“Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.” (Rom 12, 9-13).
I like so much this style of St. Paul. Short sentences, many subjects, the most important tips. His advice comes from one of his later letters, he is older, he has spent all his life proclaiming the Good News, establishing new churches in different cities and now is sharing his experience. How to protect love, how to protect relationships, how to protect spiritual life in us and among our dear.
“Come and hear, all who fear God, I will tell what the Lord did for my soul, alleluia.” (Entrance Antiphon)
“They all seized Sosthenes, the synagogue official, and beat him in full view of the tribunal.” (Acts 18:17)
As we can see, the Bible is not only about pure love, miracles and virtues. It is also full of emotions and very human reactions. When jealous “Jews rose up together against Paul and brought him to the tribunal,” his friends stood in his defense. Well, a very emotional defense – they “beat him”. Personally, I like these human reactions. Probably Sosthenes needed a … simple “man-to-man lesson.” Probably.
“You have redeemed us, Lord, by your Blood from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us into a kingdom, priests for our God, alleluia” (Entrance Antiphone)
“May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe…” (Eph 1:18-19).
Our hearts have eyes. Maybe because “one sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). So our eyes need to be enlightened. We need Our Lord’s guidance. We need hope, faith and love to understand this world (created by God) and to understand our vocation (received from God), definitely bigger than we can imagine. We are His children and we are invited to be with Him throughout all the eternity. No less, no more.
“Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age, alleluia” (Communion Antiphon)
“…He is not far from any one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’” (Acts 17:27-28)
Whatever we have, wherever we go, and whoever we are – is “in Him”. Again the Good News about His love to us. When we are in love, we’d like to be close to the other person and share everything with them. The same is with God. He would like to be close to us.
“I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” (Alleluia versus)
“‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.’ So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house.” (Acts 16:30-32)
The word of the Lord can save not only me, but also my household. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved”. When parents in a family pray, when they listen to the word of the Lord, also their children are under God’s protection. His word is powerful and His love – unconditional.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to God, for the Lord our God the Almighty reigns, Alleluia.” (Entrance Antiphon)
“On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer.” (Acts 16:13)
As we see, “a place of prayer” could be anywhere: “outside the city gate along the river,” at our home, on our streets, offices, parks. Because prayer is part of our life and not tied to specific place in nature or a building. We can pray everywhere. Prayer is more about the relationship than action, more about “to-be” than “to-do.” For “doing something” we need time and place, sometimes even tools. For “being” we do not need anything, because we can always be connected by heart, and prayer is the most natural way to express that.
At the same moment, we need to protect relationships by making some rules, obligations, promises to be kept. A true relationship is based on our free will and reason, not on emotions. This is why we need “a place of prayer,” something which is “outside the city gate,” outside my actvities, free of pressure, things to do, and so on. We need a place in our city (the church), in my home (the cross on the wall, a picture of Our Lady or saints), the Bible with me and even a small “place of prayer” in my bedroom.
“The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit of God dwelling within us, alleluia” (Entrance Antiphon).
“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (J 14:18).
In everyone’s life there were moments when we felt like strangers: no one understands us, they have no time to listen to us, help us, or just to be with us. We feel as if we were orphans, abandoned. In moments like these we have Our Lord’s promise: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” This is His promise, His initiative – not ours. And He knows perfectly when to come, and when His presence is needed.
“Proclaim a joyful sound and let it be heard; proclaim to the ends of the earth: The Lord has freed his people, alleluia.” (Entrance Antiphon)
“A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we sought passage to Macedonia at once, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the Good News to them.” (Acts 16: 9-10)
Expanding our imagination. The world seen from our perspective could be so small: my neighborhood, my city, my family, my friends. And everything is safe because I call it “mine.” God’s perspective is wider: He sees people in need, where we can’t see them. Who of us, a few years ago or even a year ago had any idea where we will be this May? Our life, our daily routine is important; it gives us security, makes the world predictable. God’s world is bigger, full of challenges and …unpredictable. Following God’s will means listening carefully, double checking if it is really His will, expecting unexpected changes, being on the move, travelling “from city to city” – and following Him.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Alleluia versus).
“I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (J 15:15)
Friendship by sharing the word. Our Lord heard the word from His Father and told it to us; this is the way that the Good News passes. The word about Father’s love, received and fulfilled by the Son, came to us to bear fruit. And the most important fruit of this received word is not an external action but internal friendship. All the fruitfulness of our apostolate is based on this relationship, because “It is not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…” On the other side we have its diabolic caricature: gossip; where instead of sharing the Good News, only selective news is spread. We have a choice.
“I call you my friends, says the Lord, for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.” (Alleluia versus)
“…the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe.” (Acts 15, 7)
Again and again, day after day, daily readings highlight the importance of the word of the Gospel. Sometimes it is “word of the Gospel” like today, sometimes it is “word that I spoke to you”, “my word”, “word of God”, “word of the Lord,” and so on. Always His word.
We are surrounded by words: news, papers, books, conversations, our own internal dialogue. Our Lord asks us to give priority to His word (before even your internal dialogue starts): to read the daily readings, find a word/sentence for you, and let this text guide you; during the day – recall this word/sentence throughout different activities (driving, going from room to room, at the lunch); in the evening – thank your Guide for His presence, help and company.
When we let His word be first in our life, it will be easier for us to believe.
“My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord, I know them, and they follow me.” (Alleluia versus)