Friends, as we have seen throughout the Easter readings, the apostles are trying to come to terms with all that it means to truly follow their friend and brother, Jesus of Nazareth. He, in his time here, had shown them so much: wonderful teachings of God’s love for them that truly, “broke open their hearts.” They could hardly do anything but follow him! The miracles—beyond words really, were such that they could proclaim him, the Messiah!
Yet, throughout this Easter Season, we see their “starts and stops,” so to speak, in truly following him. Some teach and preach and likewise, perform miracles in his name—yet they keep checking themselves, going back—from time to time to their previous occupations—fishing mainly. Should they fish for those in the lake or those on land—the people, as did Jesus?
The readings this weekend show the uncertainty too at times, of these first followers in being able to see the bigger picture that Jesus was always presenting to them through parables and such and apply it to their spiritual lives.
The 1st reading from Acts today is a very good example of this: Some zealous folk (the rules people) from Jerusalem seem to be upsetting Paul’s new converts so that Paul and Barnabas travel to Jerusalem to seek out a “meeting of minds” with the powers-that-be there, Peter and all.
Those who were stirring things up were advocating that the rules of Moses be rigidly followed—circumcision and all. Apparently, this group hadn’t heard Jesus’ message that he was, “doing something new!”
Even the compromise that is reached seems lacking in generating Jesus’ simple, yet profound message. As you will recall, the message Paul was sent away with was that converts, “abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from illicit sexual union.” Now, I don’t know about you, but this would have left me, “wanting.”
I would have thought Peter and the others who spent three years with Jesus would have lifted up the words spoken so well in John’s gospel for this weekend and in the continuing chapters: “That they love one another as Jesus/God loves them,” and this knowledge would, “give them peace” so as to not, “let [their] hearts be troubled.” All the other rules and regulations are superfluous.
The reading from Revelation today also seems to be stuck in surface thoughts—temples and such. John says of it, “I saw no temple” … “for God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple.”
In fairness though to the apostles in Jerusalem, it may have been that they hadn’t yet received the power and strength of the Spirit to, “go deeper,” sifting “the chaff from the grain,” so to speak. As I often say, this, “being Christian, is not easy!”
Additionally, if any of us were Jesus’ first disciples, we may have been prone to the same narrow kind of thinking. One thing that can be said in general though, with how people view their world and whose messages they are open to hearing, has much to do with where they find themselves in any given society. The poor, the sick, women and children—those basically with no power, no voice, and no importance would have been much more open to Jesus’ message of love, than would those who had all or most of what was needed in life to live reasonably well. Those on the fringes were the ones that Jesus was continually advocating for. We have to remember that this is why he was crucified –his message was nothing if not, subversive to the “powers” in his time and place.
So friends, where does that leave each of us on May 21, 2022? A few things come to mind: (1) We can’t fix everything that needs fixing! Now, that may sound strange after what I said above, but it is just, the plain truth. Having just begun my 72nd year, I know this to be true. (: (2) But, (and remember the most important thing always comes after the “but”) as someone significant once said, and I paraphrase, “That doesn’t however, give us permission to do nothing!” (3) The other thing that I will lift up today for our reflection is the importance of us at least trying to be consistent in what we say is important and necessary in our world. A few current examples:
- If our goal in life is to “protect life,” or be “pro-life,” then we must protect ALL life, not just that which is in the womb—at the least, as laws are crafted, the women carrying these new lives-to-be should and must be part of the equation. Also, adequate food, clothing and shelter should be provided for these new lives once they are here—to do less, is to be totally dishonest! Justice for all people, of every shade, means that, the conversation that dark-skinned parents have with their sons—everyday, “to watch themselves,” lest they are stopped by the police, will become a thing of the past! And we could go on.
- Our country, by way of politics and the Congress in part, seems to be caught in a web of populism that uplifts the images of mean, self-centered dictator-types who promise much and do little to better life for all in our country. And in order to be in the good graces of those in power in this nasty web, others will emasculate themselves rather than lose whatever power they have. The original ideas upon which this country was founded—that of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are apparently, only for some.
- Within our churches and I will point my finger basically at our Catholic church, even though the other denominations are culpable too. The equality that our brother Jesus brought to our world and demonstrated so well in his own life must be uplifted by those in power, charged with walking in his memory. To our brother Francis I would humbly say, “Live up to Jesus’ memory now, opening up leadership roles, including ordination of women called and tested by the Spirit to serve.
As I said earlier friends, none of us can do it all—fix every problem, but let it not be said of any of us, that we didn’t do what we could. When you see or hear a wrong, speak up, write a letter or postcard, make a call, and tell those with the power that now is the time to act! Amen? Amen!