29 May, 2017. Monday, Week 7 of Easter

1st Reading: Acts 19:1-8

In Ephesus, followers of John the Baptist become full members of the church

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied?altogether there were about twelve of them.

He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke out boldly, and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God.

Gospel: John 16:29-33

Approaching his Passion, Jesus says, Take courage; I have conquered the world!

His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”


Stating it plainly

“I am speaking to you plainly,” Jesus said, yet the plain language of his discourse in John’s gospel still baffles us. How will the disciples find peace in Jesus, once they are scattered, and Jesus is left alone among his enemies? How does such a disintegration of friendship convince them that Jesus knows everything and has come from God? The “plain” language is scrambled still more when the disciples speak in tongues and prophesy. Such an extraordinary manifestation of the Spirit goes beyond rational discourse. When God’s Spirit descends on a group, we can do one of two things: either declare it an illusion and walk away, or acknowledge that God is present, beyond our capacity to understand or explain. Earlier in the Acts (chapter 10), when a group of gentiles began to speak in tongues, Peter saw there was nothing to stop these people from being baptized. (Acts 10:47). And when he was later challenged about it Peter’s defence was that “the Holy Spirit came upon them – Who was I to interfere with him?” The Church had no choice but to accept the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

Normally, plain speech moves with clear ideas and in logical sequence. We are able to obtain further clarification and refine our reasoning. We can express our difficulties about the logic of an argument. If we are alert and we are able to express our ideas clearly, our minds are in control. Tongues and prophecy, on the contrary, go beyond the limits of logic and plain speech. They are an ecstatic expression of the experience of the Holy Spirit. Their communication is more by experience, touching the strings of emotion and the fibres in the heart. They are not subject to logic; they just happen! And if they happen, one can only say: Amen! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Or say like Peter, “the Holy Spirit came upon them?. Who was I to interfere?”

Jesus’ plain speech suggests the potential in all of us to act beyond reason (not against reason) and to do what can only afterwards be explained as beautiful and good. Even though the disciples scattered and left him alone, still his own steadfastness was such that we are not left alone; Jesus and the Father are with us. At no time does our Lord’s example call us to forgive so much as during his Passion. when he exemplifies the meaning of forgiving seventy times seven (Matt 18:22) and of being willing to die for the sake of one’s friends (John 15:13).

Not entirely alone

Jesus is very aware that those closest to him will soon abandon him. Rather than following his way, the disciples will go their own way, leaving him alone. Yet he speaks with the conviction that he is never really alone because God his Father is always with him. Even as he hung from the cross, God was with him, supporting him.

What Jesus says of himself we can all say of ourselves. There are times in our lives when we find ourselves alone. This is true especially of those who have never married or of older people whose spouse has died and whose families are away. Yet, even when we are alone, we can say with Jesus “I am not alone.” God the Father is with us as he was with Jesus. Indeed the risen Jesus is also with us, as is the Holy Spirit who has been poured into our hearts. Even when we are alone, we are always in the presence of the Trinity, we are living members of that wonderful family of love. Our awareness of that can bring us a deep peace, a peace the world cannot give. As Jesus says in today’s gospel, even when in the world we have trouble, we will find peace in him.

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