us in suspense?
If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe.
The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.
But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.
My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”


Meditation: Acts 11:19-26

A large number of people was added to the Lord. (Acts 11:24)


Sometimes we think of “church” as limited to our own parish or diocese. We know in theory that the church is worldwide, but often we don’t see it. However, if we have traveled to a foreign country, attended a World Youth Day, or simply live in a multicultural area, it becomes clear that our church extends beyond any national, ethnic, or racial boundaries.

How did it get that way? It all goes back to the events described in the Book of Acts. In today’s passage, we see the consequences of the persecution following Stephen’s martyrdom. Those who believed in Jesus fled “as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch.” They told other Jews about Jesus, but it was the men from Cyprus and Cyrene among them, probably newly converted Jews, who arrived in Antioch and proclaimed Jesus to Greek Gentiles as well. Much to everyone’s surprise, “a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21).

It is a sign of the Holy Spirit working—then and now—that we can come together and worship the same Lord, no matter what our age, race, language, or political views. Because the church is universal, it is necessarily diverse. Our unity is found not in cultural or racial similarities but in the Sacrament of Baptism—in the gift of God that makes us all equal members of his family.

The next time you go to Mass, look around and make a point of greeting someone who is different from you. Try to connect with that person with the one thing that you know you have in common—your faith. Perhaps your parish has a sister parish in another country that you can support or even visit. Or maybe you can do some reading about the church in a different location—its gifts, its struggles, and its personality.

What a great God we have! He is at work gathering people “from every tribe and tongue, people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). Day in and day out, he is getting us all ready for heaven, where we will all be one in him, celebrating our unity and honoring our diversity!

“Jesus, as we worship you over space and time, help us to see past our differences so that we see ourselves as we truly are—one body united in you.”

26 April 2010

26 April 2010, Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 11:1-18


The Apostles and the brothers who were in Judea
heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God.
So when Peter went up to Jerusalem
the circumcised believers confronted him, saying,
‘You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them.”
Peter began and explained it to them step by step, saying,
“I was at prayer in the city of Joppa
when in a trance I had a vision,
something resembling a large sheet coming down,
lowered from the sky by its four corners, and it came to me.
Looking intently into it,
I observed and saw the four-legged animals of the earth,
the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky.
I also heard a voice say to me, ‘Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.’
But I said, ‘Certainly not, sir,
because nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
But a second time a voice from heaven answered,
‘What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.’
This happened three times,
and then everything was drawn up again into the sky.
Just then three men appeared at the house where we were,
who had been sent to me from Caesarea.
The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating.
These six brothers also went with me,
and we entered the man’s house.
He related to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, saying,
‘Send someone to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter,
who will speak words to you
by which you and all your household will be saved.’
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them
as it had upon us at the beginning,
and I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said,
‘John baptized with water
but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us
when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,
who was I to be able to hinder God?”
When they heard this,
they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying,
“God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.”

Gospel
Jn 10:1-10


Jesus said:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
Although Jesus used this figure of speech,
they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

Meditation: Acts 11:1-18

The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating. (Acts 11:12)


By sending Peter to Cornelius—a pagan from Caesarea—God gave him the opportunity of a lifetime. Finally, God’s plan to gather the Gentiles to himself was coming to fulfillment. The centuries-long hatred between Gentile and Jew was about to be broken. The witness of a united church was about to shine in the world. And God was calling Peter to be the one to break through the barrier.

Peter could have stuck to his guns. He could have remained adamant in his Jewish upbringing and refused to go. But this once stubborn fisherman had been changed. Not sure exactly what would happen, he decided to follow the Lord’s promptings and take a chance. And the result was amazing: Before Peter could even finish telling Cornelius and his family about Jesus, the Holy Spirit swept over them and filled their hearts. That’s how eager God was to inaugurate a new era of unity in his church!

What has happened to that unity? Today we see Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox divided against each other. Ancient feuds, ages-old misunderstandings, and even political considerations all conspire to keep us divided. Of course, there are doctrinal issues that need to be overcome. But as Pope Benedict XVI has affirmed, we have so much more that unites us than what divides us. If we could just keep our eyes focused on our common heritage, we would surely find a way to resolve the differences that remain.

But what about unity within our own church? Surely we can find ways to overcome the divisions between progressives and traditionalists and between cradle Catholics and new converts. Surely we can affirm all that we have in common—the Eucharist, centuries of history, a common teaching, and a spiritual tradition that is as deep as it is wide. Surely we can accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ! Yes, there are different opinions and approaches, but we are still one body joined by a common baptism. Imagine the impact it would have on the world if we made love our common goal!

“Lord, make your people one!”

25 April 2010

25 April 2010, Fourth Sunday of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 13:14, 43-52


Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga
and reached Antioch in Pisidia.
On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats.
Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism
followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them
and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.

On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered
to hear the word of the Lord.
When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy
and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.
Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said,
“It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first,
but since you reject it
and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life,
we now turn to the Gentiles.
For so the Lord has commanded us,
I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
that you may be an instrument of salvation
to the ends of the earth.”

The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this
and glorified the word of the Lord.
All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.
The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers
and the leading men of the city,
stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas,
and expelled them from their territory.
So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them,
and went to Iconium.
The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

Reading 2
Rev 7:9, 14b-17


I, John, had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.

Then one of the elders said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

“For this reason they stand before God’s throne
and worship him day and night in his temple.
The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.
They will not hunger or thirst anymore,
nor will the sun or any heat strike them.
For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne
will shepherd them
and lead them to springs of life-giving water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Gospel
Jn 10:27-30


Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one.”

Meditation: Revelation 7:9,14-17

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17)


In terms of eternity, how important is what you are doing now? Maintaining this perspective can help show you what’s important on your journey toward heaven. Focusing on the splendid plans God has for us can help us not get caught up in distractions or side roads that go nowhere. Consider, for example, what is in heaven and what is available here to speed us on our journey.

There, in the company of the saints and angels, God shelters us with his presence. Here, we know his presence at times when he shelters us through a near miss in a car accident or allows things to happen that prevent a questionable relationship from becoming more serious.

There, hunger and thirst are no more. Here, we can share what we have by contributing to our local food cupboard or give as little as a drink of water to someone in Jesus’ name.

There, the sun will not cause us to wither. Here, sitting a long time in an uncomfortably warm waiting room can teach us patience and hope.

There, the Lamb seated upon the throne will be our shepherd. Here, the Lamb guides us in the Eucharist and through the church.

There, God will wipe away every tear. Here, as we sit with a loved one in the last stages of cancer, we can wipe away tears ourselves as we minister Jesus’ love.

Thanks to the redemption Jesus won for us, heaven is our inheritance, and every day brings us one step closer to our true home. What’s more, every day that we live in the hope and expectation of that home, God gives us countless opportunities to manifest the glory of heaven to the world. So enjoy the trip today, knowing that the destination is amazing!

“How glorious are your promises, O Lord! Through your Son, we can experience an eternity of your love. Lord, I revel in this promise today, even as I take up the call to work out my salvation in you.”


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Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Discussion

Acts 13:14,43-52; Psalm 100:1-3,5; Revelation 7:9,14-17; John 10:27-30

1. In the first reading, Luke describes the moment when St. Paul obeys God’s command and begins giving the Good News of Christ to the Gentiles. With whom do you think God is asking you to share the news of Christ? What keeps you from doing it? The reading ends with: “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52). Why do you think this was so?

2. In the Responsorial Psalm, we hear these words: “Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands: serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful song” (Psalm 100:1-2). What are some of the reasons listed for this joy and gladness? Our own joy and gladness is not a shallow giddiness. Because of Christ, death’s “victory” over us has been destroyed. We will live forever in an eternal experience of the love of God our Father! What can you do to make your life a greater reflection of this expectation?

3. In John’s vision of Heaven in the Second Reading, we are told of the vast number gathered around the throne of God, “from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” God’s mercy and love is for everyone. Are there people from nations, races, or tongues you exclude from your love? What about the person who cut you off in traffic? What about a boss or co-worker? What steps can you take to reflect God’s love to these persons?

4. In the Gospel, Jesus says “my sheep hear my voice”. What practical steps can you take this week to make yourself more available to “hear” the voice of Christ?

5. Also in the Gospel, are there any more comforting and reassuring thoughts than the knowledge that we are held in the Father’s and Jesus’ hands and that no one can change that? Does your daily life reflect that confidence? What can you do to build your confidence in this reality for your life?

6. In the meditation, we hear these words: “Thanks to the redemption Jesus won for us, heaven is our inheritance, and every day brings us one step closer to our true home.” How important are these words to you? Do you believe that as you ponder this heavenly reality, it will impact the way you live out your life on earth?

24 April 2010

24 April 2010, Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 9:31-42


The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria
was at peace.
She was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord,
and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit she grew in numbers.

As Peter was passing through every region,
he went down to the holy ones living in Lydda.
There he found a man named Aeneas,
who had been confined to bed for eight years, for he was paralyzed.
Peter said to him,
“Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed.”
He got up at once.
And all the inhabitants of Lydda and Sharon saw him,
and they turned to the Lord.

Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha
(which translated is Dorcas).
She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving.
Now during those days she fell sick and died,
so after washing her, they laid her out in a room upstairs.
Since Lydda was near Joppa,
the disciples, hearing that Peter was there,
sent two men to him with the request,
“Please come to us without delay.”
So Peter got up and went with them.
When he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs
where all the widows came to him weeping
and showing him the tunics and cloaks
that Dorcas had made while she was with them.
Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed.
Then he turned to her body and said, “Tabitha, rise up.”
She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up.
He gave her his hand and raised her up,
and when he had called the holy ones and the widows,
he presented her alive.
This became known all over Joppa,
and many came to believe in the Lord.

Gospel
Jn 6:60-69


Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer walked with him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Meditation: Acts 9:31-42

Jesus Christ heals you. (Acts 9:34)


After Paul’s conversion, the church seems to have enjoyed a bit of a respite, a time of peace and calm. Without one of its chief persecutors, it was able to grow in number as well as in the Spirit. If there were newspapers back then, such dramatic growth would have probably made the headlines. Some pundits may have even wondered what the world was coming to when a ragtag group of fishermen and tax collectors could be hailed as miracle workers.

Peter would have answered such questions by proclaiming that his was a God of power and authority. By healing a paralytic and raising a woman from the dead, he was pointing people to the risen Christ, in whose name he performed all these wonders.

But Peter was not out for headlines. Yes, God used him to make his power known, but also to demonstrate his care and concern for people. He used Peter to show the people how much he could do if they would just turn their hearts to him.

God still wants to demonstrate these same wonders to the people of today. But we need to ask whether we have lost some of our sense of expectation for these wonders. Do we think that the world has become too dark for God to act in it? Do we think that God loves us less than he loved Peter and the others? Or do we think that we are less deserving of God’s time and attention than the first believers?

How quick we are to complicate matters! Simply put, the church grew because God poured out his Holy Spirit upon a thirsty people. It grew because a few people stood in awe of who God was and longed to see him work in the world. They had a passion for evangelizing—and real expectations. They believed that God would bring to completion what he had started in Jesus, and that he would use them to fulfill his plan. May we have that same simple, trusting faith!

“Jesus, I believe that you want your church to grow in number and in power. Come and raise my expectations. I want to see men and women healed. I believe that you can do all things. Come, Spirit, and demonstrate your power, your love, and your compassion!”

23 April 2010

23 April 2010, Friday of the Third Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 9:1-20


Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.”
He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied,
“Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name.”
But the Lord said to him,
“Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.

Gospel
Jn 6:52-59


The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my Flesh is true food,
and my Blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Meditation: Acts 9:1-20

Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me. (Acts 9:17)


What must have been going through Ananias’ mind when the Lord told him in a vision to pray with Saul of Tarsus? Yes, he had heard of Saul. The whole church was aware of this violent enemy. In fact, the word was that the high priest had granted him permission to search the synagogues in Damascus and arrest all the followers of Jesus. Saul seemed bent on wiping out all believers. So why would the Lord tell Ananias to have anything to do with this man?

But the Lord assured Ananias that Saul was now a believer, so he went to him as a brother. Ananias had been called to take the radical step of loving an enemy—something Jesus taught repeatedly while he was on the earth. And as a result of his cooperation, Ananias became an instrument of healing, forgiveness, and restoration for Saul.

We can never know exactly where on the path toward Christ someone is—not even our enemies. And neither can we know just how essential our prayers, words, or actions might be in helping someone on that path. We should remember, too, that our “enemies” aren’t just people who are out to get us! Jesus is calling us to love the people we find difficult to love, people like the poor or the emotionally disturbed. We may find it hard to see how the Spirit is working in people with whom we have a long-standing grudge. Or we may not be able to see the needs of people who seem to have it all together, and yet who are looking for meaning in their lives. Whatever the barrier, Jesus calls us to see everyone as our brother and sister, as fellow members of his body.

Instead of thinking of reasons why you should be wary, try asking the Lord to help you see people like these in the same way that he sees them. The more you take on his heart and mind, the more you will become convinced that you don’t have any enemies—just people who are waiting to become your friends!

“Thank you, Jesus, for calling me to play an essential part in your plan! What a wonder that you would allow me to join you in building your kingdom here on earth!”

22 April 2010

22 April 2010, Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 8:26-40


The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip,
“Get up and head south on the road
that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”
So he got up and set out.
Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch,
a court official of the Candace,
that is, the queen of the Ethiopians,
in charge of her entire treasury,
who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home.
Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit said to Philip,
“Go and join up with that chariot.”
Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said,
“Do you understand what you are reading?”
He replied,
“How can I, unless someone instructs me?”
So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.
This was the Scripture passage he was reading:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who will tell of his posterity?
For his life is taken from the earth.

Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply,
“I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this?
About himself, or about someone else?”
Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage,
he proclaimed Jesus to him.
As they traveled along the road
they came to some water,
and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water.
What is to prevent my being baptized?”
Then he ordered the chariot to stop,
and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water,
and he baptized him.
When they came out of the water,
the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away,
and the eunuch saw him no more,
but continued on his way rejoicing.
Philip came to Azotus, and went about proclaiming the good news
to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.


Gospel
Jn 6:44-51


Jesus said to the crowds:
“No one can come
to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:

They shall all be taught by God.

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my Flesh for the life of the world.”

Meditation: Acts 8:26-40

The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot.” (Acts 8:29)


Imagine that the following thought comes to you while you are praying: “Tell a stranger today how much God loves them.” What would be going through your head? “Did that thought come from me or from the Lord?” Or, “What if the person gets upset with me?” Maybe after some consideration, you decide: “Okay, I’ll do it—but maybe later when I know more about God.” Or, “Maybe I’ll do it when I think the person is ready.”

Do you think Philip had thoughts like these when the Spirit told him to chase down the Ethiopian’s chariot? It’s possible. But somehow he found the courage to take a risk. And the results were spectacular!

How did Philip get so confident about discerning the Spirit’s voice and sharing the gospel? The same way we can: by spending time with Jesus and by stepping out in faith, willing to take risks. Remember: Philip was a regular guy just like us. He was married and had four daughters (Acts 21:9). Just like Stephen, he started out as an administrator in the church, handing out food to the needy (6:1-6). But then, after a period of persecution in Jerusalem, he took his family out of the city to keep them safe—but he continued to preach wherever he went. Over time, Philip grew in his spiritual gifts and senses, and began to perform miracles, heal people, and cast out evil spirits. It’s not as if Philip was magically infused one day with the power to evangelize. No, he was willing to do the hard work of learning how to cooperate with the Spirit.

Maybe all you need is a little practice too. Do you know someone who needs to hear about the Lord? Just a simple question will do: “Do you know that God loves you?” Try it. Don’t be afraid to make an attempt to brighten someone’s day. In the worst case, it was just a good idea. But in the best case, you could be starting that person on a great adventure.

“God, give me faith that you are directing my steps. I trust that you will prepare the hearts of your people, and all I need are a few simple words. Help me to take steps in boldness, to share the good news with others.”

21 April 2010

21 April 2010, Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 8:1b-8


There broke out a severe persecution of the Church in Jerusalem,
and all were scattered
throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria,
except the Apostles.
Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him.
Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church;
entering house after house and dragging out men and women,
he handed them over for imprisonment.

Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.
Thus Philip went down to the city of Samaria
and proclaimed the Christ to them.
With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip
when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.
For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice,
came out of many possessed people,
and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured.
There was great joy in that city.


Gospel
John 6:35-40


Jesus said to the crowds,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
But I told you that although you have seen me,
you do not believe.
Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”

Meditation: John 6:35-40


Meditation: John 6:35-40
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Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. (John 6:35)


These are amazing words! Essentially, Jesus is promising that his gift of the Eucharist can satisfy us so deeply that we no longer hunger for earthly rewards. But is this a promise we can really experience? Or was Jesus just exaggerating to make a point? Perhaps some words from St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) can help us:

“If you have a light, and the whole world should come to you in order to take some light from it, the light itself does not diminish,” she wrote. “Suppose that there are many who bring their candles, one weighing an ounce, others two or six ounces, or a pound, or even more, and light them in the flame. The whole light is in each candle, whether large or small—the same heat, the same color, and the same flame.

“Nevertheless, you would judge that the one whose candle weighs an ounce has less of the light than the one whose candle weighs a pound. Now the same thing happens to those who receive this Sacrament. Each one carries his own candle.”

Catherine saw that even though we all have the same “wick”—the faith that we received at baptism—“the soul becomes more or less bright according to the material which it brings to the fire.”

So while the whole of Jesus’ life and love is available to us at every Mass, it’s not always the case that we receive it all. That part is up to us. It’s a matter of recognizing the darkness of need within us and trusting that Jesus’ light can overcome it. It’s a matter of dwelling on the goodness of the Lord throughout the Mass so that we become confident that he wants to fill us up to overflowing.

Jesus is the light of the world, and his light continues to shine in the darkness, setting us free from sin, giving us his words of inspiration and hope, and telling us how much he delights in us. So how big of a “candle” will you bring to him?

“Lord, help me to sense your presence more deeply in the Eucharist. May the light of my faith grow brighter in the fire of your love!”

20 April 2010

20 April 2010, Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 7:51—8:1a


Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors.
Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?
They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one,
whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
You received the law as transmitted by angels,
but you did not observe it.”

When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them”;
and when he said this, he fell asleep.

Now Saul was consenting to his execution.


Gospel
Jn 6:30-35


The crowd said to Jesus:
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:

He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to Jesus,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Meditation: Acts 7:51–8:1

Lord Jesus, receive my spirit… . Do not hold this sin against them. (Acts 7:59,60)


Every now and then, you hear about someone who “died a beautiful death.” Most often, this is said about people who died in their beds after having said their good-byes and made their peace with God.

Stephen’s death was beautiful in a different way. There is nothing pretty about being pelted with stones until your organs fail. But Stephen’s martyrdom was a thing of beauty because he died the way Jesus did. It wasn’t just that Stephen was falsely accused, charged with blasphemy, and killed outside the city walls. It wasn’t even that he had a final vision of “the Son of Man” that recalled what Jesus said at his own trial (Luke 22:69). Even more striking is how Stephen prayed as the stones rained down on him. He commended his spirit to Jesus, as Jesus had commended his to the Father, and he imitated Jesus in asking forgiveness for his executioners (Acts 7:59-60; Luke 23:34,46).

What enabled Stephen to face this excruciating death so peacefully? There’s only one explanation: He was “filled with the holy Spirit” (Acts 7:55). From the very first moment Stephen accepted the gospel, the Holy Spirit had been at work—changing him, empowering him, making him more like Jesus. This was the secret to his Christlike living and dying. It was his most outstanding characteristic.

Today, take the example of Stephen’s transformation as God’s personal word to you. Right now, no matter what your circumstances, God is inviting you to ask for a greater release of the Holy Spirit in your life. He wants to help you think and act like Jesus a little bit more today. He wants to help you choose holiness over sin today in a way you never thought you could before. Just keep your eyes and ears open, and you’ll detect his work.

Remember: The Spirit really does want to do for you what he did for Stephen. So seek him, listen to him, and follow his lead. In that way, both your living and your dying will become something beautiful for God.

“Holy Spirit, I turn to you now in faith and gratitude. Help me to open my life to you in a deeper way today. Whatever it takes, please make me like Jesus!”

19 April 2010

19 April 2010, Monday of the Third Week of Easter

Reading 1

Acts 6:8-15

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyreneans, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Then they instigated some men to say,
“We have heard him speaking blasphemous words
against Moses and God.”
They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes,
accosted him, seized him,
and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
They presented false witnesses who testified,
“This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law.
For we have heard him claim
that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place
and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.”
All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him
and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.


Gospel
Jn 6:22-29


[After Jesus had fed the five thousand men, his disciples saw him walking on the sea.]
The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea
saw that there had been only one boat there,
and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat,
but only his disciples had left.
Other boats came from Tiberias
near the place where they had eaten the bread
when the Lord gave thanks.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered them and said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me
not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

Meditation: Acts 6:8-15

Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6:8)


Stephen was originally chosen to “serve at table,” to oversee the distribution of material goods, because the task was consuming too much of the apostles’ time. The apostles were supposed to be praying, preaching, and teaching, but they also knew that practical ministries like food distribution were just as important. So they took extra care to choose deacons of exemplary holiness as well as the ability to serve.

But what do we see Stephen doing? He worked miracles, he countered opponents’ objections, and he was the very first to suffer martyrdom. He probably did help with the distribution of food, too, but that didn’t seem to warrant much of Luke’s attention as he was writing Acts.

Sometimes we wish we could perform more visible, “important” ministries in the church instead of the humble, hidden tasks that may come our way. However, far more important than what we do is how we do it. Anything—from preaching to selling bazaar tickets—can be done in our own strength or in the grace of the Lord. What counts with God is the attitude with which we do whatever task lies before us. As Mother Teresa put it, greatness consists in “doing small things with great love.”

So many saints have followed in Stephen’s footsteps. Blessed AndrĂ© Bessette wasn’t smart enough to become a priest. He served as a doorkeeper—and gave all the credit to St. Joseph when people began to experience miraculous healings when he prayed for them. St. John Vianney was sent to an obscure town where faith seemed to be dormant. He spent most of his ministry hidden in the confessional—and people flocked from all over France to find their faith resurrected in his presence.

Let’s ask these saints—as well as Stephen—to help us say yes to whatever we’re asked to do, and to do it in the power of the Holy Spirit. As we look intently at Jesus, may our faces shine as well, drawing those around us closer to Jesus.

“Jesus, I am willing to go wherever you send me and do whatever pleases you. Only let me do everything with love, your love in me.”

18 April 2010

18 April 2010, Third Sunday of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41


When the captain and the court officers had brought the apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders, did we not,
to stop teaching in that name?
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles
to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.

Reading 2
Rev 5:11-14


I, John, looked and heard the voices of many angels
who surrounded the throne
and the living creatures and the elders.
They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength,
honor and glory and blessing.”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth
and under the earth and in the sea,
everything in the universe, cry out:
“To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor, glory and might,
forever and ever.”
The four living creatures answered, “Amen, “
and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Gospel
Jn 21:1-19


At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Meditation: John 21:1-19

Do you love me? (John 21:15)


Jesus’ questioning of Peter in such a direct way was not intended to make Peter feel guilty. And neither was it an ego trip for the Lord. Jesus didn’t need Peter’s love to feel better about himself. He already knew—better than Peter himself—how much Peter loved him. Rather, Jesus wanted Peter to reach deep within himself and see how much love for the Lord was actually there.

Jesus questioned Peter at a pivotal moment to show that Peter’s love for him was greater than any opposing power that might try to keep him bound in the memory of his failures. He wanted Peter to see that while he would make mistakes, his love for Jesus could still cover a multitude of human failings. This was probably one of the most encouraging interrogations anyone could experience! True, Jesus’ questions must have disturbed Peter. But in the end, they actually restored his faith in himself as a child of God and as a chosen apostle. They helped Peter understand that even in spite of his imperfections, he could still serve Jesus fully.

Today, Jesus asks each of us, “Do you love me?” even though he already knows the answer. We should welcome this kind of questioning. He doesn’t doubt us. He only wants to burn away any unbelief in us with the fire of his love—a love that will create an even deeper love for him in our hearts.

Today at Mass, welcome Jesus into your heart so that he can expand your capacity to love. Yes, you will make mistakes; no one is sinless. But know that as you declare your love to Jesus, he will strengthen you and empower you to take up the work he has called you to. Then your love for him will become the visible proof that his kingdom really has come to earth.

“Jesus, you know how much I love you. Continue refining me with the fire of your love so that I may love you more and show my love to you and my neighbors.”


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Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Discussion

Acts 5:27-32,40-41, Psalm 30:2,4-6,11-13, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19

1. In the first reading, we hear these words “So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name” (Acts (5:41). Why do you think the apostles were willing to suffer dishonor for Jesus? Would you be willing to suffer dishonor for Him, because you are a Catholic Christian? Why or why not?

2. In the Responsorial Psalm, the psalmist expresses his total confidence and faith that no matter what happens to him, the Lord will be with him and rescue him. His response to this is rejoicing, praise, and thanksgiving? How does your confidence in the Lord’s protection over your life (and your family) compare to the psalmist? What steps can you take to increase your own confidence and faith in the Lord? Can you share any examples of when the Lord rescued you from a difficult situation? What was your response to it?

3. The second reading gives us a glimpse of the celebration of praise and worship that goes on in Heaven. What is your reaction to this scene in Heaven? What do you think is the basis for this celebration? In what ways can we as Catholics share in this heavenly celebration?

4. In the Gospel reading, what do you think was Jesus’ reasons for his questions to Peter? Why the same question three times? Why do you think Peter seemed to be so uncomfortable with Jesus’ questions?

5. In the meditation, we hear these words, “Today, Jesus asks each of us, “Do you love me?” even though he already knows the answer.” What would be your response to this question from Jesus?

6. The meditation goes on to say these words, “We should welcome this kind of questioning. He doesn’t doubt us. He only wants to burn away any unbelief in us with the fire of his love—a love that will create an even deeper love for him in our hearts.” What are some steps you can take to deepen your love for Jesus? What impact should this have on your service to Jesus and to others?

17 April 2010

17 April 2010, Saturday of the Second Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 6:1-7


As the number of disciples continued to grow,
the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows
were being neglected in the daily distribution.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community,
so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit,
also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas,
and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
They presented these men to the Apostles
who prayed and laid hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread,
and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly;
even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

Gospel
Jn 6:16-21


When it was evening, the disciples of Jesus went down to the sea,
embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum.
It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.
When they had rowed about three or four miles,
they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat,
and they began to be afraid.
But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.”
They wanted to take him into the boat,
but the boat immediately arrived at the shore
to which they were heading.

Meditation: Acts 6:1-7

So they chose Stephen. (Acts 6:5)


After being filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, the apostles began to proclaim the risen Lord with boldness. As a result, the infant church grew day by day. But with such rapid increase came growing pains too!

One of the challenges lay in the distribution of resources that members of the church had donated for those in need: “The Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected” (Acts 6:1). At this very early stage in the church, all the believers were Jewish. However, some—the “Hebrews”—were natives of Palestine who spoke the local Aramaic and used the Hebrew scriptures in their worship. Others were Jews of the Diaspora—immigrants to Jerusalem who had been born and raised in other countries. They were called “Hellenists” because they spoke Greek and they used a Greek translation of Scripture in their worship. It seems that the “Hebrews” looked down on the “Hellenists” because they were foreigners.

The apostles didn’t abandon preaching God’s word to handle this problem. Rather, they proposed that the community select reliable men to make sure that no one was overlooked. And so the church resolved its first internal crisis in a way that preserved unity and provided for the care of the needy.

This sounds a bit like our church today. There aren’t enough priests to go around, and occasionally people fall through the cracks. That’s why it is important that we all keep our eyes open for those who could use some help. Both within and beyond our parish communities, there are many places where we can bring the presence of Christ—places that an everyday priest simply cannot reach.

Do you feel that God is asking you to meet a special need? Don’t ignore these urgings! They may well be the beginning of a new season in your life. And like the men chosen in today’s reading, your service may lead you to become more fully empowered by the Spirit of the Lord!

“Lord, I want to say yes to your call. Help me serve your people with love and generosity. Make us all one body, Lord!”

16 April 2010

16 April 2010, Friday of the Second Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 5:34-42


A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel,
a teacher of the law, respected by all the people,
stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time,
and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel,
be careful what you are about to do to these men.
Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important,
and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed,
and all those who were loyal to him
were disbanded and came to nothing.
After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census.
He also drew people after him,
but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.
So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”
They were persuaded by him.
After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes,
they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.

Gospel
Jn 6:1-15


Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.”
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

Meditation: John 6:1-15

Where can we buy enough food for them to eat? (John 6:5)


One popular explanation for the multiplication of loaves and fishes is that the people were moved by Jesus’ preaching and began to share the little bit of food they had brought along but were keeping to themselves. But what if this account in John’s Gospel happened exactly as written? What if John included it as a way of prefiguring the miraculous meal of the Eucharist, where everyone is nourished? If it is real, then, this story of the miraculous feeding is a living parable that illustrates how mercy, compassion, and abundance take the place of self-interest and lack in the kingdom of God. And that is good news indeed!

Is it so hard to believe that Jesus really did multiply the bread and fish as a way of revealing the kingdom of God? Think about all the different ways he tried to make his followers understand that this kingdom had finally come. Why would he not use something as tangible as food for a hungry, needy crowd? Why would he not use this opportunity to show how our needs can be satisfied in this kingdom—or how this kingdom sets us free from selfishness so that, like the apostles, we are set free to share with others what Jesus has freely given us?

This story is foundational to the gospel message precisely because it reveals the kingdom Jesus came to establish. This kingdom is not just a theory or a fairy-tale ideal. It is a concrete reality, as concrete as the bread and fish that the people ate on that day. We may not see the kingdom in fullness yet, but we do see glimpses and glimmers: in the Eucharist, in families where Jesus is honored, in vibrant parishes, and in ministries that reach out to the lonely and marginalized.

First and foremost, the kingdom of God is within you! It’s in your heart that the superabundant love of God can heal wounds and fill emptiness. It’s in your heart that sinful habits can be overcome and godly virtues can be strengthened. And it’s from within your heart that God’s goodness can be multiplied and start to spill out to everyone around you.

“Father, I believe your kingdom has come. Help me to see it—in my heart, in my life, and in the lives of everyone around me!”

15 April 2010

15 April 2010, Thursday of the Second Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 5:27-33


When the court officers had brought the Apostles in

and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,

the high priest questioned them,

“We gave you strict orders did we not,

to stop teaching in that name.

Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching

and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,

“We must obey God rather than men.

The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,

though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.

God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior

to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.

We are witnesses of these things,

as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”



When they heard this,

they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.


Gospel
Jn 3:31-36


The one who comes from above is above all.

The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.

But the one who comes from heaven is above all.

He testifies to what he has seen and heard,

but no one accepts his testimony.

Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.

For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.

He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.

The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,

but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,

but the wrath of God remains upon him.


Meditation: John 3:31-36


Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life. (John 3:36)


These are strong words, aren’t they? John is telling his people that belief in Jesus is a life-and-death issue. What’s more, it’s a matter of eternal life versus eternal death—and it depends on our own choices. God has given us the freedom both to respond to his invitation and to turn away from it.

At its core, the message of the gospel really is quite simple, isn’t it? If we want to have eternal life, we need to believe in Jesus and do our best to follow his commandments. But as simple as it is, there are also layers of complexity to it. For example, St. Augustine used passages like this one to teach that only a few people would make it to heaven. But another great Father of the Church, Origen, used this and other passages to teach that a great many people would be saved. In large part, it depended on how you understand the mercy of God and what it means to “believe” in the Son of God in the first place.

So what should we say, then, about this quandary? First, we really don’t know how many people will go to heaven. That is something only God can determine. And second, since we don’t know, we should make it one of our top priorities to testify to God’s love and to the promise of salvation to everyone we know. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry—especially when it comes to matters of eternal life. If we don’t share it, the gospel won’t be heard, and people will miss out on all the promises of God.

Start small. Make a list of five people you know who seem far from the Lord. Intercede for them every day, asking the Lord to touch their hearts. Try also to develop a plan to reach out to them in some way. Don’t sell yourself short! It is amazing how many people can be affected by the witness of one life lived in Christ. With this combination of prayer, example, and testimony, you really can see people’s lives change. Who knows? You may be instrumental in saving someone from eternal death.

“Holy Spirit, I want to share God’s love with the people around me. Help me to sow the seeds of the gospel and to trust that you will cause the growth.”

14 April 2010

14 April 2010, Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 5:17-26


The high priest rose up and all his companions,

that is, the party of the Sadducees,

and, filled with jealousy,

laid hands upon the Apostles and put them in the public jail.

But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison,

led them out, and said,

“Go and take your place in the temple area,

and tell the people everything about this life.”

When they heard this,

they went to the temple early in the morning and taught.

When the high priest and his companions arrived,

they convened the Sanhedrin,

the full senate of the children of Israel,

and sent to the jail to have them brought in.

But the court officers who went did not find them in the prison,

so they came back and reported,

“We found the jail securely locked

and the guards stationed outside the doors,

but when we opened them, we found no one inside.”

When the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard this report,

they were at a loss about them,

as to what this would come to.

Then someone came in and reported to them,

“The men whom you put in prison are in the temple area

and are teaching the people.”

Then the captain and the court officers went and brought them,

but without force,

because they were afraid of being stoned by the people.


Gospel
Jn 3:16-21



God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,

so that everyone who believes in him might not perish

but might have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,

but that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,

but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,

because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.

And this is the verdict,

that the light came into the world,

but people preferred darkness to light,

because their works were evil.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light

and does not come toward the light,

so that his works might not be exposed.

But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,

so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.


Meditation: Acts 5:16-26

Tell the people everything about this life. (Acts 5:20)


In just a few words, this passage from Acts relates a very dramatic scene. The apostles have been thrown in prison for preaching about Jesus in the Temple area. During the night, an angel appears miraculously and releases them, with the instruction to go right back to the Temple and preach “about this life.”

What is the life that the apostles were to preach? What is this life that God promises us through Jesus?

Quite simply, it is Jesus living in us. It is a life of freedom, because through Christ we are released from sin, guilt, fear, and anything else that holds us bound. It is a life of love—love that is freely given and freely accepted; love that overcomes division and builds up, not tears down. It is a life of passion—passion to spread the gospel so that others can experience the same freedom that we know. It is a life of meaning and purpose—one that brings joy because of our friendship with Jesus. And it is a life filled with hope—because we expect God to act for our good and to welcome us one day into his heavenly home.

To see this life in action, all we have to do is to look at the apostles. They lived to proclaim the gospel, and because of their expectant faith, they witnessed numerous miracles like the one in this passage. Whatever trials they encountered—persecution, prison, beatings, and exile—they never lost hope or the sense that it was an honor to be ambassadors of God’s love and mercy.

How do we live this life that our Father has given to us in Jesus? By asking for it! Each day in prayer, surrender more of your “old” life to him, and ask him for more of his divine life in you. Believe that if you ask, you will receive it. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never experience suffering or sorrow. But it does mean that you will be able to respond to them with the faith and confidence that God is in control and that he will give you whatever you need to live victoriously for him.

“Jesus, I want the life that you died to give me. In faith I ask you to manifest more of your life in me.”

13 April 2010

13 April 2010, Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

Reading 1
Acts 4:32-37


The community of believers was of one heart and mind,

and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,

but they had everything in common.

With great power the Apostles bore witness

to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,

and great favor was accorded them all.

There was no needy person among them,

for those who owned property or houses would sell them,

bring the proceeds of the sale,

and put them at the feet of the Apostles,

and they were distributed to each according to need.



Thus Joseph, also named by the Apostles Barnabas

(which is translated Ason of encouragement”),

a Levite, a Cypriot by birth,

sold a piece of property that he owned,

then brought the money and put it at the feet of the Apostles


Gospel
Jn 3:7b-15


Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“‘You must be born from above.’

The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes,

but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;

so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus answered and said to him,

‘How can this happen?”

Jesus answered and said to him,

“You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?

Amen, amen, I say to you,

we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen,

but you people do not accept our testimony.

If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe,

how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

No one has gone up to heaven

except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,

so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”


Meditation: Acts 4:32-37

The community of believers was of one heart. (Acts 4:32)


Are you one of those people who like turning to the last page of a book to find out how it ends? If you are, you know what it’s like to see the outcome without knowing how it actually happened. This is one way of looking at the description of the early church that we find in today’s first reading. It’s such an ideal picture of unity and selflessness, but we can’t think that it just happened overnight. It took a combination of human dedication and divine grace. And it took time.

So how did it happen? Earlier in Acts, Luke tells us that the first Christians “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” and that “every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes” (Acts 2:42,46). It was in the day-to-day living out of their faith that they grew close and developed a common mind. Holding fast to prayer and fellowship, they discovered that their lives were no longer ordinary: “Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (2:43).

Imagine what would happen if just a few members of your parish were to try to follow the apostles’ example a bit more closely. Perhaps people would be changed from churchgoers to church-sharers. People might no longer think of themselves as individuals but as brothers and sisters. Some might even reach out to the broader community in love, and lives would be changed. Why? Because love that is animated by the Spirit is contagious. It attracts people and inspires them to seek the Lord for their own lives.

Does this sound too idealistic? It doesn’t have to be. All it takes is a few people who are willing to devote time to daily prayer, to sharing their faith with each other, and to listening for the Spirit’s voice. Their love will be contagious, and just as it happened in the early church, their numbers will grow. And as a result, the whole parish’s light will shine!

“Holy Spirit, shine your light upon our church. Let the love you have for us draw us together so that together we can bring your grace to the world around us.”