Acts 14, 21-27
- After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to that
city, they returned… they traveled… they sailed… they arrived.
Here are the original Christian circuit ‘walkers’ who have inspired so many. Let me give the congregation a sense of this slow but steady movement through Galatia.
- The reading is filled with their action. Proclaimed, made disciples, strengthened
spirits, exhorted, appointed,
commended with prayer and fasting, called
the church together and reported. I don’t want to rush it. We have a chance to listen and learn. How did the church of Antioch
conduct itself, in the words of the evangelist?
- First I hear a common purpose: the church together. There are other circuit walkers, as we learn from Paul’s letters, but they are
commended and respected by everyone.
- Second I notice the responsibility placed on local followers.
They persevered in the faith. And
the apostles appointed presbyters for them in each church.
- Third, though most important of all, is the understanding that God
had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. For Luke it is always God’s
work above all.
- I do not hear of horses or airplanes, of books or audiotapes.
Let me rehearse until I find the way to convey to everyone the simple means our forebears used to spread the faith. I would not cast off the technology we have at our disposal, and which I need to use
today, but I do think we often get caught up in the technology, the gimmicks, and lose completely the Lord.
- Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Antioch… It is one thing to pronounce the names
correctly, as our favorite lector guide will help us do. It is another to do
it with authority, to show that we care as much about these cities as we do about our own.
All of them are lost in history, and exist only as ruins in modern day Turkey. Should it matter to me, to us? Our present
spiritual leader has dedicated his last years to the rescue of a Europe that he considers
to be moving in the same direction. I see some connection with old cities like
Auxerre, Aix and Bardstown.
- Central point: The faith we have received must be shared with
the whole world.
- Message for our assembly: We are the successors of the Gentiles. What are we doing to spread our faith to others?
Is our faith a relic or is it alive?
- I will challenge myself: To find the simplicity I need to describe
the first missionary journey out of Antioch.
Revelation 21, 1-5
- The visionary sees a new heaven and a new earth. It is the crowning chapter of the book, which is filled with equally majestic vistas. I need to read it in the same spirit of vision, in astonishment at the dazzling sight. Let me recall the most spectacular light shows I have seen, the most convincing visual effects in my experience,
and that will help me prepare for this assignment.
- I saw (twice), I
heard. Let me not forget that the vision is that of a witness, and I need
to read it over until I have filled his shoes.
- The holy city, Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride. We’re talking
about a very slow descent. Remember that our own space vessels make soft landings. My voice will evoke this; I won’t rush it.
- God, in case I miss it, is mentioned three times decisively. God’s dwelling is with the human race…
He will always be with them. It sounds
like a reversal of our everyday lives in which God is celebrated only at our liturgies.
In case my listeners miss it, I will stress the words of permanence, ‘dwelling’ and ‘always.’
- Sitting on the throne is a show of authority. We like to show our executives, our news anchors, sitting behind a desk.
Our bishops sit in a prominent chair in the sanctuary.
- Climax: (Behold) I make all things
new. Resurrection means newness of life.
I would build throughout the phrase until the word ‘new.’
- The message for our assembly: Do we really believe that God is preparing fullness of life for everyone? This is a universal vision, not just for Catholics.
- I will challenge myself: To speak as expansively as I can, finding as much gentleness as I have in my loud voice.
John 13, 31-35
- Now is the Son of Man glorified. Jesus speaks to the disciples, and we listen in the light of Easter.
Judas has left, but it is not for Jesus’ downfall but his exaltation. I
will work on the positive tones of my voice.
- God will glorify him – in himself – and he will
glorify him at once. I hear ‘glory five times in quick succession. I remember the blinding presence of God, that unapproachable light, from Exodus. Now it is not light but a life of service to others, a life of love for one another as I have loved you. Jesus enters into the Father’s
glory, and reflects the glory, and even God’s glory intensifies in Jesus. Have
we ever seen the explosion of a wildfire? That is the way I should say it.
- Love for one another, which the evangelist repeats three
times in case we were not listening. Yes, their love for each other – and
now our love – repeats the awesome glory of God. It may look like a sleepy
reading from a hidden corner of John, but it is one of the most prominent in his Gospel.
Jesus himself meant it to be that way.
- My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. As he departs he thinks mainly of his disciples.
- Climax: I give you a new commandment: love one another.
- Message for our assembly: This is how all will know that you
are my disciples.
- I will challenge myself: To find the assuring spirit in which Jesus speaks.
From Word to Eucharist: We
have marching orders today, with the missionary journey and the expectation of the new heaven and earth. We also have the commandment of love. Let our awareness of
our calling grow as we come forward to become one body.