A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48)
The first great internal crisis that the early Church faced was the question of inclusion or exclusion—who could be in the Church? Almost all of the first disciples were Jews, and Peter at first believed that new members who were not Jews had to be circumcised and keep other Jewish religious laws. Paul, who preached mostly to gentiles, disagreed. He wanted the Church to be inclusive, reaching out to non-believers. Here we have a great example of how Peter, who we consider to be our first pope, changed his mind and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.” This was a major breakthrough for the young Church. It meant that it was to be a universal church, a catholic Church, not merely a sect or offshoot of Judaism—a Church where everyone is welcome.
“The Lord has revealed to the nations his power.” God first revealed his power through the people of Israel. Today, he reveals his power through all of us who believe in him and in his Son, Jesus Christ.
A reading from the first letter of St. John
Saint John tells us the most important truth about God: “God is Love.” Since we are created in the image and likeness of God, then we too are love. Whatever else we are, good or not so good, at our roots we are love. John continues. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to expiate our sins.”
God’s love for us comes first. We did not earn it. We cannot bargain for it. We did not pass a test for it. It is pure gift. Because God is love, his very nature is to give it away to all. The challenge for us is to fully accept the gift and all it entails. That means forgiving others, accepting those who are different from us in some way. It means walking the extra mile with a loved one, friend, or neighbor who is struggling with an addiction, an illness, or a damaging relationship. At times, it means reaching out to a stranger or speaking up for someone suffering from injustice. It also means listening to the Spirit within us, taking the time to tune into a different frequency not found on our cell phones or other electronic devices but always there if we take the time to listen. We often think of prayer as saying prayers, but the first step in prayer is quiet listening to the Spirit within us.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John
Judaism at the time of Jesus had hundreds of dietary and other laws that were difficult to keep and laid a heavy burden on the people. Saint John gets to the real law. “This I command you: love one another.” Then one step further! “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” Is that really possible, to love as God loves us? After all, we are only human. We fail in love so often. But if we stay in touch with the power of God’s Spirit within us, the power of love will be renewed in us continually, especially when we feel weakest or unloved. At those times, which we all experience, we need to reach out to those close to us and to the Spirit of love that lives within our very being.
Painting, "Let the Children Come to Me" (detail), by Carl Vogel von Vogelstein, 1805.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.