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CIRCLES OF LOVE

Father Francis's picture
Fifth Week of Easter

Acts. 14:19-28 & Jn. 14:27-31

Saint Paul did not get a hero's welcome in every city he visited. In fact he was hissed more than he was cheered, harassed more than he was honoured. In some towns, he went from being a celebrity to a hunted man almost overnight. One day they were ready to worship him as god. The next they were ready to destroy him as a devil. While he was in Lystra his enemies from other towns caught up with him and turned the people against him. With a little prodding from these trouble-makers, the people stoned him and dragged him out of the town where they left him for dead. But faithful converts came to his rescue. They formed a circle around him, shielding him against further attacks and giving him time to recover.

What a beautiful image of a caring Church and a Christian family. Paul was literally encircled by love. He was shielded from further harm and brought back to life by a caring community. That’s what the Church, a family, is all about. They are intended to be circles of love – havens where we find safety from harm and time for healing. Sadly there are some congregations and families that are broken circles. They do not close their arms around the needy, welcome the lonely nor nurse the fallen. But where else are people going to find such communities of care if they do not find them in their churches or in their families? Where else can people who are beaten down by the world's anger and abandoned by the world's indifference find haven and healing?

Historians have recently drawn attention to the fact that our attitudes towards death over the years have changed a great deal. In the past, death was seen as a time to set the records straight. Old grudges were resolved and new promises made. People usually died slowly, surrounded by their family, with opportunities for pacts between the living and the dying. As a part of that ritual the person dying would often leave a farewell gift that summed up their attitude towards life or the family.

On the eve of his own death Jesus gathered His closest friends around Him for a meal. They talked of many things concerning the work that He had begun and that they were to carry on. Finally, as a parting act of love, Jesus made His last will and testament, “Peace I bequeath to you, My own peace I give you.”

What a wonderful gift it was! It captured His character and anticipated their needs in a wonderful way. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would your last will and testament be for your family and friends? Some of you would leave your home and your money having worked hard all your life. It is wonderful to go on providing for others after you are gone, but would it not be terribly sad if all you had to leave behind is money? How much richer your survivors would be if you could leave behind a gift of happiness, a love of justice, a sense of hope, a trust in God, a feeling of contentment, a reverence for life.

Lord Jesus, may we all live good lives and depart this world a better place than we found it, leaving the gifts of love, happiness and the example of a good life to our loved ones.

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