16 May, 2019. Thursday, 4th Week of Easter
Thursday of Week 4 of Easter
1st Reading: Acts 13:13-25
Paul’s summary of Israel’s history, up to the time of Christ
Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem; but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, aying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.” So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak:
“You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years he put up with them in the desert. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, “I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.” Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, “What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.”
Responsorial: Psalm 88: 2-3, 21-22, 25, 27
Response: For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord
I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord;
through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth.
Of this I am sure, that your love lasts for ever,
that your truth is firmly established as the heavens. (R./)
I have found David my servant
and with my holy oil anointed him.
My hand shall always be with him
and my arm shall make him strong. (R./)
My truth and love shall be with him;
by my name his might shall be exalted.
He will say to me: ‘You are my father,
my God, the rock who saves me.’ (R./)
Gospel: John 13:16-20
If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them
“Truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.”
I tell you this now, beforehand, so that when it happens you may believe that I am he. Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”
History: God at Work
A providential line of purpose stretches through Israel’s history through Jesus and right through to today. As the longed-for Messiah, Jesus was sent by the heavenly Father to bring salvation, not just in words but through his very person. He is both messenger and message from the heart of the living God. Like the eternal Yahweh, who appeared to Moses on Mount Horeb, Jesus says of himself, “I AM.” The title I AM identifies Jesus with the eternal divinity, and links him to the long history of Israel. Jesus Christ is the living IMAGE of the God who described himself as I AM (Ex 3:14, or “I am who I am.”) In relationship language, God is “One who is always with you.” The sacred Hebrew name for God is “Yahweh;” and actual Hebrew name of Jesus means “Yahweh saves”.
God is the powerful living-one who will always be with his people, helping them through this life. Yahweh’s ongoing, saving interaction with the lives of his people is the cornerstone of their faith. In their life exprience they discovered signs of God’s presence in their hopes and struggles and triumphs. This sacred name of Yahweh (I AM) was adopted by Jesus when he says: “that you may believe that I AM,” linking himself to the entire history of Israel, and of mankind.
While preaching in Pisidian Antioch (not the Syrian Antioch of Acts 11:19), Paul lists high points of Israel’s history, with a focus on Moses, David and John the Baptist, leading ultimately to Jesus. Israel’s long history from its beginnings to Jesus of Nazareth, saw many disruptions and rebirths. They were oppressed in Egypt and their entry to the land of freedom was delayed for forty years. Even when Palestine was won by conquest, it took centuries before they could hold it securely, under a monarchy. Their first king, Saul, was deposed; and centuries later David’s dynasty also disappeared. This series of defeat and renewal continued within the life of Jesus and his church. Judas, one of his own disciples betrayed him (“raised his heel against me.”) But when predicting this betrayal, Jesus added, “I tell you before it takes place, so that when it takes place you may know that I AM.”
Many disruptions cut across the line of continuity in history. But even the fierce opposition to Jesus could not deflect the plans of God: “that you may believe that I AM.” God moves in ways not anticipated by his people. But this is no reason to be totally passive in the face of events. On the example of Jesus and of Paul we turn to God in prayer, and realize from the start it is God who has directed all the events. Then we do our best and can be inwardly at peace.
When Jesus insisted that we must welcome children in his name, it was a wake-up call. The disciples argued about precdence and privelege, about which of them should be in charge and who should sit at the top table. The respons of Jesus is that seeking social status is trivial and ego-centred, and has no place the kingdom of God. What really counts in God’s kingdom is providing service, being like a servant of all, including to those who are of little social status, such as children.
Like the disciples we can easily be lured by frivolous targets or trivial hunger for a celebrity that has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. It is only by keeping our focus on Jesus and listening to his word that we can let his values shape how we think and speak and act.