Happy Mother’s Day to all who are mothers–
to your biological children,
And those you Love with a Mother’s heart.
My Dear Good People,
Throughout this past week in the First Readings at daily Mass we have been listening to the struggles of the early Christians shortly after Jesus ascended to Heaven. These struggles centered around these two questions: should non-Jewish people be allowed to become members of the new Christian Church, and if so, should they first be required to become Jewish? This sounds very strange to us, but it makes sense if we realize that at the time of Jesus, the Jewish people felt themselves to be the only ones who believed in one God, and Jesus had centered His public life of preaching in the cities of the Jewish communities. So the early followers of Jesus were trying to discern the Will of God regarding His last mysterious words to the apostles just prior to the Ascension: Go out to all the world, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19). There was at that time no Catholic Catechism, no theologians publishing books on the missionary activity of the Church to answer these questions. They were relying on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them, and they hadn’t yet had much experience with the process of discernment. So they held meetings and had deep discussions, all while begging the Holy Spirit to enlighten them on how to be faithful to Jesus’ last instruction.
We can imagine (and we hear in the Acts of the Apostles, the book of the Bible immediately after the Gospel of John) the difficult conversations and controversies they had. Paul had successfully ventured into non-Jewish territory with the Good News of Jesus Christ, and Peter and others reported having visions and hearing God tell them that the Mosaic Law was not to take precedence over the teachings of Jesus. For the apostles, this was uncharted territory. But they came to understand, slowly, that there was no distinction to be made between Jew and Gentile, slave or free man, Israelite or Greek. They learned in prayer that the Holy Spirit was at work in the souls of men and women of many races and creeds, and these people were eager, even on fire, with desire to embrace every word spoken by and about Jesus. In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the new believers were thrilled to discover that the Spirit of Jesus was moving beyond every border and He was calling all to be baptized. The Release of the Holy Spirit was real, enlivening and powerful. Only conversion from sin was necessary, and the Gospel being preached to them was the message they longed to hear: love as Jesus loved (today’s Gospel), and surrender to God’s Will as preached by Jesus.
We hear that people all over the world are embracing the Gospel and turning to the Catholic Church for truth and salvation. But let us not forget the struggle that some people have to undergo to come to the point of leaving their old belief systems behind and surrendering everything to Jesus before asking for baptism in the Catholic Church. What incredible strength it must take, especially when loved ones don’t understand and might even oppose their decision to turn to Jesus.
We have come through Lent (it seems so long ago) and the Easter season, perhaps without giving our own baptism a second thought. In two weeks we will be celebrating the Feast of the Birthday of the Church, the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. It’s a good time for us to call to mind the beauty of our Catholic faith, forged by the early Church into a precious and beautiful body of truth concerning love of God and love of neighbor. Let us renew our commitment to the Gospel and to the Church and to our pledge to live as true disciples of Jesus. We are the Mystical Body of Christ. Ours is a glorious heritage, and how blessed we are. Today at Mass we might gaze on the flame of the Easter Candle, asking the Holy Spirit to keep that fire burning within us. Finally, let us pray for our brothers and sisters involved in missionary activity—evangelization—in our own land and abroad. May they be blessed with perseverance and protection. I know that many of you reading this reflection today are witnesses to the beauty of the Gospel by the way you live your lives, your own involvement in evangelization in your parishes and beyond, and by your prayer. We pray for you today.
I am so proud to be one with you in professing our faith in the Risen Jesus, the Son of God who is our Redeemer. Thank you, each one of you, for breathing the fragrance of the Holy Spirit in so many ways upon those whose lives touch yours.
Long live the Gospel of Jesus!