Monthly Scripture Reflection
May’s readings give us snapshots of the early church as it grows, from hearing the final teachings of Jesus before his Ascension to the expounding of them to the whole world.
In St. John’s Gospel we find Jesus still making first appearances after his Resurrection, and the disciples still a little uneasy about how to react–believing, yes, but not quite sure. Gently Jesus brings them along. “Do you love me?” To St. Peter’s “yes” he commissions him to “Feed my sheep.” He also warns, “when you grow old . . . someone will lead you where you do not wish to go (meaning persecution and worse), but he says “Follow me” anyway. He commands his followers “to love one another.” “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus teaches that “Whoever loves me will keep my word,” for it is the word of his Father, and “the Father and I are one.” And do not be fearful, because he is sending “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will teach you everything.”
In the Acts, we find the exuberance of the Apostles, preaching their faith in Jesus, and defying the chief priests saying, “We must obey God rather than men.” Having first offered the faith to the Jews and being rejected, the disciples “turn to the Gentiles.” We see them traveling up the coast: Lystra! Antioch! Iconium! telling how God has “opened the door of faith,” as they become an “instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.” When unauthorized preachers tried to tell Gentiles that circumcision was necessary to be saved, the matter was referred to the mother church in Jerusalem. “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us . . . not to place upon you any [such] burden.” Don’t eat meat sacrificed to pagan gods, avoid illicit marriages, and do what is right.
In Revelation, we are told in metaphor and visions to see that there is “a new heaven and a new earth,” and that God’s will is being accomplished. “I heard every creature . . . everything in the universe cry out” blessings and honor to the throne and the Lamb. We see “a great multitude . . . from every nation, race, people and tongue . . . standing before the throne of God.” Because “God’s dwelling is with the human race . . . they will be his people and God himself will always be with them.”
And then Jesus left them and ascended to the Father. But fear not, Jesus had assured them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem . . . and to the ends of the earth.” St. Paul in his Epistle prays, “May God give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation . . . that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.”
How have we been responding to that call? It’s simple, really, but oh so hard to always carry out. It is the only way the church can keep on growing:
“have love for one another.”