Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Easter
Acts 14:19ff. Jews persuade the crowds to stone Paul and leave him for dead; but he survives, and continues his ministry.
John 14:27ff. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Gone On Ahead
Jesus speaks of going away; of returning to the Father. He has come into our world in obedience to the Father’s will, and now at the bidding of the Father he directs his face toward the cross, resurrection and ascension. Jesus will be reunited with the Father and the Spirit. Earlier, Philip had begged Jesus; “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Still earlier, Thomas had argued with Jesus: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said, as seen in the gospel of last Friday, “I am going to prepare a place for you … I am the way.”
One of the ways by which we follow Jesus into his mysterious life with the Father and the Spirit, is to allow our own spirit come to rest in the deepest part of ourselves. Here is where the temple of God is constructed; here is the Holy of Holies of that temple, here resides the Ark of the Covenant, containing the tablets of the law (Deut 31:26). Here is where we hear God’s word, the “commandment” that requires immediate obedience, as was discussed yesterday. For if God really and truly speaks, we have no choice, only one of life or death. To disobey would be to destroy our very selves as created by God.
Before this Holy of Holies, the seraphim continually call out: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, Qadoshl Qadosh! Qadosh yahweh seba’oth!” Holy, in the Hebrew qadosh, means separation, overwhelming distance, awesome transcendence, as fearful as approaching the sun, as murky and black as the bottom of the ocean. Yet, this same God speaks with us and calls us “friend!” We can approach this God, we can fly into the sun and sink to ocean depths. The more personal is God’s embrace, the more profound is our ecstasy of love. Jesus is the way to the Father. We can know that way only by faith, and faith means a surrender out of love to the unknown. This unknown aspect of faith becomes all the more mysterious and undecipherable because it is not a quality of an object but the love of a person. That person is God, Father, Son and Spirit.
When we settle into the depths of ourselves, we hear God speak our name, like the Creator calling us into existence. This word, ourselves, is spoken in the same dark, mysterious, wondrous, thoroughly personal and still overwhelmingly transcendent way that a child is conceived. God speaks our name and we are created. We must let our spirit come to rest at the depths of ourselves, so that we can hear that name, that word of ourselves, spoken again, with the pure strong accents of God’s voice.
At such moments we experience a peace beyond words, a peace that the world cannot give, as Jesus says in today’s gospel.
Within such eternal moments of peace, God calls us forth into new life. Like Paul and Barnabas the door is opened for us to move through “foreign” lands and to live with “gentiles.” Through the word of God, we absorb new strength and new wisdom. Our most hidden hopes come alive. Our ideals, that once frightened us because of their weird unreality, take on the force of a divine commandment; they are spoken anew by God.
But surrendering to such ideals means suffering! As St. Paul said to the Christian community of Antioch [where Peter was in charge for a while]: “We must undergo many trials if we are to enter into the reign of God.” Paul could speak from experience. He had just been stoned and left for dead at Pisidian Antioch [farther north than the other Antioch]. Yet, it may be possible that Paul suffered less from the stoning than he did from the demand of God to forgive those who stoned him. It must have been far easier for Paul to put up with persecution than to bear with jealousy which prompted the persecution.
We are called by Jesus to peace. And peace means forgiving others, bearing with other’s differences, even their misunderstanding and jealousy.
Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you;
I do not give it to you as the world gives peace. Do not be distressed or fearful.
First Reading: Acts 14:19-28
But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.
After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.
Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.
Gospel: John 14:27-31
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.