May 18, 2019
by Edward Morse
Creighton UniversityProfessor of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 284

Acts 13:44-52
Psalms 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4
John 14:7-14

Daily Easter Prayer

Celebrating Easter Home

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Finding Hope in the Easter Season

Doubting Comes from
Being Out of Communion

Todays’ readings present a common theme on the difficulties of believing and God’s power to use unbelief to achieve His holy ends.

In the reading from Acts, the people are united in one sense, yet divided in another.  Can you imagine the whole city gathered to hear to the word of the Lord?  Isn’t it amazing to consider that everyone would pause their daily activities and interests to listen to something together?  This seems so different from modern society which has multiple channels for listening and media, allowing for each to pursue his own desires without regard to what others are doing.

But while our technology may have changed over the years, human nature has not.  Those who disagreed with the message preached by Paul and Barnabas made a big deal out of contradicting whatever was said.  The text does not show a reasoned dialogue, but merely contradiction.  Jealousy was one motivation, but social cohesion may have also motivated this resistance.  I note that the prominent women and men of the city were using their positions of leadership to motivate others to expel Paul and Barnabas.

Like our ancestors, we are sometimes jealous of power and influence more than we care about the truth, particularly when truth requires us to change.  But even this ensuing conflict is used to spread the Gospel; it did not dampen the joy of the disciples.  Sometimes the heat of conflict produces some light of its own, which causes human beings to pay attention.  In fact, indifference could be a much worse condition than conflict!  Conflict did not quench the joy of the disciples.

The gospel reading for today presents a challenge of belief from Philip, who apparently had a hard time following Jesus’ teaching about his oneness with the Father.  While Philip had undoubtedly heard Jesus’ teachings and seen his miraculous deeds, Philip still professed to want more:  show me God the Father, and that will be enough.  Really, Philip?  It seems like Philip just blurted out this request without thinking about it.  Sometimes, we are prone to say dumb things when we are uncomfortable.  But it also reflects a kind of indifference.  Yes, you did miracles, raising the dead, healing the lame, making the blind see.  Meh. 

Jesus’ reaction is priceless:  can you sense a little exasperation?  As one who teaches, I can relate.  Sometimes our students do not get what should be plain, and our reaction is not always patience and love.  Yet Jesus uses this episode to correct Philip and to clarify his teaching about oneness with the Father.  In Philip’s defense, had not yet seen the greatest miracle -- the risen Christ.  Like all of us, Philip had a lot to learn.     

Jealousy and the quest for position and power often leads to contentiousness and conflict, preventing us from dialogue and contemplation.  Social cohesion can be a good thing when we reach out to help others based on compassion and empathy, but it can also become a tool for oppression.  Our desire to be part of the “in” group can make us do harmful things.  We are likely still learning these lessons.  Let us pray for grace to open our hearts and minds to become receptive to the truth, and to have the courage to act on our convictions.  Thanks be to God.

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