Reading I Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 - Letter of the apostles to the gentiles
Reading II Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23 - The new Jerusalem
Gospel John 14:23-29 - Last discourse; faithfulness to God's word
Key Passage Jesus answered him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23)
Adults: What difference has it made in your life when you made a decision in accord with Jesus' teachings?
Kids: When will you have to make a decision this week? What will help you make a good decision?READ MORE
To see the effect of the Holy Spirit upon the work of the apostles, one has only to consider today’s first reading and Gospel. In John, Jesus promises his disciples that “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,...will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14:26). In Acts, the apostles and elders call upon the Holy Spirit. They have to decide whether or not Gentiles needed to be circumcised to become Christians. Jesus had called on his disciples to preach the Good News to all nations, but had never said what rules Gentiles needed to follow. The scene in Acts occurred around 50 A.D., meaning that about twenty years had passed between the time the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and apostles and elders met in Jerusalem to consider this issue. They needed to discuss the issue among themselves, but they also needed someone to guide them, to teach them, and to enlighten them so that they could make the right decision. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, they decided that Gentiles need only follow very limited Jewish laws. Now, nearly two thousand years later, we continue to call upon the Holy Spirit to guide, teach, and enlighten us as we struggle with difficult questions.
When do you look to the Holy Spirit for guidance?READ MORE
Reading I Acts 14:21-27 - End of the first mission
Reading II Revelation 21:1-5a - New heavens and new earth
Gospel John 13:31-33a, 34-35 - A new commandment
Key Passage Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)
Adults: When have you seen the power of love overcome a bad situation?
Kids: Do you believe love is stronger than hate? Why?READ MORE
Perseverance. This is what the disciples needed when spreading the Good News around the Roman Empire in the face of persecution and hardship. This is what the early converts needed as they learned about Jesus Christ and lived out their new faith. This is what we all need in following the new commandment Jesus gives his disciples in the Gospel today. Perseverance. Once the exhortation ends and everyone returns home to their day-to-day responsibilities, that euphonric feeling fades away. So after Paul and Barnabas landed at Perga and traveled through Pamphylia and Pisidia and visited the cities of Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, they retraced their steps exactly and “returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,...then traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia” (Acts 14:21, 24). Why bother? With the whole world to convert, why go back exactly the same way? Perhaps because they realized that their message was inspirational, but difficult. “Love one another.” Sure. “As I have loved you.” Uh-oh. Jesus’ love is a sacrificial love, culminating in the ultimate sacrifice. To love others this way—to put others first– is more difficult, more unpleasant, more exhausting than it seemed when Paul and Barnabas first spoke so fervently about it. We need perseverance.
When do you find it difficult to persevere in living out your faith?READ MORE
Today’s readings are quite dramatic, one featuring religious authorities who opposed the apostles Paul and Barnabas “with violent abuse,” another highlighting a crowd of people who had lived through the persecution of the early church. However, the lasting impression in each of the readings is one of tender comfort and hopeful reassurance. The church of the first century thrived with intense growth but also met with frequent persecution. As Christianity broke away from Judaism, both religious and state authorities targeted proselytizers of the new faith. Paul and Barnabas felt the wrath of the authorities and were expelled from Antioch in Pisidia. Yet as this passage ends they and the early Christians “were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52). They were not filled with anger and resentment, or even fear and despair, but with hope and joy, for they knew God was with them. The Roman state offered no religious liberty to its subjects. Christians could be killed for rejecting the pagan faith of the Romans. Yet they were assured in their faith that “God (would) wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17), for Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
How do you feel the consolation of your faith during times of hardship?READ MORE
Reading I Acts 13:14, 43-52 - Paul's and Barnabas' address to the gentiles
Reading II Revelation 7:9, 14b-17 - Rejoicing of the elect of every nation
Gospel John 10:27-30 - Words at the feast of the dedication of the Temple
Key Passage Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27.28)
Adults: Whom do you try to protect as Christ protects you?
Kids: Who helps you feel safe and protected? Whom can you take care of and help feel safe?READ MORE
What makes us worthy of what we have? We look at people who have fame, wealth, and success and wonder if they are really worthy of these blessings. In Revelation, angels and elders cry out, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). Clearly, Christ is worthy of all these attributes, for he suffered and died to bring salvation to the whole world. In Acts, however, the rewards for worthiness are much different. Peter and the apostles, condemned by the Sanhedrin for preaching the gospel, rejoice at having been “found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the (Lord’s) name” (Acts 5:41). To be condemned by the Sanhedrin, as Jesus was, is an honor. But before Peter got to this point, before he caught the netful of fish with the risen Lord, he did something quite dishonorable in the eyes of the Lord. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter denied Jesus three times. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives Peter three opportunities to repent, to undo his denials, to acknowledge his love for Jesus. After each affirmative answer, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, tells Peter to care for his sheep. Worthy is Peter to shepherd the flock, the church.
How are you worthy in the eyes of the Lord?READ MORE
Reading I Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41 - Disciples' second trial before the Sanhedrin
Reading II Revelation 5:11-14 - Praise to the lamb
Gospel John 21:1-19 or 21:1-14 - Appearance at the Sea of Tiberias
Key Passage When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15)
Adults: In what ways are you answering Jesus' command to Peter to "feed my sheep”?
Kids: What do you do to take care of others as Jesus asked Peter to do?READ MORE