1989 May 7 – 7th Sun Easter (Bulletin Letters)
Acts 7, 55 – 60
Jn 17, 20 – 26
This is an odd weekend in the Church year. We are caught in between the Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus has already ascended to his Father and the disciples are waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This ‘in between time’ is recorded only in the Gospel of Luke and in the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts is the sequel of Luke’s Gospel and was written by the same author. Matthew, Mark and John all handle the post-Easter events entirely different. The liturgist of the early church used the Luke/Acts accounts to shape the Easter season
It is during the 50 days of Easter that the Book of Acts is used in our Sunday liturgies, instead of the Old Testament text, for our first reading. This is the only time in the year we have selections from the Book of Acts. A chronology of the early Church, Acts tells the story of an outlawed and underground church. Each time adversity and persecution come upon the early faith communities’ new opportunities for growth would follow.
A good example of this is found in the story of the stoning of Steven, our first reading this week. Up until the death of Steven, the Church consisted of mostly Hebrew speaking Jews who lived in and around Jerusalem. After Steven’s death, most of the disciples scattered, taking their message outside Jerusalem into the surrounding communities and to the world beyond.
What struck me about Steven was his confrontational style. Judging by his words and deeds, Steven was a militant evangelist who took his fight directly to the authorities of the Temple. Trouble didn’t go looking for Steven; Steven went looking for it. Steven went to the Temple and publicly declared the Temple and those who governed the Temple as frauds. He did this in front of the whole Sanhedrin. This is the crowd that had Jesus crucified. The Sanhedrin was understandably outraged. They led him out of the Temple area and stoned him on the spot. In the crowd was a young man named Saul, who took from Steven’s stoning a commission to persecute the Church throughout the territory.
After Steven’s death, I ‘m sure there was much discussion among the faithful about Stevens’s tactics. Many would not have endorsed his confrontational style. For what did it gain them? It lost Steven his life. It set in motion an official persecution of the Church and forced the disciples to leave town. These were the short-term effects of Steven’s witness.
The long-term effects tell a different story. Steven became the first of many who in following Jesus’ example actively engaged and confronted an evil and unjust system. He paid the supreme price of martyrdom. Yet, his blood helped plant the seed of conversion in the heart of Saul, who would become Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles. This initial persecution forced the church to expand beyond the city of Jerusa1em. If it were not for this persecution the church may never have grown beyond a Jerusalem sect.
Steven was doing what he knew to be right. He was not concerned about being effective. He placed his trust in doing what was right, regardless of the cost. Steven must have had the Peace of the Lord in his heart. How else would he have been able to forgive his executioners in the midst of his stoning “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Acts. 7/60.
89 05 07 Bishop Gumbelton: STEVEN’S WITNESS AND SAC DEMONSTRATION: Monday, Bishop Gumbleton will be in Omaha to talk about the Immorality of Nuclear Deterrence. The following day he will be at the SAC gate to support those who will be crossing the line to protest the mission of SAC. This witness at SAC is part of the Church’s long tradition of actively engaging unjust systems and structures that goes back all the way to Steven. Despite the negative short-term effects of such efforts, I believe in the long run, such efforts at SAC are planting the seeds of conversion into the hearts of people that will truly bring about the end of the Arms Race. I ask for your prayers for all those participating in Tuesday’s witness, the protesters, security guards and anyone else who might show up.
HOLY FAMILY AND ST. ANNE’S SURPASS DIOCESAN APPEAL GOALS: A BIG THANK YOU and pat on the back for both parishes. We have gone over our goal in the annual Diocesan Appeal. So far Holy Family has pledged $4,460.00, $295 over their goal. St. Anne’s has pledged $7,570.00, $189 over their goal. Congratulations to Donella Pauli and Carla Jones, chairpersons of our Appeals Committees and to all their volunteers. A GREAT EFFORT BY WE ENTIRE COMMUNITY!
89 05 07 Pastorial: English Visitor – Judith Dawes reflection
(Below are some reflections by Judith Dawes about her three-day walking pilgrimage from Logan to Omaha last week. Judith is from England visiting different Catholic Worker communities in the U.S. She spent several days in Harrison Co. visiting and will be in Omaha for the Bishop Gumbleton visit. She plans to return to England at the end of May to help start a Catholic Worker.)
I feel like writing some thoughts about the pilgrimage from Logan to Omaha so off of the top of my head: I first asked, “Is this what God wanted me to do?” I was walking out totally vulnerable. I believe it’s what God wants to still see happen. My pilgrimage was for the intention of peace, the forth-coming action at S.A.C. and for rain for this thirsty land. It was a strange way of praying…with the feet, with the body roughing it, a kind of fasting. There’s not much food comes ones way on a pilgrimage.
The first day nine people stopped to ask if they could give a lift. The next day five, the last day none. Of course, the last day I started out just before sunrise and after an early mass in Council Bluffs. It is a city and no one offers lifts in cities. So in all, fourteen people heard my intentions for walking plus most of the people from whom I asked a cup of water. Numerous people because it was very hot around 98° most of the day. Thank God for the shade trees along the way. Shade tree…we never call a tree that in England… I love that word, a sort of thank you in it.
Springs and wells, living water are very important to me on a pilgrimage. Towards midday on the first morning, I found a resting place in the center of it was a pump. I did what I always do acknowledging God’s blessings I drank the water poured it over my head, my hands, and my feet. A holy time and a time of bodily refreshment.
I stopped the first night at a house with three beautiful old barns. I had a good feeling about the youngish woman who opened the door. She hardly heard me say “Peace be on this ‘house” but she looked uneasy. She gave me food and cold drink. Because she and her husband were worried about me sleeping in a barn they took me to a motel, six miles back up the road for the night. I understood and it was generous of them.
Pilgrimages bring you very close to the earth, the plants and the living creatures. It was the second night out; I had been unable to find hospitality. I’d walked till I could no longer do so. I finally stopped and talked to a young man, with a friendly open face. He could not take to the idea of sheltering a woman and all his out buildings were occupied with dogs. He was sure an old lady who lived on her own half a mile up the track would help. The track was beautiful and reminded me of England. As it turned out she was not interested in housing me. So here I was spending my second night in a leafy hollow at the base of three huge trees. I woke to sounds of heavy breathing near me. I discovered that there were hogs in the pasture. The night was warm and I did sleep between turning and tossing, replacing the leaves that covered me. Jesus did say, “Go in twos” and next time I should bring a partner.
My prayers along the way were praising God for her goodness, for the goodness of people, praying for people’s wounds, confessing out of sinfulness the way the land and air and water are being abused.
Words of Fr. Frank came to mind on the way. Peoples basic need of food and shelter, then security, then to be loved, to feel ones worth. After person’s basic needs are met people move to meeting the needs of others. A pilgrimage turns that upside down. I go out to people, knowing my own self worth, and that I am loved but completely vulnerable and without basic needs and security. This is where faith comes in. This is where the challenge is for those from whom you ask for food and shelter. What and where is the security? If the faith is not there, there can be no real security
Those three days were a very real experience, getting in touch through action and prayer with the things, which most deeply concern me. The actual walking was enjoyable, at a high in the early morning, petering to the apprehension about shelter for the night.
Omaha is also a place of flowing water, of mighty streams, man-made in a city of concrete and glass. At St. Anthony shelter Kari welcomed me with open arms. I have been affirmed and blessed by the people I have met while in this area. I had a feeling of authentic Christianity from them.