Jesus never traveled outside of a small geographical area, yet his life changed the world. Today we have the opportunity not only for physical travel around the world but also for virtual travel around the globe through social media. I know, for example, that people in varied countries have read this blog and contacted me by email. So, how many people can we touch?
We can touch the people in our daily lives just by smiling and being pleasant. Do you know how unusual this is today? Look around you. How many people look happy? Perhaps very few. But I think that Christians should look happy, and I know it is easier said than done. We know that our Redeemer lives; we know that everything works together for good for those who love Jesus; we know that we are going from glory to glory. Given what we know, we should be happy and that happiness should be reflected on our faces.
For Reflection: In my world today, what difference can I make by smiling and being pleasant?
"O Radiant Dawn" is the next title for Christ in the O Antiphons. It is especially appropriate, for those of us in the northern hemisphere where Christmas comes during the darker time of winter, to think of Jesus as our bright light. He is the light of salvation that overcomes the darkness of sin and death. He is the light for our path that leads us in his ways. He is the light of a new day, a new beginning, a new era.
The star of Bethlehem signified his arrival and darkness overtook the earth at his death. But now he is the light of the resurrection which will never fade. He is the perpetual, radiant dawn.
The Scripture citation today is from Isaiah 9:1, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
For Reflection: What dark thoughts am I hiding from God? It is time to bring them to the Light.
Let us pray. O Wisdom, O Lord, O Flower of Jesse, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice, come, shine on me and in my life today.
On the national Mall today there is a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the famous "I have a dream" speech by Martin Luther King. Dr. King had a big dream, but God's dream is bigger still.
God's dream is contained in Jesus' prayer, "that all may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one; I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:21-23).
For reflection: Have I bought into God's dream? What am I doing to bring it about?
Let us pray. Jesus, we join our prayer with yours today - that we may all be one even as you and the Father are one.
How would you like it if someone called you "stiff-necked?" Or referred to you as "you people?" Stephen didn't mince words when he spoke to the Sanhedrin. He is giving them a scolding. In fact, he sounded just like my mother when he said, "You are just like your fathers!" (Acts 7:51). Let's tune in to his speech:
"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him -- you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."
Stephen has pulled out all the stops in his criticism. He has brought up the covenant with Abraham (uncircumcised), the covenant with Moses (the law and the deliverance from Egypt), and the prophets. He may even have brought up the teaching of Jesus when he said, "You always resist the Holy Spirit" (see Mark 3:29; also see Luke 20:9-19).
The Sanhedrin are angry enough at this tirade when Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, has a vision of an open heaven: "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). It is more than they can bear. In their eyes he has blasphemed. They drag him outside the city gates and stone him without a trial.
For reflection: Have I been stiff-necked? Am I not hearing God? Am I not listening to someone else? Have I criticized my child by saying, "You are just like your father/mother!"?
Let us pray. All-loving Father, I want to be just like you. Help me to hear you when you speak to me directly and when you speak to me through others.
What are we to make of the image of fire in Luke's account of the coming of the Holy Spirit? Wind and fire appear together frequently in the Jewish tradition to signify an appearance of God. In Exodus 19:14-19 Moses and the people experience thunder and lightening, a thick cloud, a trumpet blast, billowing smoke and fire. The whole mountain trembled. Of course, we have the pillar of fire by night and cloud by day to lead the Hebrew people in the desert. In Psalm 50:3, God "comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages." Speaking of the last judgment, Isaiah (66:15) proclaims, "See, the Lord is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire." (See also Isaiah 4:4, 2 Samuel 22:16 and Jeremiah 30:23.) In these images the fire is the purifying fire of judgment. But that does not appear to be the case for Luke in the Pentecost account. It is not a time of judgment on the disciples.
Luke speaks of "tongues of fire" in Acts 2:3 and "other tongues" in 2:4. These other tongues are enabled by the Holy Spirit. There is Jewish tradition for God speaking visibly, speaking from fire also. Recall Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3). We also have Deuteronomy 4:36, "From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire". (See also Habakkuk 2:1.) People could "see" God's voice. In Acts chapter 2 then, Luke really means some visible appearance of the voice of God manifesting to others through the disciples speaking in other tongues.
For reflection: Have I seen the voice of God? Have I experienced the fire of Holy Spirit?
Let us pray. "Summon your power, O God; show us your strength, O God, as you have done before. . . . Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power in in the skies. You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God!" (Psalm 68:28-35).
I grew up in "tornado country" - the area of the U.S. where every spring we hid from tornadoes. Friends of my family had railroad tracks through their farm and whenever a freight train came through we kids would run to put our ear to the ground next to the tracks. The ground shakes and the roar drowns everything else. When you hear people say the sound of a tornado is like the sound of a freight train, they are telling the truth. They sound exactly alike. It is a fearsome noise.
At Pentecost the disciples heard the sound of a violent wind. I imagine this to be like the noise of a tornado. "It filled the whole house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2). Based on our knowledge of the disciples since the death of Jesus, and the noise of a tornado, one would expect the next sentence to be: And they were afraid. But it's not. Instead Luke says, "Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability" (Acts 2:3-4).
They got hit by the freight train, the tornado of God.
St. Luke gives us one more account of the Ascension of Jesus in the Acts of the Apostles (1:1-11). Luke summarizes very briefly what he wrote in his gospel then jumps right into the Ascension giving some details he did not put in the gospel. Jesus told them to wait for "the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. . . . You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth."
They cannot receive the power of the Holy Spirit until after Jesus returns to heaven. In the power of the Holy Spirit they will boldly go where no man has gone before to preach the good news, risking their lives to bring about the kingdom of God on earth.
For reflection: Do I have the power of the Holy Spirit to spread the kingdom of God on earth? Am I using it fully?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are a God of great abundance. With you there is always more. I want to receive more of the power of your Holy Spirit to do the things you call me to do.
(Perhaps the following video will put a smile on your face so that you show the joy of the Holy Spirit to all who see you today. We should always be ready to explain the hope and the joy that we have.)
Over the last 40 days we have been examining the accounts of Jesus' resurrection appearances. I've spread this out in order to experience in one way the amount of time that Jesus took to continue to appear to his disciples.
This short video gives a nice summary in great artwork and music of where we have been in our discussion since Easter. Tomorrow we will begin with the Ascension accounts as we look toward Pentecost.
We've been looking at the glory of God. In Exodus 34, verse 29 it states, "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord."
Although the Scriptures speak of Moses as one who spoke to God face to face, Moses never saw God's face. He spoke to God as if they were face to face in a regular conversation, and he got to see the back of God after he passed by, but he didn't see God's face.
The glory of God was reflected on Moses in his radiant face. I've always thought that the haloes that painters put in pictures over the heads of holy people were their way of showing that those people's faces were radiant with the glory of God.
A couple of reflection questions today. Do you speak to God in conversation as if you are face to face? If so, I hope you write down what God says to you.
Have you seen people whose faces are radiant with the presence of God? Or, have people told you that your face is radiant?
God called Moses up to Mt. Horeb in the Sinai, also known as Mt. Sinai. Exodus 24 records it this way, "When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights."
It's hard to imagine how something that looks like a consuming fire from the ground could actually be a cloud, unless the Israelites thought the cloud indicated there was a fire up there somewhere. If it looked like a fire, Moses had to be brave to go up there, even if God was calling.
In any event, we have the glory of God looking like a cloud and looking like a consuming fire. Fire and cloud are both signs of God's glory and guidance in Exodus (see Exodus 3:1 and 14:19). And, as in our last post, it is another occasion when the voice of God came from a cloud.
So our question today is, how do you see God's glory or hear God's call?
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.