It is a blessing to be able to write these reflections, but one of the challenges that balances the blessing is dealing with the readings that you are assigned. The readings for today are particularly challenging for me – at first reading it is difficult to find a theme or much to foster reflection.
The excerpt from Acts is part of long passage that describes the inner turmoil in the early Church about the full admittance of gentiles – to circumcise or not, to keep the Sabbath, to eat the right foods. And there is a small echo of this concern in Jesus’ words from John where He mentions being expelled from the synagogues. He expresses the expectation that His followers probably would be seen as apostates or heretics to the traditional Jewish practices of the day. There are some today who study this area and suggest Jesus might have been more concerned with reforming than revolutionizing the law of Moses. But that isn’t my area, it wouldn’t be productive for me to discuss that topic, and it really doesn’t seem to lead to a nice area of reflection.
Although it sounds like it could be from the time following the Resurrection, the segment from John actually comes from the so-called Last Discourse. At the Last Supper Jesus addressed the disciples for the last time, and in John there is a long discourse on a variety of topics. In this small piece Jesus is admonishing the followers that some difficult times are coming, times when the very core of their belief system will be challenged, and when their fellow countrymen will think it is not only acceptable but an answer to God’s will to put these disciples to death. Not a very upbeat thought for a group already uncertain of what is to come in the next few days. But Jesus is trying to bolster, not harm, their confidence and faith. They will receive the power of the Spirit, who will help them from falling away. There could be some fruit in reflecting on how we are even more removed than the disciples, and our major link with Jesus is through the power of the Spirit in our lives. I certainly can give thanks for the wisdom and strength the Spirit provides.
The Psalm doesn’t really link the two other readings, but is a good reminder of the need to be thankful – that God made us, that God loves us, that God helps the lowly gain victory. A prayer of gratitude that I use daily, sometimes several times during the day, which I think is based on the work of Tony deMello, SJ and his insights into the intersections of Christian and Eastern spirituality, captures this Psalm message in a different way:
Good and gracious God:
This prayer has a calming and centering effect on me, and helps me be more “in the moment” of my existence. It helps me be more aware of God’s gifts to me, which in turn leads to a gratitude, then joy, and finally a deeper love of God.
So, I still can’t find a theme linking all three of these readings, but when I pull together my thoughts on them, my prayer for today is to be truly grateful for this moment, so I can (as the psalmist says) exult in glory that the Spirit of God guides me and strengthens me.
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