I enjoyed teaching my children how to walk. Deb and I got a few feet from each other, put the child between us, and I gently nudged them forward. Gravity, legs moving out of self-defense, and the desire to make it to mom worked to move them forward. The process was repeated numerous times. Soon they were walking on their own without any help from us. I love this first reading because it is about a baby church that is learning how to walk and is growing. Their focus is on Jesus and the growth comes from the Holy Spirit. Thus, the baby Christians are called “holy ones” and “disciples” or learners. The story is told of Jesus working through Peter to heal two of the baby saints. Aeneas had been paralyzed and Jesus gave him the ability to walk. Tabitha had been “completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving” before her death. She appears to have made clothing for people in need. What a gift to the young church to receive her back alive. The power and love of Jesus working in these events made believers out of folks.
The psalm response to this reading is so appropriate. I can imagine these words on the lips of Aeneas and Tabitha: “How can I repay the LORD for all the good done for me?” What exactly is the “good” that the Lord has done? The psalmist says to God: “you have loosed my bonds.” That reminds me of the words Jesus said when the risen Lazarus came out of the tomb: “Loose him.” Take away the wrappings from around the corpse; he’s alive now. What has the Lord done for us? Like Aeneas and Tabitha, he has raised us to new life. So how can we repay the Lord? Let us raise a toast to the Lord. Let us call on his name. Let us pay our vows. In other words, let us keep our commitments to Jesus. Let us offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. That thought impresses me: I can offer God a sacrifice every time I say “thanks.” Isn’t the picture of God presented here fascinating? We are servants of God but he sets us free. When we respond to his love he accepts our offerings. And when we die, he grieves. The death of his faithful is simply “too costly in the eyes of the Lord.”
The Gospel lesson hits me pretty hard. There are disciples who decide that they can no longer walk with Jesus. What Jesus says is “hard.” They murmur. One has even decided to betray him. Jesus knows all of this and wonders why eating his flesh and drinking his blood is any more difficult than God coming to earth or ascending to “where he was before.” Yet, some continue the journey. They do so by the grace of the Father who draws them to the Son. Jesus asks the Twelve, and us, “Do you also want to leave?” Frankly, yes, Jesus, sometimes I do. But what exactly is the alternative to following Jesus? Surely there are several. Yet, what if we believe that Jesus is the Master? What if we conclude that Jesus has the “words of eternal life”? What if we “come to believe and are convinced that [Jesus is] the Holy One of God?” In that case, we keep walking. We keep growing. We keep striving. And we believe that, even in death, we will hear the words Aeneas and Tabitha heard: “rise up.” Walk with me again.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook