Daily Reflection
May 25th, 2006

Eileen Burke-Sullivan

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Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Acts 18:1-8
Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
John 16:16-20

Today’s liturgy, for those who celebrate Ascension on Sunday before Pentecost, invites us to reflect not so much on the Lordship of Christ but the practical questions of where, when, and perhaps how we spread the Good News of salvation among our neighbors.

Jesus tells us that for “a little while” he will be separated from his companions and disciples. It’s possible that “little while” described the time between his Ascension to the Father and the outpouring of the Spirit – certainly it has been understood in that way by many theologians in the Church’s history. But it could also be understood to be the “little while” between the so-called “already and not yet” of the coming and fulfillment of the Kingdom – or that time between the outpouring of the Spirit and the culmination of the Kingdom in Jesus’ glorious return. If this latter sense is the meaning for Jesus’ saying then we are still in that “little while” – which for us, listening to the Lord, with human ears, definitely smacks of understatement. Perhaps it is not given to us to know how long a “little while” is, but what we are given to do in the meantime is to bring others into our company of followers and friends of Jesus.

What we know of Paul’s story is that he was a very good Jew, and a well educated one who took his faith tradition very seriously, but who misunderstood it somewhat until he met the Risen Lord on the Road to Damascus. That encounter transformed Paul ‘s faith – it re-ordered his inner life but it did not change his profession (tent-making) or his need to support himself in his human life. What seems to have happened as part of his response to the encounter with the Risen Christ, however, is that Paul’s secular business, his craft of tent-making became a means for him of not only supporting himself but of reaching out to others to share his wonderful Good News.

Today’s first reading reminds us that Paul as an ordinary lay man went to people in his craft and trade – his secular business to share with them his own transformation and its source. His lay colleagues, a married couple, then took him to the members of their mutual religious community – the Jews in the city of Corinth. It is through the mediation of his fellow tradespeople that Paul preaches his faith message.

The preaching of the Good News to “to all the world” must come from ordinary lay Christians who have encountered the Risen Christ and been transformed by that encounter. It is the Church’s responsibility to mediate that encounter (and the role of the Clergy to make sure the Church does so) but once we have met Christ himself, and he has forgiven our sins and called us to labor for the Kingdom of God, every one of us who are baptized and confirmed in Christ must proclaim to the ordinary world by our deeds and our words, the “Good News” of God’s great and saving love.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, in the Spirit of today’s readings asserted: “The work of the whole Church, and of each of its members, aims primarily at announcing to the world by word and action the message of Christ . . . . Lay persons have countless opportunities for exercising the work of evangelization and sanctification . . . the Council earnestly exhorts men and women to take a more active part . . . in the explanation and defense of Christian principles and in the correct application of them to the problems of our times.” The Decree on Lay People, #6.

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