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Posted by on Apr 14, 2024

Perfected in Love – Part of a circle

Perfected in Love – Part of a circle

It was an afternoon class, after a long day at school for all of the children. They had come together from several schools for religious education class that afternoon. They were members of the same parish, so they knew each other, had been in classes together since kindergarten. They were friends. They happily visited with each other until their teacher called them together to begin the day’s lesson.

One girl was having a happy conversation with one of her friends and didn’t really want to  stop and begin class. As the other children formed a circle with their teacher for their beginning song and prayer, she turned her back on the circle. She was in the circle, but her back was turned.

Her teacher was shameless about taking advantage of whatever happened in class to teach the children, so rather than get upset or angry, she directed the attention of the other children to what was happening. The circle was still there, even though the child was not participating. All she needed to do was to turn around and she would also be included in the conversations and lessons that would follow. But it was entirely up to her whether she would remain excluded or whether she would join. The situation was a perfect example of what happens when we turn away from God’s love and decide to go it alone. The choice to return is always our own.

This incident came to mind as I read St. Luke’s account of what happened on Easter Sunday evening when the Lord appeared to the apostles in the Upper Room. (Lk 24:35-48) Luke tells us that those who had met him on the road to Emmaus had returned and just told their companions that they had met the Lord and recognized him “in the breaking of the bread.” And then he was there in their midst. The doors were locked. There was no way for anyone to get in. Yet there he was. Quite a startling thing to experience, and not just a little frightening. It must be a ghost!

Jesus’ first words were ones of reassurance. “Peace be with you.”  He began to reassure them by having them touch him, including his wounds. He asked for food and ate it. Then he began again to teach them. This time it was about the history of prophecies regarding what would happen when the Christ came. They were more ready to hear what he wanted them to know and their minds were opened to understand. Jesus told them that repentance for the forgiveness of sin would be the message shared with all the world, beginning in Jerusalem. They themselves would now be the ones to witness to what they had seen and heard.

And so they were.

After Pentecost, the apostles preached fearlessly in Jerusalem, healing the sick and leading the community in worship and in communal living and service. Many thought the miracles of healing were the results of the actions and power of the disciples, but Peter and the others were quick to point out that they were not the source of the healing. (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19) It was the power of Jesus acting through them. Peter spoke one day, explaining in an ancient formula the divine origin of Jesus’ power and life. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant, Jesus…”

It was a frightening thought to the people that they might have been complicit in acting against the prophet, the servant of God. But Peter was reassuring. Although they had acted against the anointed one, God would forgive them, because they didn’t know what they were doing. Repenting and not repeating their sin would lead to its forgiveness. In other words, they could turn back to the circle and again be part of the community of God. Being converted means to turn back to the circle of love.

St. John tells the community of the Beloved and all of us that when and if we sin, “we have an Advocate with the Father,” namely Jesus the righteous one. (1 Jn 2:1-5a) As we keep his word, keep his commandments, God’s love is perfected in us. Love is perfected as we love our God above all things and love our neighbors as ourselves. Turned into the circle and drawing strength from the Lord and our community, we can begin to live the law of love. We can be perfected in love, bit by bit, each time we turn back to the circle of those with whom we live in this great community of love.

May we be aware of the love we share and receive with others in this coming week and of the readiness of the Lord always to welcome us back into the community when we for any reason turn our backs on the circle.

Readings for the Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle B


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