Confession time: as I have mentioned before, when we preachers
start our preparation we tend to ask, "What’s the gospel?" Gospel
narratives catch the imagination as they focus on Jesus, the world
in which he preached and his stunning works. The gospel passage is
also the last of the readings – the preaching follows immediately –
and our hearers are most likely to remember the gospel they just
heard. Nevertheless, in my preparation this week, I’m going to focus
on our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
A few words about Acts. It was written by Luke and is considered
his "second volume." Some would name both under one title,
"Luke-Acts." A clue to this relationship is in the opening lines of
the two documents. Luke’s gospel begins addressing "most excellent
Theophilus"; promising after "investigating everything," to "write
an orderly account for you." Acts opens with a clear link to the
gospel: "In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote all that Jesus did
and taught…." The gospel ended with Jesus’ sending his disciples to
preach (24:46-47). That’s where Acts picks up.
About a third of Acts features speeches and preachings from key
figures in the early church. The initial setting for the preachings
takes place in Jerusalem (1:1-8:3) and then moves to Judea and
Samaria (8: 4-9:43). Isaiah had promised that Israel would be a
"light to the nations" and so next, the preachers take up their
mission to the Gentiles (10:1-15 – 15:35). In the last part, Paul’s
preaching exemplifies God’s call for the mission to reach the "ends
of the earth" (15:36–26:31).
Paul and Barnabas returned to preach at Lystra, Iconium, and
Antioch – the very places they had suffered persecutions. In Lystra
Paul was stoned and left for dead by his opponents. In today’s
reading the apostles return to the Christian communities they
established to teach and encourage the communities and to strengthen
their faith. As we follow the preaching missions of the apostles we
learn, while some accepted their message, others rejected and
In their perseverance and suffering, because of their preaching,
the early evangelists were not just drawing on their own energies
and grit. What these preachers reveal is that Jesus had kept his
word and had given them the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was that
Spirit that filled their spirits with a burning desire to preach and
witness to their resurrected Lord. When they returned to their home
communities they would not boast of their accomplishments, but of
the Holy Spirit working through them in unique ways. Thus, today’s
reading ends with Paul and Barnabas at their home base in Antioch,
where they "… called in the church together and reported what God
had done with them and how God had opened the door of faith to the
Something like that happens in parishes when members volunteer,
or are asked, to teach religion to teens; be an RCIA team member;
start a food pantry; take communion to the sick, etc. Often they
profess their limited knowledge and experience, yet they say "Yes"
to the invitation. They studiously prepare for their mission and
take guidance from the "elders." They discover people are moved by
their ministry and more – the ministers’ own faith takes on new life
as, like Paul and Barnabas, they undertake the mission of preaching
the gospel. How do those changes come about? How else, but through
the work of the Holy Spirit – anointing and working through their
So, where do our travels take us, for we too have been assigned
to proclaim the Good News to the world? Probably we won’t have to go
on a whirlwind evangelizing mission like our two featured apostles.
But still, our baptism has anointed us to be prophets in the places
we find ourselves. There is no getting around that responsibility!
Name your own "mission field": around the breakfast table (that
can be real mission territory for some!); at work; among friends at
social gatherings; on line at the supermarket? I’m not suggesting we
stand on a soapbox and start preaching; though being a little less
shy about our faith wouldn’t hurt. But our habitual actions, values,
judgments, style of life, etc. should stir up curiosity for those
around us. Who knows, they might be curious enough to ask the big
questions: "What makes you so different?" "With all the problems you
have, how do you get your strength to go on?" "How can you be remain
so hopeful?" Then the opportunity will arise for us to do what Paul
and Barnabas were doing – "proclaim the Good News."
We may feel we are not theologically trained enough, but we
should speak from the knowledge we do have – our heart and the
experience of our faith. (A little study wouldn’t hurt either!) Like
Paul and Barnabas, we won’t be unaccompanied on our journey, because
the Spirit will be our "tour guide." Which is what the Acts of the
Apostles is really about: the Holy Spirit working in ordinary people
to help them proclaim the Good News and make, as Acts tells us, "a
considerable number of disciples." Give it a try!
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
"This is a wonderful day.
I have never seen this one before."
is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love.
Would others recognize us as disciples of Jesus by how we love?
Do we reflect the love of our Creator by our charity? As Christians,
these are questions that we should make part of our daily
experience. The Jesuits have the mantra, "see, judge, act." The term
"judge" in this instance has more to do with discernment of a
situation through personal reflection. When you experience or
encounter an injustice, how do you respond? When the opportunity
presents itself to do a work of charity, do you turn away or lean
This weekend is our spring food drive for Catholic Parish
Outreach. CPO, a Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh
program, is celebrating 41 years of serving residents of Wake,
Franklin, and Johnston counties. It has become the largest food
pantry in the Triangle providing emergency food assistance. CPO does
more than just give out food. The food pantry gives hope to its
clients by treating them with dignity and respect along with showing
that volunteers come together with one purpose - to help them. CPO
also provides a food stamp outreach program, and a resource list of
other assistance throughout the community. It also offers, when
possible, small children's clothing and baby items, such as formula
and diapers. CPO is a model throughout the state of how to serve the
less fortunate in our communities.
DID YOU KNOW?
- -25% of NC children under 5 go to bed hungry
- - 2,200+ children are registered in Wake County public
schools as homeless
- - 80% of NC households with children who receive food
assistance do not know where their next meal is coming from
) Of the 170,200 people in North Carolina that receive emergency
food assistance every week, CPO plays a vital role. In 2018, CPO
served 8,200 people a month on average by utilizing 1,900+
volunteers and 3.5 paid staff. To become an HNOJ-CPO volunteer,
contact Mary Overcash at:
Please stop by the CPO truck with your groceries and if you
forgot your bag, know this--a tax-deductible donation of just $30
feeds a family for one week.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS WORK OF LOVE!
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Revelation reading:
I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth.
former heaven and the former earth had passed away,
the sea was no more
Revelation is the assurance that, despite the apparent victories
of evil in our world, God is sovereign and just and will overcome
evil in the end and reward the just who have persevered and lived
faithful lives. Revelation speaks to those who look to God for a
comfort that only God can give. It is a prophetic book urging us to
hear the Word of God and stay faithful to the covenant God has made
with us in Christ.
So we ask ourselves:
- If someone were to ask you, "Which do you think is winning
in the world, good or evil?" What would you answer?
- What hope does the reading from Revelation stir in you?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an
inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Russell Tucker #0413011 (On death row since 2/21/96)
- Guy T. Le Grande #0238344 (4/26/96)
- Jamie L. Smith #0376917 (5/10/96)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the
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you and blessings on your preaching,
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