I remember once picking up a magazine to read when I was in a waiting room. It had an article or feature about the sea and all of the creatures that can be found in it. I discovered that the favourite food of the starfish is the oyster. It’s well protected by a strong shell that is hard to open. However, the way the starfish works to get at the oyster provides us with a lesson that’s worth learning.
Apparently, when it finds a suitable oyster, the starfish attaches one of its feet to the top of the shell and another to the bottom or the underside. Slowly it begins to try and open the shell. The oyster however is very aware of the pressure and it uses its own hinge muscle to stay closed. The starfish is undeterred and keeps applying gentle pressure for as long as it takes. The oyster eventually gets tired and the starfish gets its dinner.
Today, just before he ascends to heaven, Jesus tells the apostles to ‘Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high’. Part of the power that the Apostles received from the Holy Spirit was perseverance. Their task was never going to be simple, and needed lots of patience, courage and faith. But the power of the spirit is immeasurable and God’s love pouring out into our world cannot be stopped. That is why the victory of good over evil is being achieved and was achieved by Jesus through his death and resurrection – and continues to be won through the power at work in the world today.
Each parish community has been invited to begin to reflect on how best to respond to the pastoral situation in which we find ourselves. It is very clear that the future will not look like the past. For this purpose we are being asked to hold a Building Hope conversation in our parish.
Jesus told his disciples that the Father would send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would teach them everything they needed as his followers. The Spirit would help them to learn the Divine truths and grant them His peace at all times. We should always try to be aware of God’s abiding presence within us. It enables us to face the future with courage and unwavering hope.
To do so, it helps if we find time each day for personal prayer when we can talk to God and also listen to him. When we listen to Him we gradually become aware of His plan for our lives and His solution to any problems we are encountering become clearer. In turn our hearts and minds are converted and we are able to love our fellow human beings as he intends us to. That love should be evident to all we meet daily.
There is a story of Benjamin, a young Jew who fell in love with a Catholic girl. When Benjamin proposed to Catherine she immediately went to her parents to ask for advice. Her father said ‘Convert him to Catholicism’ while her mother simply advised ‘Love him tenderly and Gods Spirit will work wonders’. Her Dad wouldn’t give in and eventually Benjamin was duly converted. But, weeks later Benjamin called off the wedding. The young girl was distraught and in tears. ‘What’s wrong?’ her father asked. She replied: ‘Benjamin wants to be a priest’!
On the night before he died and just after Judas has left the upper room, Jesus gives the rest of the disciples a command and a promise. He tells them to love one another and the guarantee is that people will know that they are his disciples. There is both a challenge and a reassurance. On a later occasion Jesus went as far as to say that we would be judged on the love we show to others.
Living out that commandment to love one another isn’t easy, even within our own families. Because we are all imperfect creatures. It’s easy to love those who are kind and loving towards us but Christian love calls us to do more than this. No one must be excluded from our loving. Even our enemies and those who have hurt us. We all know just how difficult that is though. We are called to recognise God, present in everyone we meet and treat them accordingly. So, becoming real Christians is probably the work of a lifetime and not something that happens overnight. It requires a lot of patience on our part.
If we have truly experienced God’s love in our lives and we allow him to enter our hearts, we are asked to share that unconditional love with others and become channels of his grace. The challenge for all of us in today’s Gospel is to look at our own lives and into our own hearts to see how we are answering this call to love each other as he loves us.