02Jun 02 Jun Thursday in the Sixth Week of Easter

Acts 18:1ff. The early days of Paul’s mission in Corinth, and the friends he found there.

John 16:16ff. What is involved in Jesus ‘going to the Father’ and his promise to come again.

Steady amid Life’s Changes

The Scriptures accept and record the quick transitions which can come into all our lives. Paul left behind the capital city of Athens with its sophisticated audience and proceeded to Corinth. Here he ran into severe opposition from the Jewish people, yet one of the leaders of the synagogue “put his faith in the Lord.” More and more gentiles accepted Paul and turned to the Lord Jesus. Paul continued to minister to the Jewish people, but he is definitely moving away from them toward a gentile environment.

Sudden changes also appear in the gospel narrative. Here it is expressed in terms of Jesus’ presence, absence and new presence. As we review all of these movements, from one part of human life to another, we realize that no stage of our existence is permanent. “The world as we know it is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31).

We learn from world history that when a culture or an empire is at its point of highest development and furthest reach, it is usually at the moment of collapse and disintegration. Usually what breaks an empire or collapses a culture is a small, seemingly insignificant force somewhere on the outer edge. In the Old Testament an upstart from a small vassal state overturned the political equilibrium of the Babylonians and Egyptians and created the Persian Empire; his name was Cyrus the Great. Jesus, from an unknown village called Nazareth, so unimportant as never to be mentioned in the Hebrew Scripture, turned into a key figure of world religions. All of us possess such elements of extraordinary change within our lives and circle of friends and work. We should learn to be tolerant and patient, to be humble and docile, able to learn from every aspect of our lives and from everyone within our acquaintance. That person or that event may be announcing our future, the new coming of Jesus into our lives.

We cannot afford to slough off anyone; we cannot look down our nose at any event; we cannot pass by and keep walking with our head in the clouds, unwilling to learn from what is being said and done. In the ancient Scripture, perhaps no person prefigured the ministry and character of Jesus more than the suffering servant in the prophecy of Isaiah. In one of the Servant Songs (49:1-9a) this servant has “the tongue of a disciple,” or more literally “the tongue of one who has been taught.” Later in the same Song, the servant suffers shame and humiliation. In this way, the servant is able to uphold those who are cast down and insert a new dignity into the lowest moments of human existence. And from this servant Jesus learned peace and the way of his own apostolate.

Not only will we learn the future from people and events seemingly of little or no importance, but from “nowhere” come the dramatic changes in our lives. Furthermore, these transitions usually happen, by surprise. No matter how well we think to be preparing ourselves, we seem to be caught unaware, at least unable to cope with all that happens. Once more the prophet Second Isaiah instructs us; we may have heard the prophecies over and over again. God may have made sure that we were acquainted with them. Yet, God adds: “Suddenly I take action and they come to be” (Is 48:3). Only if we are gracious, yes humble toward the small people and the incidental details of our life, will we be able to handle the moment of dramatic change. Courteous good nature and patient appreciation instill the courage and strength to do the right thing at traumatic moments of change.

Such kindliness and openness prepare us for that “short while” when Jesus disappears from us and returns to us. Our grief at his departure reaches deeply within us, yet our patience enables us to wait upon the Lord. Such waiting renews our strength (Is 40:31); it develops our longing for what is best in life. This waiting upon the Lord also flows from a temperate and thoughtful response to sorrow.

You will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy.

Quickly, suddenly, by surprise the Lord will return, again by means of silent events that we could easily pass by unnoticed.

Jesus returned to Paul in such normal ways at Corinth. The apostle met a couple who engaged in the same trade as himself; they were tentmakers. It seems that they were also Jewish Christians like himself. Not only did they keep Paul in contact with his roots, which could seem to have been severed in the difficult turn of events, but they also kept Paul rooted down to earth in the practical, everyday details of secular life. He would work for his living. It is possible that these normal responses prepared Paul for the sudden, dramatic change: “I will turn to the gentiles.” Perhaps, in the secular marketplace where everyone equally works for a living, Paul heard the Lord calling him to broaden his ministry and to gather the foreigners into the community of Jesus’ disciples.

When our life seems to collapse suddenly, we are not so much humiliated in our defeats and straightened in the seeming absence of Jesus. Rather, we are reduced to a point where we become brothers and sisters to all God’s family. At this moment of gracious love, Jesus “in that little while” returns to us.

First Reading: Acts 18:1-8

After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together – by trade they were tentmakers. Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshipper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the official of the synagogue, became a believer in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized.

Gospel: John 16:16-20

“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.