Monday, April 22, 2013

23rd Day of the Resurrection Season: Seek and You Will Find

Recall the theme of Sunday's gospel:  the Good Shepherd.  Today's gospel reading provides an event when Jesus likens himself to "the gate" which controlled entrance and exit to and from the sheepfold.  The sheepfold was the area in which a shepherd protected his flock.  It was through the gate that the shepherd would lead his charges out to find pastures for grazing and water for refreshment.  Likewise in the evening, if the shepherd and his sheep were not staying out in a field, the sheep would be guided back to and through the gate into the sheepfold.  There they would be protected in the night from any dangers.

In the first reading today, St. Luke recounts an event which can be likened to the life of a shepherd.  The chief shepherd for the newly formed church in the days after the death and resurrection of Jesus is in a situation where he learned that Gentiles had accepted the apostles' teachings.  This brought Peter to Jerusalem.  During days of travel to the holy city, Peter had dreams basically about inclusion.  Apparently he had had dinner with uncircumcised people which I good Jew would find offensive.  Peter responded with accounts of several dreams that he interpreted as signs from God that these people should not be excluded or Jews forbidden to each with them.

Peter said that as he himself felt the Holy Spirit directing him to accept these Gentiles.  Likewise he described an event which he describes as significant concerning his speaking with them.

"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them
as it had upon us at the beginning,
and I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said,
‘John baptized with water
but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit

A question:  were you ever aware of this particular moment when "the Holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning"?  I believe this account from Peter is not only important in his times, it is most important in a world like ours which is so divided over so many different issues.

How many are those who good Christians fail, in their hearts, to accept into our community of believers, those who may be different or whom we have failed to invite to the Sacrament of Baptism!  And who are these "Gentiles" today in our world who might easily come to our faith if the goodness and wonder of our creed became known to them.  This is the challenge to us in today's readings.  Would not the Holy Spirit be overworked if we, members of the Catholic Church, seriously looked at those who are usually pushed to the edges of society, those who seem to be lost and seeking answers to the problems of life, those whom God has made to look a little differently from us, those who seem to want what our Church cannot give but who may come to "see the light" if the Holy Spirit could be brought into their lives?