Saturday in the Fourth Week of Easter
Acts 13:44ff. After having their message rejected by the Jews, Paul and Barnabas address the gospel explicitly to the Gentile world.
John 14:7ff. In the Johanning style, we find Jesus assuring us that, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
We find assurance of God’s presence in the solemn majesty and grandeur of the heavens, but also his presence on earth in the person of Jesus. Once the grandeur of God’s gift is realized in our hearts, from that moment it must be shared with others. In helping others, even strangers and foreigners, to sit with us at the banquet of God’s presence, our life is transformed into something new and different. Just as the eternal word of God, in becoming incarnate in the womb of Mary, took on an entirely new way of life, Jewish, Palestinian, Aramaic language, black hair, dark complexion, more emotional and less philosophical than the Greeks, more prophetical and less legalist than the Romans, a similar evolution took place when the gospel of Jesus migrated from its initially Jewish setting to that of the Greek-Roman world.
Changes of cultural context can be extremely difficult, threatening and even divisive, as the Roman Catholic Church experienced in the wake of Vatican II, yet such a movement can also be a way of fulfilling Jesus’ words to the apostle Philip: “Whoever believes in me will do the works I do, and greater far than these.” How can our human works be greater than those of Jesus? Is he just teasing us with a bit of unfounded praise?
These words in John’s gospel may be reaching into the deep subconscious of Jesus and expressing something that parents often wish for their children: what I couldn’t do, you must do! You take my dreams and make them real. Jesus must have dreamed of a mission to the entire world, and yet was unable to achieve it in his lifetime. He told the Canaanite woman, during a journey he took outside the living area of the Jewish people: “My mission is only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And when she persisted, at first Jesus stood his ground against her argument. Finally he conceded: “Woman, you have great faith! Your wish will come to pass” (Matt 15:21-28). Your wish, Jesus seemed to say, is my wish, how I long to see us all one, joined around the heavenly banquet table. No one would then survive simply from the crumbs that fall from the table to the ground!
As Jesus reached outward to the wider world, maybe without clear precision of its full extent, he came into trouble with those who gave a very strict interpretation to the Mosaic laws and traditions. The transition from one family of faith to another, was almost as dramatic as the moment of Jesus’ incarnation, when the eternal word began to live as Jesus, son of Mary, the Jewish maiden of Nazareth. His church’s mission would be more dramatic, extending far wider than anything which he had accomplished in his lifetime. Changes of vision are traumatic for many people, and eventually cost Jesus his life, for his vision brought him into trouble with the religious leaders of his own people and with the civil authorities of Rome.
At Pisidian Antioch, where Paul was preaching, the great instinctive dream of Jesus came true, again with a sort of sword-thrust that divided families and friends, that involved religious and civil authorities (Luke 12:51-53). Paul and Barnabas were excommunicated from the synagogue and expelled from the territory. On this occasion Paul explains the positive side of the event, by quoting from Isaiah: “I have made you a light to the nations, a means of salvation to the ends of the world.”
Our life too changes, at times with grief or even agony, and still again with scintillating joy. These transitional moments usually come unexpectedly with demands that seem exorbitant, that change our life, upsetting our security. Not only are we asked to share our most precious hopes with others, but others will make something different of them than we intended. Just as when Judaism became Christianity and the eternal God became human, our whole self is transformed by what others do with our gift.
Such transitional moments occur as we grow from youth to adult life, from single life to marriage, religious vocation and priesthood, from health to sickness, from independence to helpless old age, and finally from earthly to our heavenly existence. These are our way to the Father, the works greater than those of Jesus’ own lifetime, the light and consolation of others. We can reread today’s Scripture in the context of any personal crisis. er people color and transform that light, just as earth transformed the light that you were from all eternity in heaven.
First Reading: Acts 13:44-52
The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region. So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Gospel: John 14:7-14
If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.