Reflection for Sunday, May 16, 2004: 6th week in Easter.

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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
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PRE-PRAYERING | There were many tensions in the early Christian community as it grew. A variety of converts with differing religious traditions confronted the problem of becoming "one in Christ" while remaining diverse. This tension has arisen often in the history of the same Christian Church. |It is a graceful time to pray for the continuous flood of the Holy Spirit upon all believers in Jesus. We are invited to receive Christ's "peace" which he gave to the apostles and offers to us.|We can prepare for the liturgy by pondering the love that Jesus has for each of us and what it means for us to love Jesus. It is more than loving a person named Jesus, but to pray for a sense within us that our lives are changed and our attitudes put in tension by him and his ways. Do I love Jesus? Well, my life is quite different because of what I know about him and how I appreciate his ways. I pray so I can be changed even more. I think that's loving Jesus.| REFLECTION | Our First Reading discloses that all was not milk and honey among believers in the "good old days" of the early church. The Greek widows were not getting the same fine treatment as the widows of the Jewish believers, newly converted to The Way. The central core of the early community were Jews who had been raised religiously to conform to certain strict actions. Male circumcision was an ancient rule and form of initiation and identity. For the Jewish community that was just a given.|As the Gospel message was spread beyond the Jewish believers the question and so tension arose about whether new male members from other "Gentile" traditions, had to enter the Christian way, through adhering to the Jewish traditions of initiation and identity. This is the subject of our First Reading. |We will hear the contents of a letter sent from the religious leaders to the new members of the church in growth. Like a Supreme Court, the leaders had to weigh the value of former traditions and the implications of Jesus' sending the Holy Spirit to initiate and identify believers. Their decision was quite a turning point. They also gave three new "laws" about how loving God would alter their attitudes and behavior. These three restrictions are seen as positive ways of doing what is "right" and in this way, loving God. |We continue our listening to Jesus' last classroom lecture before his disciples graduate to living what they have learned. There is a very important, yet easily misunderstood, thought early in our reading. If a person keeps the word of Jesus, the "Father" will love and come to that person. That does not mean that if a person does not keep Jesus' word the "Father" will not love that person. That would make God's loving us a reward rather than the pure gift we believe it always has been and will be. |If we keep Jesus' word, we will then be available for the reception of that ever-offered love and we will be available for God's coming close and will make a home in us. This is all in preparation for the sending of the "Advocate" or Holy Spirit who will be the new Teacher and reminder. |In the section of Omaha in which we live, there are quite a large number of churches, most of them small "store-front" centers of worship. The question about which one of them is the right and true church is a good one for prayer, but not debate. It would be a wonderful contest to figure out from within all these congregations which assembly loved Jesus most and which persons out of all would win the "gold metal" for the Marathon of Life Race. |How does one know or feel if one loves anybody or anything more than another? There have been several people in my life who have changed me from the inside. I would say I love them by how I have allowed their values, their world and person-view to become much of my own interior. I do not think of them every moment, or even very often perhaps, but that does not mean I do not love them. I love them by how they have assisted God in my loving me and others. Jesus influenced his apostles in this way and how they faced and lived their journeys is how he wanted them to live and so love him in return. |Worship, liturgy, devotions and personal prayer are all parts of the relationship with God and so are parts of how we love God. Living according to Jesus' way of loving, of laying down our lives for his sisters and brothers is precisely how Jesus desired us to live. His "peace" which the "world" can not give, accompanies how we live his love. "Peace" is the result of union in Christ. Temporary satisfaction is what the "world" offers as "peace," but that is based on separate accomplishments. The Holy Spirit urges us gently towards such a union and away from our being satisfied with separateness. |"If you love me, keep my commandments, says the Lord. The Father will send the Holy Spirit, to be with you for ever, Alleluia." John. 14, 15-16
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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