We belong to various communities and groups. Some of them are ‘blood’-based communities – our families. Some are networks based on choice – our friends, people who have the same interests as we have, and so on. Some are work and career oriented – class mates and work mates. Some are grounded in shared beliefs and understandings about life and the world – religious groups, churches, and ideological movements to whom we belong. All these communities face threats: threats from the outside and threats from the inside. This came to my mind when I read the two readings of today. They remind us that challenges endanger our communities.
In the Gospel of St. John we read that the Apostles were together in a boat when the weather turned bad. They feared that the strong winds and high waves might overturn their boat. Then, Jesus approached the boat and joined them. Immediately, the danger was gone! Though this story in the Gospel may reflect a real event, I believe that this narrative contains an additional – and perhaps more important – message for us: as Jesus supported his disciples in this time of danger, he will also be with us whenever our communities are facing some threat from the outside.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read of disagreements and complaints among the members of the first Christian communities. One group of Christians felt that they were overlooked. They felt that the apostles showed favoritism to other members of the church! That’s something we all are familiar with. Disagreements among us, within the communities to which we belong, arise nearly daily. Some of these internal challenges can result in long-lasting divisions and even separations. The apostles in today’s Gospel did not allow that to happen. They called a meeting and solved this internal threat to their community by instituting a new type of leadership and appointing men of faith to this new ministry.
The two readings give us hope when our communities are threatened by external and internal challenges. The readings remind us that Jesus is with us in times of problems. With him there is nothing that we cannot master! The readings also motivate us not to be intimidated by problems but, aware of Jesus’ presence and trusting in the Spirit’s guidance, to use our talents, ideas, creativity, and expertise to solve the difficulties that otherwise could destroy our communities!
These texts remind me how optimistic and forward looking our faith is. With our faith there is nothing that cannot be overcome, even when we see today only the dark clouds, the strong winds, and the dangerous waves. Jesus, who overcame death, is on our side and we will overcome with him even the most intimidating troubles.
With such a faith we can sing as the Psalmist did, who composed the psalm of today’s mass (Psalm 33):
Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
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