27 April 2013. Saturday of the 4th Week of Easter

Acts 13:44ff. Rejected by the Jews, Paul and Barnabas  address the gospel to the Gentiles.

John 14:7ff. Jesus tells Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

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.

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.

Please show us the Father

We find a movement of God’s presence, first in the mysterious wonder of heaven, then in the self manifestation of God  on earth in the person of Jesus, then from God’s word and presence among the Jewish people to an opening out of the message across the world. Once the grandeur of God’s gift is realized, it must be shared with others. In allowing others, however alien or foreign to us, to sit  with us at the banquet table of God’s presence, our family of faith becomes a vehicle for God. Just as the eternal word of God, incarnate in the womb of Mary, took on a specific way of life, Jewish, Palestinian, speaking Aramaic, with black hair and dark complexion, more emotional and less philosophical than the Greeks, more prophetic and less legal than the Romans, a similar inculturation took place when the gospel moved  from its  Jewish setting to that of the Greek and Roman world.

Change can be extremely difficult, threatening and even divisive, as the Catholic Church experienced  in the wake of Vatican II, yet change can also be how we fulfil Jesus’ words to the apostle Philip: “The one who believes in me will do the works I do, and greater far than these.”  Is Jesus teasing us with a bit of unreal praise or is he pointing the way to the future?

Jesus must have dreamed of a mission to the entire world and yet he stayed in Israel. He told the Canaanite woman when journeying in the district of Tyre and Sidon, “My mission is only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And when she persisted, he stood his ground but finally  admitted: “Woman, you have great faith! Your wish will come to pass” (Matt 15:21-28). Your wish, Jesus seemed to say, is my own wish, how I long to see us all one, joined around the heavenly banquet table. No one would then survive simply from the crumbs that fall to the ground!

At Pisidian Antioch, where Paul has been preaching, the great  dream of Jesus came true, and again with a violent thrust of the sword that divided families and friends, that involved religious and civil authorities (Luke 12:51-53). Paul and Barnabas were excommunicated from the synagogue and expelled from the territory. On this occasion Paul quoted from the prophet Isaiah: “I have made you a light to the nations, a means of salvation to the ends of the world.”

Our life too changes 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. These are the way to the Father, the works greater than those of Jesus’ own lifetime, the light and consolation of others.

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