Sixth Sunday of Easter – A

There is a lovely story that illustrates how Jesus can be present among us. It concerns a group of salesmen attending a sales convention in Chicago.  They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday night’s dinner.  In the end, it meant a mad rush to the airport and then through the airport to the gate. Not surprisingly, one of these salesmen accidentally kicked over a table full of apples.  Apples flew everywhere.  Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane, just in time.

All but one.  He told the others to go on without him and went back to where the apples were all over the floor.  He was glad he did.  The 16-year-old girl, the apple seller, was totally blind!  She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks, as she groped for her spilled produce, the crowd swirling about her, rushing to their flights.  The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped reorganize her display.  He set aside the bruised and battered apples in a separate basket.  When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did. Are you okay?” She nodded through her tears.  He continued, “I hope we didn’t spoil your day too badly.”  As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, “Mister….”  He paused and turned to look back.  She continued, “Are you Jesus?”  He couldn’t get that question out of his head for days. It was such a simple, small-scale event, but it made him see clearly what following Christ was really all about.  Yes, he missed his flight but somehow that didn’t matter anymore.

‘Are you Jesus?’  That’s the question and the challenge facing all of us as Christians.  The readings today call for a two-pronged approach in answer to this challenge, namely, contemplation and mission. The gospel is part of Jesus’ farewell speech.  He is preparing his disciples how to face life without him. How will they survive when he will be taken from them in such a cruel manner?  How is he going to be present to them after he is risen and seated at God’s right hand? He does not want them to have any illusions. The world will hate them as it has hated him. They too will face persecution. So he concentrates on turning inwards. Jesus speaks about being alive, even after his death, but if they are to be aware of that presence they must be a community of prayer and contemplation far from the madding crowd. There is a hostile world out there and if the early Christians are to survive it has to be in those small communities of prayer.  Remember Jesus’ promise: ‘where two or three are gathered in my name I will be there in their midst.’ There is ample evidence to bear this out in the Acts of the Apostles.  Luke often mentions how the early church met together to pray, to listen to the teaching of the apostles and to share and support each other.

Is there not a lesson for us today in our secular world?  We live in a world of fake news, alternative facts and populism. There are many forces opposed to the “Spirit of Truth”, just as there were in the early church.  There are many forms of self-deception, dead ends, and mediocrity.  We too need to gather in small communities if we are to remain faithful to his name.  There we will find Jesus alive in the love of others; in the ordinary and extraordinary loves of every day, in marriage, family, friendship and care for others.

While the Gospel seems to turn inwards the first reading from Acts turns us out to the world. Obviously, it makes sense for the Church to know its own identity before it tries to convert others. But once it knows who it is then it must obey Christ’s command to move out. It can no longer be self-absorbed. ‘You will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

Persecution forced the Christians to leave Jerusalem. Stephen is stoned for his witness to Christ.  And today Philip enters the hostile world of the Samaritans and proclaims the Gospel. The Spirit of truth in John’s Gospel is now the Spirit which drives the Church out of its comfort zone. Through the power of the Spirit, Philip continues the work of Jesus as he drives out the demonic spirits and heals the sick. Peter and John come up from Jerusalem to legitimate what has been happening. The church is one in its teaching and its mission.  And the Kingdom of God extends to new territories as the new converts are baptised and themselves receive the Holy Spirit. The mission must continue if Christ is to be a light to the Gentiles.

The witness of John’s Gospel and the witness of the Acts of the Apostles must complement each other. Christians must know their faith and live it before they can evangelise. You can’t preach love of enemies unless first you have shown you can love your own brethren. The Church is both contemplative and missionary. Neglect one aspect and you undermine its witness.

In this way, we can all be Jesus for others.  Here is a lovely rendition of St. Teresa’s prayer that spells out very clearly how we are to be Christ-bearers in today’s world.

 

Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. 
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do well. 
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world. 
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, 
You are his eyes, you are his body. 
Christ has no body now but yours, 
No hands, no feet on earth but yours. 
Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. 
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Sunday, 21st May 2017

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s