28th April. Saturday of the 3rd Week of Easter
Acts 9:31ff. Peter ministers among the believers, outside of Jerusalem
John 6:60ff. Peter declares: “You have the words of eternal life.”
Imitating Peter’s faith
The woman whom Peter called back to life was the beloved Dorcas, a generous sould whose “good deeds and acts of charity” had established a bond with many of her poor neighbours, particularly with the widows in the city of Joppa. Let me put myself into Peter’s shoes. Suppose that I were called on an urgent request, and on arrival I am told that a dead person was laid out for a farewell from her friends, before burial. Somehow I am expected to do something for that dead person! At that moment, I am surrounded with the family and friends, with all the many dependents who have been assisted by the deceased. They look to me to do something, say that “something” that will somehow bring light to the situation! What would I do?
Maybe I should meditate with the group on some words from the gospel of St. John. “I am the resurrection and the life” Jesus says; and also, “Whoever eats this bread will live for ever!” But his disciples were murmuring in protest “This sort of talk is hard to endure!”
“It is the spirit that gives life,” Jesus says; “The words I spoke to you are spirit and life.” Peter impulsively says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” These sentences from the St. John capture some of my feelings as I stand before a dead person with the request to say some prayers. I feel myself murmuring in protest: Why ask me? What can I do for this dead person? I am a believer, but I am no vain presumer, nor wild dreamer!
Very few are called to fill the shoes of the apostle Peter. On his journeys he was frequently placed in a position of working miracles. God does not ask the ordinary person to be be a miracle-worker, on that scale. But we are summoned occasionally to work miracle of some simpler kind. God may ask me to forgive another person, to no longer make an issue out of an unpleasant situation, to live silently with a physical ailment or even with an emotional disability, without complaint or even a whispering reference. Such heroic moments come occasionally. We think that God is asking the impossible. And we read in John’s gospel: “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.”
First Reading: Acts 9:31-42
Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!” And immediately he got up. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.
Gospel: John 6:60-69
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.
So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”