Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, May 18, 2017 — May my joy be in you and may your joy be complete

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 288

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Art: The Apostle Paul Preaches The Word

Reading 1  ACTS 15:7-21

After much debate had taken place,
Peter got up and said to the Apostles and the presbyters,
“My brothers, you are well aware that from early days
God made his choice among you that through my mouth
the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe.
And God, who knows the heart,
bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit
just as he did us.
He made no distinction between us and them,
for by faith he purified their hearts.
Why, then, are you now putting God to the test
by placing on the shoulders of the disciples
a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?
On the contrary, we believe that we are saved
through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.”
The whole assembly fell silent,
and they listened
while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders
God had worked among the Gentiles through them.

After they had fallen silent, James responded,
“My brothers, listen to me.
Symeon has described how God first concerned himself
with acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name.
The words of the prophets agree with this, as is written:

After this I shall return
and rebuild the fallen hut of David;
from its ruins I shall rebuild it
and raise it up again,
so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord,
even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked.
Thus says the Lord who accomplishes these things,
known from of old.

It is my judgment, therefore,
that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God,
but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols,
unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.
For Moses, for generations now,
has had those who proclaim him in every town,
as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 96:1-2A, 2B-3, 10

R. (3) Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
R. Alleluia.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
R. Alleluia.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  JN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear by voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 15:9-11

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that
my joy might be in you and
your joy might be complete.”


Commentary on Acts 15:7-21

We see from the words “purifying their hearts by faith,” and the address of St. Peter, that justification by faith, and sanctification by the Holy Ghost, cannot be separated; and that both are the gift of God.


We have great cause to bless God that we have heard the gospel. May we have that faith which the great Searcher of hearts approves, and attests by the seal of the Holy Spirit. Then our hearts and consciences will be purified from the guilt of sin, and we shall be freed from the burdens some try to lay upon the disciples of Christ.


Paul and Barnabas showed by plain matters of fact, that God owned the preaching of the pure gospel to the Gentiles without the law of Moses; therefore to press that law upon them, was to undo what God had done. The opinion of James was, that the Gentile converts ought not to be troubled about Jewish rites, but that they should abstain from meats offered to idols, so that they might show their hatred of idolatry. Also, that they should be cautioned against fornication, which was not abhorred by the Gentiles as it should be, and even formed a part of some of their rites.


They were counselled to abstain from things strangled, and from eating blood; this was forbidden by the law of Moses, and also here, from reverence to the blood of the sacrifices, which being then still offered, it would needlessly grieve the Jewish converts, and further prejudice the unconverted Jews. But as the reason has long ceased, we are left free in this, as in the like matters. Let converts be warned to avoid all appearances of the evils which they formerly practised, or are likely to be tempted to; and caution them to use Christian liberty with moderation and prudence.


Commentary on John 15:9-11 from Living Space

Jesus continues speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper. After giving them the parable of the vine he now goes on to give its real meaning: the Father, the Son and his followers are all to be united in love. As the Father pours out his love on the Son, so the Son pours out his love on his disciples. They, in turn, are to pour out the same love on their brothers and sisters everywhere.

That is how we keep the “commandments” of Jesus; all his commandments can be summarised in that one word ‘love’ (agape, ’agaph).

As I heard someone once describe it, the love of Jesus is like electric current. If the current does not pass through you, it cannot enter into you. Similarly, if the love of Jesus does not pour through us to others, it is a sign that that love is not really in us. The love of God has to be recognised, responded to and passed on. It is not just a ‘given’.

And the fruit of that love is joy, the same joy that Jesus himself experiences. The normal situation of the Christian disciples should be joy and consolation. After all, as has been said, “a sad saint is a sad kind of saint”. It is a contradiction in terms. Some Christians are incredibly serious about their faith. One wonders if they have yet experienced the love of Jesus. If they did, it would be joyfully flowing out to others.


Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
18 MAY, 2017, Thursday, 5th Week of Easter

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 15:7-21; PS 95:1-3,10; JOHN 15:9-11 ]

In any institution, society, culture or religion, there are always established laws and traditions to guide the community to live harmoniously.  These laws could be fundamental universal principles of life and love or specific guidelines pertaining to the common good of a particular community, whereas customs refer to the way the values of the community are mediated through signs and symbols.   Whilst such laws and traditions are good and necessary, they can also restrict our openness to new developments.  This was the case of the primitive Church struggling to be faithful to the commandments of Jesus and yet faithful to their Jewish traditions and customs.   It is never easy when we have been so used to a certain mindset, perspective, and presuppositions to think differently and see things from a new light.  The truth is that like them, our past experiences, upbringing and conditioning have made us resistant to new experiences and new challenges.   We cannot break out of our narrow perspective of understanding the will of God.

This is where we have forgotten about the primacy of grace.  We must never forget that where we are today is the result of the grace of God.  The forgetfulness of the Jews with regard to their origin was the cause of their inability to think out of the box and to see the new developments in a positive light.   In the first place, the Israelites were chosen by God to be His people purely by grace, not by their efforts.  They were elected by God to be His Chosen People although they were slaves.   Election is the free gift of God, not by merit.   To form them into a nation and a people, God gave them the laws through Moses to guide them so that they could live in harmony with each other and relate with the poor and the stranger. Those laws and customs were necessary to preserve the community together.

What was done for the Israelites is precisely what the Lord is doing now for the Gentiles.  The Israelites were chosen not for themselves but to bring the whole world back to God.  Quoting partially from Amos 9:11f, St James explained to his brothers the prophesied entry of the Gentiles into the Church.  He said, “Simeon has described how God first arranged to enlist a people for his name out of the pagans.  This is entirely in harmony with the words of the prophets, since the scriptures say: After that I shall return and rebuild the fallen House of David; I shall rebuild it from its ruins and restore it. Then the rest of mankind, all the pagans who are consecrated to my name, will look for the Lord, says the Lord who made this known so long ago.”

This calling of the Gentiles into the Church was also an act of grace.  God wanted to complete the work of redemption by extending the salvation He gave to the Jews to all the nations.  This explains why at Pentecost all the nations were gathered in Jerusalem. “Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.”  (Acts 2:5f)  This was effectively carried out by the inclusion of Cornelius, his relatives and friends when they received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues even before they were baptized.  (Acts 10:44-46)  In other words, they received the same gift of the Holy Spirit outside the laws and customs of the Christian community.  This made St Peter remark, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  (Acts 10:47)  The answer is obvious.  Who can prevent the Holy Spirit from acting, blowing and filling where He likes?  The grace of God is beyond human control.  In the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit dispensed the Gentiles from observing the dietary laws of the Jews and the requirement of circumcision in order to belong to the People of God.  It was valid then when Israel was forming itself to be a nation but not now.

This precisely was the basis of Peter’s argument for accepting the Gentiles into the Church without requiring them to observe the Jewish laws and customs.  He said, “God, who can read everyone’s heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he had to us.  God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith.  It would only provoke God’s anger now, surely, if you imposed on the disciples the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support?  Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.”  The Holy Spirit cannot be constrained by laws.  Jesus said to the Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:8)  As such, Peter “ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”  (Acts 10:48)

We too must be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit and rely on grace alone.  To be open to grace is to be open to new ways of allowing the Spirit to work beyond the narrow confines of the institution.  God is stretching us to think out of the box.  He wants to give us new opportunities for growth.  What was given in the past was meant for the people in their days.   Some of the specific laws and customs were valid according to their circumstances and time.  Absolute and universal laws are the only laws that do not change with time.  Otherwise, we need to make a distinction between cultural laws and fundamental laws.  The former can change with time since culture evolves.  But primary laws are the same at any place, epoch and situation.  So we must be courageous in seeing new challenges as stepping stones to grow and expand.

If there is one unchanging law for all, it is the law of love.  Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”  All other laws are applications of the one law of love of God and of neighbor.  There is no need to add unnecessary burdens to believers as the early Church came to realize.  This is no denying that commandments and laws are needed for any community.  But love is always dynamic and creative.  Love adapts to new circumstances.  All other specific laws must serve the one law of love.   The laws should give concrete directions on how to act for both the individual and the community.  Even the Church updates her Canonical Laws when they are outdated and no longer serve justice.

It is this same love that calls also for sensitivity and mutual respect.  It is significant that the ruling of the Council was reduced to the barest minimum.  “I rule, then, that instead of making things more difficult for pagans who turn to God, we send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from fornication, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.  For Moses has always had his preachers in every town, and is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath.”  So it was not a question of right or wrong but out of respect and sensitivity to the Jewish Christians who were steeped in the Jewish tradition and the Mosaic Laws.  Life is not a matter of right or wrong, or even of logic, but of the heart and human sentiment.  So the Gentile Christians were asked to respect the customs of the Jewish Christians at least in what were held to be scandalous for them, like eating blood of animals, or food offered to idols, or blood marriage.

Indeed, today, we are called to imitate the love that exists between the Father and Jesus.  Love is always receptive, open and accommodating.  It is this mutual love between the Father and the Son that causes them to always exist for each other and in each other.  This is the joy Jesus comes to give us.  He wants us to share the joy of His love with His Father as well.  By entering into His all-embracing love, we too can be gracious towards others, not exclusive but inclusive; not demanding but accommodating, not inward-looking but always reaching out.  With the Holy Spirit, we can embrace all of humanity in love.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore



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One Response to “Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, May 18, 2017 — May my joy be in you and may your joy be complete”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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