25 May, 2017. Thursday, Week 6 of Easter

Venerable Bede, bishop; Saint Gregory VII, pope; Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, virgin

1st Reading: Acts 18:1-8

The early days of Paul’s mission in Corinth, and the friends he found there

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 tent-makers. 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 officer 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

Jesus is going to the Father, and promises to come again

Jesus said,
“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.”


Coping with Life’s Changes

Paul left the capital, Athens, with its sophisticated audience and proceeded to the seaport of Corinth, notorious for its riotous atmosphere. Here he ran into fierce opposition within the Jewish community, yet one of the synagogue leaders came to accept Paul’s Gospel message. As more and more Greek gentiles accepted the message and turned to faith in Jesus, Paul gradually focused his ministry away from the Jews and toward gentile audience. Significant changes also appear in today’s gospel. Here it is expressed in terms of Jesus’ presence, absence and new presence. Such changes remind us that no stage of our existence is permanent. “The world as we know it is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31).

Life transitions often put us into crisis. No matter how well we think to be preparing ourselves, we seem to be caught unaware, barely able to cope with all that happens. St Paul shows remarkable ability to adapt to change, in his travelling ministry. The work that needed to be done to spread the Gospel urged him to become “as a Greek with the Greeks, and as a Jew with the Jews.” The same openness to change was required of the first disciples when Jesus told them he must go away. ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.’ Their grief at his absence is real, but he taught them to wait with patience for his return. “You will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy.”

A providential meeting helped St Paul to adapt to his new situation in tumultuous Corinth. The apostle met a couple who engaged in the same trade as himself; they were tent-makers. It seems they were also Jewish-Christians like himself. Not only did they help to keep Paul in contact with his roots, which could have been severed by his rejection in the synagogue, but they also kept him rooted and down to earth in the practical details of everyday life. With Prisca and Aquila he would work for his living, with his own hands. In the secular marketplace where everyone equally works for a living, Paul heard the Lord calling him to broaden his ministry and to gather the foreigners into the community of Jesus’ disciples.

Preparing a place for us

On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus speaks to his disciples about his going away, going to the Father. His death will involve a real departure which will cause his disciples to grieve. If they had their way they would have wanted him to stay. But he tells them that if they really loved him they would be glad, knowing that he is returning to the Father. If they really loved him, he says, they would not try to make him stay.

We are invited to rejoice at his departure, because in going back to the Father Jesus can do so much more for his disciples and for disciples of every generation than if he stayed. In returning to the Father he passes into a new and more glorious life, opening up a way to that life for all who believe in him. Through going to the Father, he will be able to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples. In this way, his departure is very much to their advantage and to the advantage of all of us. That is why if they really loved Jesus, they would willingly let them go. Sometimes the greatest expression of our love for others is to let them go, not trying to hold onto them, to letting them go to whatever God wishes and desires for them.

Saint Bede the Venerable, doctor of the Church

Beda Venerabilis (673-735), was an English monk at the monastery of Saint Peter in the Kingdom of Northumbria. He is well known as an author and scholar, and his most famous work, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People (written in Latin) gained him the title “The Father of English History”.

Saint Gregory VII, pope

Hildebrand of Sovana (c. 1015-1085 AD), was pope from 1073 to his death in 1085. One of the great reforming popes, he is best known for the part he played in the Investiture controversy, his dispute with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, that affirmed the primacy of papal authority and the canon law governing the election of the pope by the college of cardinals.

Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, virgin

Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi (1566-1607) was a 16th century Italian mystic. Against her father’s wishes, she opted for a contemplative life and chose the Carmelite Monastery of St. Mary of the Angels in Florence because the rule there allowed her to receive Holy Communion daily.

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