Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

The Acts of the Apostles: Our family album

by Gerry McFlynn
Pax Christi UK

A Reflection for the 6th Sunday of Easter…

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 | 1 John 4:7-10 | John 15:9-17

The Acts of the Apostles is the only New Testament book of which we can claim authorship. The Gospels describe the life of Jesus; they contain his Will and Testament and we are the executors of that Will.  The letters of the Apostles explain how that life should be lived.  Acts tells us how those first followers of Jesus did, in fact, live it.

It describes how they tried to make sense of the large print of his words about things like – losing one’s life in order to save it, turning the other cheek, sharing one’s goods, going the extra mile, to say nothing of loving one’s enemies!  It also gives an account of the enormous joy and hope unleashed in them.  And it is a story that has not ended, for every Christian life is a chapter in this Book – our family album!

A striking feature of the lifestyle of those first followers was their refusal to engage with militarism or any other “ism” that militated against the wellbeing of another human being.  They believed that God’s Spirit of love had been poured out on everyone.  In fact, they became known for the love they had for everyone, a love that manifested itself in their care for the poor, the weak and marginalised in society.

Acts describes a nonviolent, caring and compassionate lifestyle and shows how, even in our complicated and violent world, it is still possible to live such a life. As Easter People, we are challenged to live the same Spirit-filled life as those first followers.  We do this in another time, in a different world.  We have to do in our world NOW what those first Christians did in their world THEN.

Gerry McFlynn is a member of our Nonviolence Working Group, a priest and project manager for the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas. You can read all of Pax Christi UK’s post-Easter Sunday reflections here. 

Peace Spirituality

The good shepherd, the leader who provides, ‘life to the full’

by John Williams
Pax Christi UK

A Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Easter…

Acts 4:8-12 | 1 John 3:1-2 | John 10:11-18

The most striking feature of the Liturgy of the Word this Sunday is the commonality of the First Reading and the Gospel in three respects. Firstly, the location, the Temple in Jerusalem.  Secondly, the audience, the religious leaders.  Thirdly, the event preceding the discourse, a healing.

The allegory of the ‘Good Shepherd’ should not be read in isolation from the Old Testament references to the shepherds of Israel, who were the political and religious leaders that the prophets denounced.  Ezekiel 34 especially, depicts the deplorable leadership of shepherds who broke the commandments; who killed, stole and lied, causing violence and suffering for many:

  • shepherds who fed themselves instead of their flock
  • shepherds who failed to care for the weak and the sick
  • shepherds who ruled with cruelty and violence.

We cannot be blind to our present political leaders who are culpable in the same way as Ezekiel describes, when:

  • they engage in the self-interest of the arms trade
  • they fail to use human and financial resources for the well and the sick
  • they align themselves with foreign governments that inflict war and suffering on their own people and their neighbours.

However, Ezekiel goes on to describe the day when God will become the shepherd leader, ‘I, myself will shepherd my people …’ and ‘I shall make a covenant of peace with them …’ This is akin to the Psalmist when he says; ‘The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.’  Today, in the Gospel, Jesus declares that he himself is that shepherd, ‘I am the good shepherd.’

This good shepherd is the leader who provides, ‘life to the full’. This fullness of life is illustrated in the preceding healing, of the blind man in the Gospel and the lame man in the First Reading.  Let us pray today for our political and religious leaders, that their decision-making will bring life, not death.

John Williams is a Trustee of the Christian Peace Education Fund and former Secondary Schools Adviser for Westminster Diocese. You can read all of Pax Christi UK’s post-Easter Sunday reflections here. 

Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

The fruit of peace is solidarity and justice

by Katrina Alton
Pax Christi UK

A Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Easter…

Acts 4:32-35 | 1 John 5:1-6 | John 20:19-31

How were the first followers of Jesus transformed from being a group of frightened people hiding behind locked doors, to a vibrant justice filled community that inspired others to join them? In John’s Gospel we learn that the first step in this transformation process is taken by Jesus; he takes the initiative, he comes to them, meeting them where they are. Jesus doesn’t just break through the “locked doors”, but he breaks the cycle of violence. To those who had denied and abandoned him there is no message of retribution or judgment, but instead, “Peace be with you”. With this gift of peace there also comes a task, the task to forgive others as God forgives us. This is the priority Jesus sets us; to be people of peace and reconciliation in our families, our communities and in our world.

For those first disciples a commitment to peace making, to actively following Jesus’ way of nonviolence, meant they willingly endured the stigma of being called “Christian”. By refusing to fight in the Roman army, or put their trust in war or weapons, they were marked out as followers of Jesus, the Jesus whom the Roman Empire had crucified. Yet they bore this stigma with pride, for having touched and been touched by the stigmata of the risen Christ, they were sent out in the power of the Spirit to show the world that it is through forgiveness,  reconciliation and love, not through violence, war or  retaliation, that true peace is established. The fruit of that peace, we read in Acts, is solidarity and justice.

This Easter as we embrace the gift of Christ’s peace, let us pray that the Spirit will transform us, so that we may willing bear any stigma that being followers of Jesus’ way of nonviolence may bring for the sake of justice and peace.

Katrina Alton is a Sister of St Joseph of Peace and a Pax Christi member from Nottingham. You can read all of Pax Christi UK’s post-Easter Sunday reflections here.