focus of the day:

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ACTS 5 : 12 - 16
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     In the gospel we proclaim a beatitude which affects us very deeply as modern disciples of Jesus - "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe . . , " because by faith we share in life: "So that through believing you may have life!". Our faith in the Risen Jesus is translated into works which generate life. The account of John clarifies that the resurrection does not impose itself as evidence and the Risen Jesus' appearances slowly impact on His disciples. Faith opens us up to the risen presence of Jesus among His own!

the first reading:

The reading from Acts links Jesus' announcement of God's reigning with the practice of His first disciples. The 'good news' concerns not only what God has done in the past through the earthly Jesus, but also what God continues to do in the spirit of the risen Jesus, through His present-day disciples.

ACTS 5 : 12 - 16

     The author's account of the early Christian community links Jesus' announcement of the reigning of God with the practice of the apostles. The 'signs and miracles' that accompanied Jesus' disciples' announcement on their daily visits to the temple in Jerusalem, evoke in the Hebrew listeners, memories of the signs of the power of God to make things new! These signs are transformations parallel in scale with events like the birth that ended the long-standing barrenness of Sarah and Abraham. These "signs and miracles" match the interventions on behalf of the Moses Movement that began YHWH's liberating exodus from Egypt! In Jeremiah and Deuteronomy the phrase "signs and miracles" indicated that YHWH's covenant with the Hebrew people can't be relegated to the past!
     The narrative in Acts, like the ongoing interpretations of the Abraham/Sarah and Exodus stories, shows a community regularly filled with power and regularly in tension with the authorities. The "signs and miracles" worked by Jesus' followers are evidence that God's saving interventions are present through the practice of the apostles! The signs and miracles worked by Peter and the apostles after Jesus' death/resurrection, reaffirm God's transforming NOW in relation to this new community. They show God's work of blessing on humankind's behalf didn't end with Jesus death and resurrection - but continues in the life of the first Christian community.
     This evidence of "signs and miracles" in the early Christian Movement affirmed the success of Jesus' apprenticing His disciples in His settled instincts and performance skills of obedient covenant-keeping. Healing was an important part of Jesus' practice. Luke emphasises this in his gospel account. There is an essential continuity between Jesus' practice and that of the new community!

the response:

For the speaker of the psalm, the expression of gratitude is not something casual, but rather a dramatic public assertion of the source, trust and goal of one's life.

PSALM 118 : 0, 0 - 00

     The psalmist speaks of deliverance from distress. For the early Christian community, God worked a newness against all the evidence of hopelessness and all the data about the power of death! God shatters the known world, in order to establish a new possibility. Christians take the best Hebrew expressions of this faith in God's power for life-giving and reaffirm it by repeating the psalm.
        Community experience bears out what the speaker affirms. Like the Hebrew people in the past, the Christian community witnessed a transformed reality, because God heard and answered the cry of the hurting and grieving one (Jesus) and came to His aid (raised Him up)! Christians interpret the Easter events as continuing YHWH's transforming action. God took the rejected one (Jesus) and made Him the foundation of the new community!

the second reading:

The author (The Seer) receives a charge to write to Christian communities in Asia. Today that would be Western Turkey. The Seer begins to describe the vision as a process of handing on a revelation under the direction of the Spirit of Jasus.

REVELATION 1 : 9 - 13, 17 - 19

     It is the Spirit of Jesus that deepens our understanding of the "signs" so that the amazing interventions of the God of life, can be communicated to others in the written form of letters. The letter writer here provides a similar function to that of the ancient Hebrew prophets.
     The first listeners/readers would have been struck by the difference the Seer notes between the hearing a loud voice "like the sound of a trumpet - from behind," and experiencing a revelation "face-to-face from Jeusus Christ!" This parallels and contrasts "hearing the voice;" of John the Baptist and experiencing the direct presence of Jesus, described in the gospel accounts. The contrast illustrates two different prophetic moments which the Seer addresses in what follows in the letter.
     The Seer is the human instrument who receives a revelation. At first, the voice is heard "from behind" but now it is a "face-to-face" encounter with Jesus Christ (the Human one / Son of man)! This is a reference to a revelation of Jesus Christ in a superior and final way. This vision is repeated in the final scenes in the book which speak there of Jesus' permanent presence among the believers (cf Rv.21:22-27 & 22:1-5) and His direct communication with them (cf Rv.22:16-17).
     The two phases of revelation could refer to the two moments in the revelation of Jesus. The indirect revelation - of the Hebrew scriptures. And the direct revelation of the person and practice of Jesus Himself. There's a continuity in which one leads to the other. But there is still a distinction. The turing towards Jesus could refer to the need for faith in Him possible only through a conversion or turning around towards Him.
     In the context of this discussion, the Seer's letters are really a reading of the ancient scriptures done by Jesus Himself. They explain their own significance in the light of His coming. The "loud voice from behind" calls for all the intermediaries of the old economy - the super-human intervention (loud voice); their human instrument (the Seer/John); the prophetic mission (write a book); and those for whom it is intended (the Seven Churches). The vision of the Human one is a direct communication. The communication is the same command. Jesus has to write what He sees. The passage is patterned on Dn.10, enriched with symbolic language from Daniel 7, Exodus and Ezekiel.
     The "Human one"(v.13) evokes Dn.7:13 and many passages in the gospel traditions. In Daniel, the term refers to the end of time. Here it refers to Jesus. That means He is the Messiah announced by Daniel in his vision. The Seer is clear that Jesus Christ, the Human one, is of divine status. Jesus is a God-equal of YHWH. The salvific action of the Human one is stressed. The phrase "one like a Human one" is used to indicate a divine presence among humankind in history. Jesus is the continuation and the perfection of the old economy. Above all, He has passed through death and this gives Him power over death (v.18).
     The salvific action of the Human one is repeated here in another way - at the sight of the Human one, John "fell at His feet as though dead." Jesus places His hand upon him and raises him (Rv.1:17). This is taken from Dn.10:9-12. But for Daniel, the restoration is after fear. Here it is after "as though dead," which is the situation of humankind before the presence of the divine life and the transformation made possible by Jesus!

the Gospel:

Originally this passage was the end of the gospel of John. Throughout the author weaves themes of blindness and seeing. Some 'see', but they really do not. Some who are 'blind' see. Some can pick up the signs while others miss what is right under their noses!

JOHN 20 : 19 - 31

     Jesus appeals to His practice as indicating His authority. But He also taunts His enemies that the only sign they will get is that they will not kill Him for good. The issue behind the signs is: What do we make of Jesus? Is He the chosen one of God, the hinge of history, the point to which eratic Hebrew wanderings lead? Is he perhaps even more than all these things?
     On the evening of the week's first day - the day on which the tomb of Jesus had been discovered empty - Jesus appears to a group of disciples. Jesus appeared to Thomas exactly one week later, when the community had again assembled. This indicates that Sunday had early become the Christian, "Day of the Lord." The characteristic greeting of the Risen Jesus to His followers is, "Peace be with you;" a liturgical greeting rich in Hebrew and early Christian tradition. Coming from the Risen Jesus it expresses the new covenant's benefits.
     The report of the story of Thomas situates the incident during the week between the two Sunday assemblies. These assemblies link vv.26-29 with the first appearance. The account raises the important question of the grounds for belief in the Risen Jesus. Thomas comes to faith during the assembly. Two points are emphasised. First, although the Risen Jesus has a mode of being that is unrelated to time and space (v.26), He is the same person who died on the cross (v.27). Second, with or without seeing, faith is absolutely required to confess God's presence in the Risen Jesus (vv.28-29).
     At one time, emphasis may have been on the reality of the Risen Jesus. In John's gospel, however, the significance of the Risen Jesus had to be clarified. John wants to show the possibliity of belief for those who had not shared in the early experience of the post-Easter community. The evangelist concludes with a statement about his intention to write an account of the practice of Jesus' apprenticing His disciples, for the benefit of later generations of disciples.

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