Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter, April 29
Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
May We Open Our Hearts to God, in Order That He May Work Through Us to Bring His Love to Others.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives His disciples and each of us an example of humble service, and then He says, “If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.”
Many years ago, I felt as though there was something missing in my life. I felt in my heart a great love for our Lord, but I was not going out of my way to do anything special for others. My late wife and I would go to Mass each Sunday, receive the Sacraments, and sometimes pray the rosary, but my life was empty of any overt or clear acts of discipleship.
I then felt this urge, an interior invitation if you will, of filling this void I was experiencing – with something totally foreign to anything I had ever done before. I started visiting a Nursing Home on a monthly basis – not just Catholics, but people of all faiths who would like to receive a visitor.
It was a rather strange experience at first, but then it began to grow on me, and I began to experience a joy in visiting many of the elderly and some very ill residents. And when one of the residents whom I had visited for a period of time died, I knew that I, at least in a very tangible sense, helped to dispel some of his or her loneliness.
What I brought to them, in my own way, was the Love of Jesus, a caring for who they were and what crosses they were bearing. What they gave back to me was a greater appreciation, on my part, of God’s Love in all its aspects – a thankfulness for life and family, a thankfulness for my own reasonably good health at the time – but most importantly, knowing that God loved me through them.
This was discipleship at its best – being Christ to those who were less fortunate, knowing that, one day in my old age, I may very well be where they were at that time in their lives!
In today’s First Reading, we find Paul living his calling to discipleship, delivering the first of several speeches to Jews inside the synagogue in Antioch, proclaiming that the Christian faith is the logical development of Judaism, as he traces the development of God’s fulfillment of His promises from the days of Moses to Jesus, a descendant of David, and that Jesus is the one heralded by John the Baptist, for Paul states that “…God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.”
And, in today’s Responsorial, even though the psalm is basically one of lament, that portion which we read today is a prayer of trust and dependence on God’s loyalty, for the psalmist is reminding us of God’s pledge when he says, “My hand may be always with him…my arm may make him strong…My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him, and through my name shall his horn be exalted.”
Today’s scene in John’s Gospel is in the Upper Room, just after Jesus completed washing the feet of His Apostles. Jesus is teaching them that even though He is their teacher and master, He Himself is subject to the One who sent Him. In this case, He is referring to His Father.
It is through Jesus’ words and actions that He is also teaching His disciples the meaning of service and humility, for they themselves will become teachers of all that Jesus has taught them. This is why our Lord said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
The Gospel today may seem out of sequence, but it does help us to better understand the ministry of Paul and the growth of the Church about which we read in the Acts of the Apostles. Paul, himself being converted rather dramatically, became a servant to others in the proclamation of God’s Truth to all those he encountered. He placed himself least among his brethren, so as to accomplish God’s will.
He willingly, and with humility, accepted the mission of reaching out to the Gentiles, which, as we have begun to perceive, involved considerable traveling. And traveling was quite an undertaking in the first century, especially when it involved camels, horses, donkeys, boats which did not always seem very seaworthy, and, to say the least, a tremendous amount of walking!
Paul was an ordinary person, just like you and me. He did, however, receive a great grace – seeing the Lord Jesus in a vision! And in that vision, our Lord asked him to go to the Gentiles to give testimony to the Truth.
You and I may never receive such a grace as having a vision of our Lord in this lifetime, but He does speak to us in so many other ways. He speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures and through the teaching authority of the Church. And there are also those occasions when, in the peace and quiet of our own minds, He speaks to us through our conscience.
And if we are opened to recognizing Christ in each other, He also reaches out to us through those whom we love, or maybe He speaks to us through an encounter with a complete stranger on the street, or someone suffering in a hospital, or the homeless who are in our midst reaching out for a slice of bread or a cup of water, or maybe even a lonely resident in a nursing home.
No matter what the source of His communication to us may be, one thing is certain. He is always asking us to open our hearts to His Love for us. And He does ask us for our help in sharing that same Love with others – in becoming His disciples, becoming the extension of His Heart and voice in carrying His message of Truth and Love to those whom He places on the various paths over which our lives may travel.
And, as I have mentioned before, we do not have to have a degree in psychology or be experts in theology to speak about love. Sometimes truly living the faith we profess is the best way of giving testimony. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that to be a disciple of Christ means one is to “…consent to live in the Truth, that is, in the simplicity of a life in conformity with the Lord’s example, abiding in His Truth.”
It further states that “The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it.”
And our Lord reminds us of the grace associated with discipleship when He once said, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
For those who are filled with a deep love for God and for their faith, the act of giving testimony and being a disciple of Christ can become a source of great joy, knowing that we are assisting others in achieving personal salvation, knowing that we are helping others in achieving inner peace and joy.
Let us pray together that the God who created both you and me, and who loves each of us beyond all manner of human description, will reach out to us with His grace so that we may open our hearts to Him – in order that He may work through us to bring His Love to others.
For we are each called to be disciples of Christ, the extension of His Love and Compassion – remembering our Lord’s words in the Upper Room, “If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.” †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:16)
- “My hand may be always with him…my arm may make him strong…My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him, and through my name shall his horn be exalted.” (Psalm 89:22, 25)
- “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 10:32-33)
- “So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20a)
- “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
- “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (John 13:20)
- “If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.” (John 13:17)
Prayer for the Day
“Eternal God,Saint Augustine of Hippo
Who are the Light of the minds that know You,
the joy of the hearts that love You,
and the strength of the wills that serve You.
“Grant us so to know You, that we may truly love You,
and so to love You that we may fully serve You,
Whom to serve is perfect freedom,
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”