8th May. Tuesday of the 5th Week of Easter
Acts 14:19ff. Paul is stoned and left for dead; but survives to continue his ministry.
John 14:27ff. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Gone on ahead
Jesus speaks of going away, for he will return to the Father. Just as he came to us forth in obedience to the Father’s will, and now at the bidding of God the Father he directs his face toward the cross, resurrection and ascension. After his sacrifice he 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;” and earlier still, Thomas argued with Jesus: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” In one sense, the disciples cannot follow Jesus. And in still another sense, they must walk in his footsteps, for he said “I am going to prepare a place for you … I am the way.”
One way to follow Jesus into his mysterious life with the Father and the Spirit, is to allow our own spirit come to be aware, 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 our total response. 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 term qadosh, points to separateness, overwhelming distance, awesome transcendence, as fearful as the sun, as murky and black as the bottom of the ocean. Yet, this transcendent God speaks with us and calls us “friends.” We can approach this God, like flying toward the sun and sinking to ocean depths. The more personal is God’s embrace, the more profound can be our ecstasy of love. Jesus is our way to the Father. Only by faith can we know that way , and faith means a surrender in 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.
Within such moments of peace, God calls us into something new. Like Paul and Barnabas the door is opened for us to move out from old securities and live among the “gentiles” who may feel outside the range of God’s grace but are not really so. From the word of God, we get new strength and new wisdom. Ideals that once frightened us because of their high challenge, take on the force of a divine commandment as they are spoken anew by God.
Surrendering to such apostolic ideals means suffering! As St. Paul said to the Christians of Pisidia where he stayed 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 in one of their towns – and he may possibly have 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 the jealousy which prompted the persecution.
Along with the call to courage, we are also 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.