You can lock up the bold men
Go and lock up your bold men
And hold men in tow,
You can stifle all adventure
For a century or so.
Smother hope before it's risen,
Watch it wizen like a gourd,
But you cannot imprison
The Word of the Lord.
-from Bernstein's Mass
In today's readings we see two situations, which are not the best
of times for those involved. This is what I think of as "the middle airplane
seat syndrome", a situation where all three parties that are concerned are
made uncomfortable. It is particularly difficult for the one in the middle.
Paul's presence creates trouble for both the secular and religious powers.
I wish that I would occasionally receive a message from on high that was
as clear and as reinforcing as Paul's vision. The revelation is fulfilled;
nevertheless, given his circumstances, Paul was a very fortunate man. I would
have imagined that Gallio would have wanted to keep order. Whether it was
a "Jewish dispute" or not, my guess was that order would have been imposed.
In different ways, I find myself in the middle seat. The people of power
are sitting on both sides and they aren't happy to see me. Change is hard
and people don't like it, especially when it threatens the source of power.
My own observations suggest that the weaker the leader, the more resistant
they are to change.
Jesus will present a challenge to both secular and religious authorities
just as Paul did. In the Gospel, Jesus forecasts a much more difficult future
for himself. He predicts intense suffering followed only later by transcendence
over this suffering. The sixteenth chapter of John goes even further. It
alludes to the fact that Jesus' followers will also share in the passion.
For the early Christians this was not only a painful, but also a bloody experience.
I look at our world and see men and women of faith carrying out great and
dangerous acts of heroism. I also am forced to confront my own fears and
weaknesses. I note my spiritual failures even in the tasks of daily life.
I pray for the strength to endure the immediate challenges. I pray for faith
and patience as we attend the Word of the Lord.