Daily Reflection
April 28th, 1999
John O'Keefe
Acts 12:24-13:5a
John 12:44-50
Easter is a season of responding.  We are invited not only to celebrate the resurrection, but also to put it into practice in our thoughts and actions.  Today the words of the Gospel, consistent with this theme, present us with a powerful challenge.  Jesus is the light who reveals the Father.  The words that he speaks are the words of truth, and following them—remaining faithful to them—determines how we will fair on the day of judgment.  Oddly, Jesus says that the source of condemnation is not himself, but the words that he spoke.  Jesus’ mission is to save, but his words mete out God’s justice.  There would appear to be here the subtle message that there is no unjust mercy in God. God’s word and God’s command require a response.

But how do we respond?  It is easy to listen to only one side of this message.  We might hear Jesus say “If anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him” as a kind of carte blanche to ignore the demands of the Christian life.  On the other hand, we might hear Jesus say “Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day” and leap to self-righteous judgement about who is and is not favored by God.  The Catholic tradition has always emphasized the balance that exists between God’s mercy and God’s judgement and between God’s call and our response. Still, there remains the question, how do we respond?

The reading from the book of Acts insists that a response must come from a call.  The early Christian community, attempting to respond to the Gospel and spread the news of the resurrection, was trying to discern who to send forth in mission.  The decision, though, is not theirs; it is the Holy Spirit who decides who to send.  In the end, the community described in Acts trusted that God would show them how to proceed and, to return to the image offered in today’s Gospel, how to respond to the word that Jesus offered.

The juxtaposition of the reading from John and the reading from Acts evokes for us a message of confident trust. When we gather together in prayer as a community and in faith, the Spirit of God is with us, showing us how to listen to the words of Jesus and how to follow them.

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