Saturday of the Week of Easter 4

Acts 13.44-52; Psalm 97; John 14.7-14

‘If anyone does not welcome you or listen to what you have to say,’ Jesus once declared to his disciples, ‘as you walk out of the house or town shake the dust from your feet.’ [Matthew 10.14] It was the ultimate insult, declaiming any connection whatever with the inhospitable place.

Today we read of Paul and Barnabas shaking the dust from their feet as they left Pisidian Antioch.  They have done their work there, but the message has not been received.

Sometimes we are called to perseverance, to standing firm.  Sometimes, though, God gives us the freedom to move on from hopeless and fruitless situations.  We consign those who have not been able to hear us into the hands of the Holy Spirit, that that Spirit may judge them, heal them, renew them according to God’s purpose.  But we ourselves emotionally let go.  We follow Jesus himself who walked away from places where he could do no mighty work.
[Mark 6.5-6] We follow him, trusting that he will work his work in his own right time.  

Friday of the Week of Easter 4

Acts 13.26-33; Psalm 2; John 14.1-6

‘We are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.’
[I John 3.3] To live life that is worthy of the name [John 10.10] requires that we live without crippling regrets about the past and without stultifying anxieties about the future.  

What will our future entail?  We don’t need soothsayers to answer that question.  About the details we cannot speak with certainty, but the details don’t matter.  Knowing ourselves to be children of God we know with confidence what our inheritance will be. [Galatians 4.6-7] God has invited us to call him ‘Our Father’. [Matthew 6.9] He has given us power to become his children. [John 1.12] That assurance enables us to follow Jesus on the way. [Mark 10.52] That assurance emboldens us, like him, to lay down our lives [John 10.17-18], knowing that he who conquered death and hell will enable us, also, to live. [John 14.19]

Feast of St Mark, Evangelist

I Peter 5.5-14; Psalm 88; Mark 16.15-20

Spin doctors aren’t new to our era.  In the far expanses of the Roman Empire criers would come into town proclaiming ‘Good News! Good News!’ and proceed to announce the latest of the Emperor’s words, deeds and designs.

‘The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ’ St Mark began writing—his Gospel thought by most careful readers today to have been the first such effort—and as if in one breathless, voluble utterance he recited what others had related to him, the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God [Mark 1.11], until, as if his pencil suddenly snapped, he stopped on a dangling preposition.  A young man in a white robe had declared to myrrh-bearing women that the Jesus they sought was not dead but risen.  ‘You must go and tell his disciples’ he insisted; but they ‘ran away from the tomb because they were frightened out of their wits; and they said nothing to a soul, for they were afraid.’ [Mark 16.8]

Someone added a few paragraphs to bring the work to a more satisfying conclusion, but some may think the jagged, abrupt ending proclaims the Good News even more profoundly, Good News so overwhelming that it reduces us to babbling incoherence [Mark 9.6], Good News so transformative that it stops us in our tracks and changes our direction [Mark 10.52], Good News that over earth’s darkness [Mark 15.33] the sun is rising. [Mark 16.2]

Wednesday of the Week of Easter 4

Acts 12.24—13.5; Psalm 66; John 12.44-50

Paul and Barnabas formed a great team ministry.  Barnabas became Paul’s promoter after his Damascus Road conversion and offered reassurance to those who weren’t convinced that Paul was really a Christian disciple. [Acts 9.26-30] Together they went to Antioch [11.25-26], the capital of the Roman province of Syria, and to Barnabas’ native Cyprus [13.4].  Together they organised a fund for the relief of impoverished Christians in Jerusalem [11.30] and at the Council of Jerusalem [15.5-29] they jointly advocated a mission to the Gentiles. [15.12, 22]

Sometime later, however, Paul and Barnabas fell out after a violent quarrel [15.39].  Perhaps the disagreement concerned Barnabas’ cousin John Mark [15.37-39; Colossians 4.10], but Paul’s own account suggests more fundamental differences between them. [Galatians 2.11-13] In time Paul and Mark worked together again [II Timothy 4.11; Philemon 24] but if Paul and Barnabas ever reconciled the New Testament doesn’t record it.

Both Paul and Barnabas continued their missionary work, however, Barnabas with Mark and Paul with Silas. [Acts 15.39-40] Their estrangement is a sad, discordant note, a reminder of the difficulties that strong and passionate people can find in working together as the instruments of God.  But God brings good even out of human failure.  By the break-up of this successful team, the proclamation of the word of God is doubled!  The work of each of them bore lasting fruit. [John 15.16] Both Barnabas and Paul ended their lives as martyrs.

Solemnity of St George, Martyr, Patron of England

Apocalypse 12.10-12; 
Psalm 125; Hebrews 10.32-36; John 15.18-21

St George’s Day interrupts our Easter sequence of readings, but the legend of his slaying of the dragon cannot help but remind us of the work of Christ who by his death on the cross brought down the ancient foe of humankind.  The dragon’s voracious appetite is described in the 13th Century Golden Legend: though lambs were brought to him, he insisted on a feast of children, until George’s bravery closed his maw for ever.

George was a soldier in Diocletian’s army who came to believe in Christ and was punished for this apostasy by decapitation on this day in the year 303.  Some forty thousand, including the Empress Alexandra, were said to have been converted by his martyrdom, a real witness to his trust in the God who delivers his servants from bondage to death.

Monday of the Week of Easter 4

Acts 11.1-18; Psalms 41-42; John 10.1-10

Take a look at the entirety of Psalms 41 and 42 (the numbering of the Vulgate; in the Hebrew Bible, and in most English translations, they are Psalms 42 and 43).  Together they form one thought, punctuated thrice [41(42).5, 11; 42(43).5] with a refrain: ‘Why so downcast, my soul; why do you sigh within me?  Put your hope in God: I shall praise him yet, my saviour, my God.’

The Psalmist begins by comparing himself to a panting deer, drained and dehydrated by a long run.  ‘So longs my soul for you, my God.’   He is taunted, he says, by observers who think his quest is foolish and irrational.  Yet, he says, he is buoyed because he knows that his journey is a pilgrimage to ‘the wonderful Tent’, the place where God is to be found.  That altar remains our goal, that place of sacrifice where earthly hopes are met and transcended by heavenly bounty, where God offers himself as food to satisfy all our desires and longings.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, 21 April 2024

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Tuesday of the 3rd week of Eastertide

Acts 7:51-8:1; Psalm 30(31):3-4,6,8,17,21; John 6:30-35

"I am the bread of life" said Jesus.

The food we need does not come from prophets, kings or priests - it comes from - it IS - Christ himself.

Without a commentary we might not realise that the structure of today's passage is that of a synagogue homily typical of Jesus' time. The teacher uses the Law (Exodus 16:15) followed by a Prophet (Isiah 54:13). The order is important. We need to believe first (Law), then know what is to be eaten (Prophets) and then finally, to consume - to eat at the banquet of Wisdom (Proverbs 9).

This technique lives on to this day as most of our Sunday Masses use the same structure, although we make use of either law and prophets, followed by teachings of the apostles, and finally feast on the word of the Lord himself int he Gospel reading.