Daily Reflection
May 21st, 2000
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 9:26-31
Psalms 22:26-28, 30-32
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

Not being included or being simply rejected is one of our deepest human fears.  Not being asked to a party, not being chosen for a team, receiving a dismissal notice are all terrifying memories or dreams.

Today's Eucharistic liturgy's readings all speak of this human experience.  Saul, who has been knocked off his horse and was converted by conversing with the Jesus Whom he persecuted.  When Saul came back to the group of apostles in Jerusalem, they refused to have anything to do with him, because of his reputation.

At last, one of the group stood up for Saul and spoke of his having been preaching freely elsewhere about Jesus.  Paul was allowed into the group and then sent out to begin his many miles of missioning.  Saul found out the hard way how hard it is to live with his past.

The Second Reading is clear and simple; love is manifested in actions as well as words, loving one another is His commandment and keeping His commandments is how we Love God in return for God's love for us.  Our problem always is that we would rather love our way and our times, rather than His way and his times.

The Gospel puts it very clearly, too; Jesus is the Vine, we are branches and if we are apart from Him, rather than a part of Him, we can do nothing.  Baring fruit is the result of living His words and ways.  Being barren is the result of doing "our own thing," rather than allowing His word to influence "our thing."

After the Resurrection of Jesus, His starting line-up was set.  They were the ones chosen to go out there and win the world for Jesus.  That is the way they saw it until Jesus went out and got somebody from the opposing team, Saul, who by his own admission, was born out of time.  Jesus converted the one who would convert many to the ways of his Master.  Once Saul became a part of Jesus, he was a part of the whole team, the Body of Christ.

These past weeks of Easter, we have been celebrating and welcoming our new members into His Body, the Church.  From whatever religious persuasion they have come, they were not our opponents; they have not "come over," but have simply been welcomed into full communion with the Church as we call it.

Perhaps you know someone who has been recently baptized or confirmed and you may have known them and their pasts.  Paul had to live with his past as did many of the saints in our history.  Each of us has a past, which just might lead us to think that we are not includable ourselves.

When we are admitted into the Church in various steps and degrees, we are experiencing our own conversions, and one main aspect of conversion is being converted about our views of our pasts.  Paul writes that he has to forget what is the past and press on into what lies ahead.  Self-rejection, self-judgment, self-exclusion has no power in the life of Saul or the newly baptized, nor us long ago baptized.  Loving one another as Jesus commanded is only possible if we love ourselves first, because He does.  His love for us includes our pasts as well as what lies ahead for us.  Jesus, in Baptism, has grafted us all into and onto the Vine of God's love.  Worthy is not an Eucharistic word, but immediately before receiving, we do say, "lord I am not worthy...."  That is not the end of the prayer.  We can so easily stop there as a good excuse or a falsely humble statement that can render us as the rejected or uninvited.  We continue the prayer by saying, "say but the word and my soul will be healed."  The Word has been spoken and our negative disqualifying sense of our pasts has been healed from unworthy to unexcluded or welcomed.

We are Christ's starting line-up now and as we line up for our reception of the Eucharist today, we receive both His Body and being included into that same Body.  We also receive His mission, which He shared with Saul, of baring witness to the embrace of Jesus by embracing in our hearts those whose pasts we know and those we don't.  If Saul was good enough for Jesus then so are we and so are they.

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