17th May. Thursday of the 6th 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
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. As more and more gentiles accepted his message and turned to 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 consider these changes, 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 highest development and furthest reach, it is usually at the beginning of collapse and disintegration. What breaks an empire or collapses a culture can be 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 despise anyone; we cannot look down our nose at any event or keep walking with our head in the clouds, unwilling to learn from what is being said and done. In the Scriptures, 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 the way of his own apostolate.
Only if we are gracious, humble toward the small people and the incidental details of our life, will we be able to handle the traumatic moments of change. Such openness prepare us for that “short while” when Jesus disappears from us and returns to us. Our grief at his departure is real, 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. “You will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy.”
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.