5th May. Saturday of the 4th Week of Easter
Acts 13:44ff. After failing with the Jews, Paul and Barnabas turn to the Gentiles.
John 14:7ff. Jesus tells Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
Show us the Father
God’s presence moves in mysterious ways, first in the solemn majesty and mysterious wonder of the heavens, through word and presence among the Jewish people, then incarnate in the person of Jesus, to spread through the Gospel across the world. Once the grandeur of God’s gracious presence is realized, it must be shared with others. In allowing others, however culturally alien to us they may be, to sit down with us at the banquet table of God’s presence, we ourselves are transformed into something new. Just as the eternal word of God, incarnate in the womb of Mary, took on a particular way of life, Jewish, Palestinian, speaking Aramaic, black haired, dark complexioned, more emotional and less philosophical than the Greeks, more prophetical and less legal than the Romans, a similar evolution took place in Christianity when the gospel migrated from an entirely Jewish setting to that of the Greek-Roman world.
Adapting our understanding of God to changes in culture can be extremely difficult, threatening and even divisive, as the Catholic Church found in the wake of Vatican II, and is experiencing again in the year 2012, as the boundaries of doctrine are tested against some of the widespread perceptions of our times. Yet such movement and change can be a way of fulfilling Jesus’ words to the apostle Philip: “The one who 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 Jesus teasing us with unreal praise or is he providing us with the opportunity to move on?
These words of Jesus express something that parents often think and say to their children: “what I couldn’t do, you must do! You take my dreams and make them real in your lifetime.” Jesus must have dreamed of a mission to the entire world and yet in practice could not act upon it in his lifetime. He told the Canaanite woman, in the district of Tyre 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, Jesus stood his ground against her argument, before finally saying, “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 have to survive from crumbs that fall to the ground!
At Pisidian Antioch, where Paul’s preaching was rejected by the Jews, the great instinctive dream of Jesus was operative through a violent “sword” that divided families and friends (Luke 12:51-53). When Paul and Barnabas were excommunicated from the synagogue and expelled from the territory, it served the spread of the Gospel. On this occasion Paul quotes from Isaiah: “I have made you a light to the nations, a means of salvation to the ends of the world.”
Such unexpected moments that 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, from earthly to heavenly existence, are the way to the Father. We can reread today’s Scripture in the context of any personal crisis or change, in the firm conviction that the whole process is under the loving, guiding providence of our God.
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.