18 May, Thursday – Being Truly Loving

May 18 – Memorial for St. John I, Pope and Martyr

John (d. 526) was a priest in Rome, and became the 53rd pope in 523. Italy’s ruler then, Theodoric the Goth, was an Arian. For a while, he left the Catholics alone, but in later life he became suspicious of everyone, imagining conspiracies and attempts to seize his throne. He tried to involve Pope John in his political machinations. John led a delegation to Constantinople to negotiate with Emperor Justin I; he was the first pope to travel to Constantinople, and while there, crowned Justin. The mission was successful, but Theodoric, thought John and Justin I, had plotted against him. While returning to Rome, John was kidnapped and imprisoned by Theodoric’s soldiers. He died of thirst and starvation while in custody in Ravenna, Italy.

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Acts 15:7-21

After the discussion had gone on a long time, Peter stood up and addressed the apostles and the elders.
‘My brothers,’ he said ‘you know perfectly well that in the early days God made his choice among you: the pagans were to learn the Good News from me and so become believers. In fact 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.’

This silenced the entire assembly, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the pagans.

When they had finished it was James who spoke. ‘My brothers,’ he said ‘listen to me. 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.

‘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.’

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John 15:9-11

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.
I have told you this
so that my own joy may be in you
and your joy be complete.’

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“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”

I was at Mass a few days ago and there was this family of 3 seated some pews in front of me. The son was not quite tall enough to see the altar. The boy struggled to do so, and after some time, the father put down the (brand new) kneeler and the boy stood on it.

I found myself getting irritated. I looked at the newly-wrapped kneeler and all I could think about was it could get torn or damaged.

And then I took a look at the family. I saw how excited the boy was at being able to look at the priest and altar boys carrying out the rites. I saw the pride in the eyes of the parents as they looked at their son belting out the hymns.

I reflected on this as the mass was going on and realised that I was having a ‘Pharisee’ moment; I had placed what I thought was right above the love for a neighbour. While this does not mean that we do not correct our brother or sister, it also means that we need to look at all situations through the lens of brotherly love.

In the first reading today, the first Christian community was deciding the rules that the pagans needed to follow. Rather than putting them under the same rules the original Jewish community were under (who also found the same rules difficult to follow), the community decided that the new members would follow a set of simpler rules. The lesson for us is that the early Christian community came to that decision through eyes of love and without judgement.

Let us always remember that we too, should be guided to do the same in all our dealings with others. And to look at every one we encounter through the eyes of love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)

Prayer Father God, may we always be guided in our thoughts and actions by love. May we always be open to Your Spirit.

ThanksgivingLord Jesus, thank You for showing us what it really means to love and to not be judgmental of others. Thank You for being our role model of how to treat and be with others.

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