focus of the day:

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Acts 14 : 21 - 27
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Life in the Spirit:   I AM THE LIFE!

     The last verses of John's eleventh chapter mark the beginning of Jesus going up to Jerusalem.
He knows that He will find death there. That awareness troubles His disciples. Jesus asks them to deepen their faith, "in the hour of trial."
     Believing in Jesus is believing in God. Jesus assures the disciples that they will indeed dwell in the Father's house. He has shown them the way - but it isn't easy to understand His teaching. Thomas has his doubts and his question prompts a profoundly revealing answer from Jesus:
   "I am the way and the truth and the life."

the first reading:

The Book of Acts tells that Paul and Barnabus are forced to leave Antioch in Pisidia. In Derbe their opponents seem to have run out of steam and they make many new disciples before returning to some persecuted communities that needed encouragement.

Acts 14 : 21 - 27

     Paul often started delivering his message in a city or town and wasn't allowed to finish. Starting in the synagogue, division would grow between the Hebrews and "God-fearing non-Hebrews," on hearing his message. Then the apostle would be opposed and the opposition's persecution would often carry over - from one city to the next (v.19). But at Derbe there's no mention of Hebrews. The opposition seems to have spent it's force by this time. The missionaries are successful in making many disciples and they retrace their steps to places where they had recently been opposed and they encourage their recent converts in those places.
     Dogged by persecution earlier in this missionary journey, Paul's work in any one place was too brief to expect the communities of disciples to last. But groups did survive in spite of the unfavourable circumstances at the time of their founding by Paul. The evidence is found in the letters Paul addresses to the Thessalonians and the Philippians. The two apostles tried to strengthen the groups of their converts in the light of what they had experienced - that the way to the reigning of God leads through persecution and trouble! The non-Hebrew Christians would come to suffer much as the Hebrew Christians had before them. According to Paul, suffering is the way to glory and is the pattern established by Jesus' death and resurrection.
     Before leaving Antioch the itinerant apostles installed a group of elders to guide the local community in their absence. These would-be leaders prepared for their role by joining the apostles in prayer and fasting. The elders played a significant role in Hebrew communities. They continued that role when a community became Christian. The non-Hebrew Christian communities were organised along lines that sprang from the social organisation of Hebrew life. Later these elders would take on many of the roles and functions of the order of presbyter. It is an important link in the history of the evolution of the modern role of priest.

the response:

The psalmist praises the qualities of God. What endures unchanged in the world is that God reigns and people can rely on God.

Psalm 145(144) : 1b, 8 - 13

     The speaker expresses Hebrew joy and confidence in the Creator. What is lastingly true in the world is that YHWH securely reigns. YHWH is: good, merciful, slow to anger and kind. These qualities affect all YHWH's relationships. The speaker asserts YHWH's free, passionate and limitless self-giving to the covenant partner.
     The covenant partner here is the whole created world! Creation holds together because of YHWH's faithfulness. This judgement about the reigning of YHWH is made out of experience of the daily reliability, evidenced from the simple facts of being nourished and having the necessities of life provided.
     The pattern of authentic living reflects YHWH's power-for-life and evokes a response of "child-like trust" in the reliability of that life. This quality evokes gratitude by telling of YHWH's deeds. All must know of God's reigning (v.10). The speaker celebrates the order in God's creation - it surprises and gives unwarranted gifts to unlikely creatures. God's power mobilises to care for the otherwise uncared for. The appropriate community response is: "We will praise your name forever, our Ruler and our God."

the second reading:

The passage from the final part of the Book of Revelation is dedicated to describing the new ordering which takes the place of the old ordering that has come to an end. The positive effect produced by the death of Jesus is the restoration of the interrupted relationship between God and humankind that gives access to divine life.

Revelation 21 : 1 - 5

     Until now the Seer has been stressing the effects of the judgement of God upon the world. The basic positive effect which the death of Christ has produced, is the restoration of the interrupted relationship between God and humankind giving back to people the possibility of access to divine life. This is "good news" which Jesus came to bring. The proclamation of this reality in the early Christian community produced the Christian scriptures.
     The Seer believed the person and work of Jesus was the fulfillment of all that had been announced in the Hebrew prophetic tradition. One of the main features of that tradition, especially after the Babylonian exile was the return and the restoration of Jerusalem and its Temple. The author presents Jesus as the promised and expected Messiah - and saw the restoration of Jerusalem as the climax of messianic expectations.
     There is a line of continuity between the new reality and the old. The Seer's new heaven and the new earth are reminiscent of Isaiah 65:17-19 and 66:22. Jerusalem began with good intentions but lost the way by forgetting the mandate it had to care for the powerless - and is punished (Is.1:24-26). In the end after the hurt and after the city is plowed as a field, it will become a place of humaneness - caring for widows and orphans (Is.1:26-27). The city will be what it was initially summoned by YWHA to be. When the social arrangements are transformed the land will be healed and its people with it (Is.65:17-25).
     The prophet Isaiah has God promise a new Jerusalem. The poem describes the new city. It has a new economics! No one will plant and someone else eat the produce. There will be a new medical policy! There will be no more infant mortality. There will be a new covenental religion! God will answer before the people call. In this new city there will be no more cries of distress, no more abandonment, no more terror. There will be well-being in the city - for it is promised (Is.65:19-22). The prophetic vision of Isaiah is taken up by the Seer. The heavenly chorus shouts: "The reign of the world has become the reigning of our Lord and his Christ; he will reign for ever and ever!" (Rv.11:15 NJB)
     The new creation of heaven and earth corresponds to the story in Genesis as a preliminary to the creation of humankind (Gn.1.1ff). Here too the new creation is only a first moment in the divine intervention which creates the whole of reality, "Look, I am making the whole of creation new" (v.5) serves the new creation of humankind (vv.6-7). The new creation is the completion of the first creation. The restored city becomes the place where God dwells. The ancient covenant of mutual presence between God and God's people, is fulfilled and forever assured as a covenant of peace and happiness. God orders the author to write the vision to encourage those whose lives are still enmeshed in history's struggle.

the Gospel:

The reading from John's gospel begins the so-called "Book of Glory." The Book of Glory includes: an introduction; Jesus' supper talk; and the passion/glorification story. The reading is the second of two insertions in the introduction. The first follows the washing of the disciples' feet and announces Jesus' passion. This second insertion follows the account of Judas' betrayal and reinforces the message to imitate Jesus' practice of loving.

John 13 : 31 - 35

     The context of Jesus' farewell talk is the last meal He had with His disciples before His passion. The narrative offers Jesus an opportunity to address future generations of disciples about life in His Spirit after His passion/glorification. Jesus announces that His glory begins to be revealed (v.31). The glory will be His death! Jesus has also said earlier that He had come to free people from death. That is why John speaks of the revelation of the glory of God in Jesus death; when He spoke of His death. In the Hebrew scriptures the "glory of God" is the same as the "liberating victory of God." When Jesus speaks about His 'death' He is talking about a "liberation of God."
     Then Jesus gives a new commandment (v.34). His disciples are to model their practice on His practice. Their practice of loving becomes a sign they are living His Spirit. In saying farewell to His disciples, Jesus is telling them that we must look for Him not where He is going but in communal love. "Look for Me where you are going to find me; love one another." Jesus' commandment is in direct continuity with Hebrew commandments like: "love your neighbour as you love yourself." That commandment summed up the covenant responsibilities expressed in the Torah of Moses and the message of the Prophets. With this commandment society hadn't been transformed, slavery hadn't been abolished, injustices and cruelties had continued. Jesus' commandment is different. It is not just a religious precept as the Hebrews saw the commandments. Jesus' commandment is a new social reality! On calling this a 'new' commandment Jesus is saying that His commandment is a new command to love. Love is as old as the creation of the world. The evangelist John says the same thing in his first letter (cf 1 Jn.2:8)
     The commandment of Jesus inspires a new understanding that binds Christian disciples to a new second phase of covenant responsibility. People have always destroyed the community of humanity through greed for money, power, and access to money and power. Jesus is saying that He came to die for the sake of that communal love, and He gives a new commandment for people to really bring about that loving. Jesus (the Word of God) is saying that Good's word is - that God loves us and we must have mutual love of one another! God's love of us is the love that is to exist among disciples! Jesus comes to communicate this mutual love. He incarnates the commandment. The mutual love of one another means putting His word (new commandment) into practise - the very meaning of being Jesus' disciple.

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