April 23.   Conversion experiences was one of Marie’s favourite topics and she had written a whole little booklet on it. She shared, “I have discovered much about my own faith through these conversion stories.  Some were life-changing events, like Saul’s, others were more like a process of change.   Some men and women felt called to join a religious congregation. Turning away from an addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling can be a conversion too. Most of us have small conversion experiences, possibly during a time of fasting like Lent.  A conversion towards interreligious dialogue is a strong feature of our time.”   

Saul still breathing threats and murder against the disciples went to Damascus to look for and arrest disciples.  As he journeyed suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” and he said, “Who are you?” Pope Francis:   St Francis did not wage a war of words aimed at imposing doctrines; he simply spread the love of God.  He understood that God is love and those who abide in love abide in God.   In this way he became the father to all and inspired the vision of a fraternal society.  FT4   In the name of God, who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and who has called them to live together as brothers and sisters, to fill the earth and make known the values of goodness, love and peace we declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path, mutual cooperation as the code of conduct, reciprocal understanding  as the method and standard.  FT 285. From Document on human Fraternity for world Peace and Living Together.  Abu Dhabi 2019      Reflect, share, pray.   How comfortable am I about interreligious dialogue?

April 25.   Sunday Easter 4B.   Fr Brian smiled to himself as he messaged his people, “Sheep and  shepherds are mentioned often in the Bible, Old and New Testaments. What is our general attitude towards them today?  Some of us know all about them, others have never seen a sheep from close up.  In general they are considered as quite stupid animals, inclined to follow obediently or be pushed around by a more businesslike sheepdog.  As for shepherds in our South African society they are not considered the most intelligent of people, although quite small boys can manage a flock nicely. In the Biblical passages the image of a shepherd is of a genuine committed and caring person, leading the way while his sheep love him and follow him faithfully. But they nevertheless had no great status in society and were simple and poor folk.  Perceptions do change, but the important message is commitment, even tender care and faithfulness.   

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees.  I know my own and my own know me as the Father knows me and I know the Father.  I have other sheep that are not of this fold: I must bring them also and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.   John 10:11-18.    Pope Francis:  We cannot forget Christ’s desire that they may all be one.   Hearing his call we recognize with sorrow that the process of globalization still lacks the prophetic and spiritual contribution of unity among Christians.  This notwithstanding, even as we make this journey towards full communion we already have the duty to offer common witness to the love of God for all people by working together in the service of humanity.   FT280.   Reflect, share, pray.   Discuss different perceptions of shepherds.

April 26. In their guidelines for the family faith sharing groups it was recommended that people should not be forced to share, initially at least, but as the gospel quotation for the day is many people’s favourite it would be a great opportunity for everyone to share what the passage means to them.  So each one was invited to share a thought, personal, intellectual, friendly or whatever.  Antonette kicked off, “I’m a head-person. I’ve been   studying reproduction in nature for some projects of my own. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the generosity and overabundance of God’s giving. In frogs, and many sea creatures millions of eggs are produced, many of which go to waste, unfertilized.  Have you tried to clean a watermelon or a pawpaw to put into a smoothy machine and see how many pips it produces? Each one could produce a new plant. I’m growing veggies and my butternut plant has to have male and female flowers.  Did you know that?  God, the creator, is amazing.”

“I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  John 10:10.      Pope Francis.  By developing our individual God-given capacities, an ecological conversion can inspire us to greater creativity and enthusiasm, in resolving the world’s problems and offering ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable. LS220. Everything is connected and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.  LS240.   Reflect, share, pray for a growing appreciation of God’s tenderness and generosity.

April 27. Freedom Day.  Mrs Potgieter had been a history teacher for more than 30 years and had naturally experienced many changes during that time.  She reflected, “The most significant fact that forms part of our South African history is the change from government under apartheid to a democratic government of ‘one man one vote.’  The Day of the 1st Democratic Election on April 27 1994 is commemorated every year as Freedom Day, a true milestone.  This Freedom itself has not come about over-night, but continues to be part of a centuries-long struggle during which many people have suffered and made enormous sacrifices. Internal wars, violence and torture accompanied the journey.  Changing mindsets across the board continues as true freedom and full human rights are still not yet achieved by all, as poverty, lack of equality and violence present within families and against foreigners has not ended.     

Those who were scattered because of the persecution over Stephen travelled afar and also came to Antioch, speaking the word to none except Jews.  But there were some of them who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus and the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number that believed turned to the Lord. Acts 11:19-26.   Pope Francis:  A journey of peace is possible between religions. We believers need to find occasions to speak with one another and to act together for the common good and promotion of the poor. This has nothing to do with watering down our deepest convictions when we encounter others who think differently than ourselves, for the deeper, stronger and richer our own identity is the more we will be capable of enriching others with our own proper contribution. FS 282. Reflect, share, pray.  What does aculture of encounter mean to you?