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
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