4th Week of Easter, Friday, April 30
Acts 13:26-33 / John 14:1-6
Jesus makes a promise; "I will come back. "
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour in World War Il on December 7, 1941, they invaded and occupied the Philippines. Three months later, on March 11, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur was forced to flee from the Philippines. Before leaving for Australia, he told the islanders,"I shall return." Two and a half years later, on October 20, 1944, he kept his promise. Landing on Leyte Island, General MacArthur said, "I have returned." Jesus, too, promised to return after he departed from this world. Like MacArthur, he will reappear someday and say, "I have returned."
When Jesus returns at the end of time, will we greet him with the same joy that the islanders greeted MacArthur? "I am going to prepare a place for you." John 14:2
The sermons of St Paul are easy and interesting, different when he is speaking to a Jewish or to a Gentile audience. Luke reports here a sermon to Jews and Godfearing Gentiles who attended the Synagogue. His three points are clearly marked while addressing his hearers three times with: "Men of Israel; or God-fearing Men; or Brothers". In the first part which we read yesterday, Paul explains how the history of Israel is salvation history. Right from the time of the Egyptian captivity to John the Baptist, God in his fidelity and mercy prepared for the Saviour to come. In the second part he speaks about the Saviour who came as promised. These promises are read every Sabbath. He quotes Isaiah and the psalms. This Messiah was rejected and suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. God raised him up. All this had been foretold in the Scriptures. In the third part, Paul brought them the good news. God gives us forgiveness for our sins and tells us what he wants us to do in order to become what he wants us to be. Yet the Son of God was rejected.
In the synagogue, Paul proclaims the risen Christ. That Christ is risen is not merely an important event of the past: it is, as Paul says, “a message of salvation meant for you. We have come here to tell you the Good News.” It is meant for us today.
What is our task and the mission of all Christians in the world today? To proclaim the Good News that Christ is risen and alive among us. To do what Christ did. To be Christ to one another and to the world. For we are God’s priestly and missionary people. We do not stand alone in this task. For the living Christ is with us today as our way, our truth and our life.
"Do not let your heart be troubled". What troubles the heart? The betrayal of Judas fills them with anxiety. They are afraid, filled fear. They know that Jesus' sufferings are now close at hand. The only remedy is: Trust in God and trust in me. This is the faith he demands. It includes trust and hope in him. There is going to be a separation, but it is not lasting. In the home of our Father there is place for us all. Home is where my Father lives, my home address is heaven. Jesus, my bigger brother, will take me there. It will be my joy to see his glory. I love to be where he is. He will show me the way. Now Thomas asks: How can we know the way? There is only one way: This way must lead to the destination. Jesus IS the way because he is the truth. He knows the way because he comes from there. He who goes with Jesus on the way of truth, has now already what he needs to get into heaven, namely, the new life.
Whenever we hear of a person or a group of people being chosen for a task or a mission, we will have some assumptions or presuppositions or expectations. We might assume that this person or this group of people have the abilities or qualities for being chosen. We might presuppose that they deserve the privilege of being chosen because of some talents or skills.
We will also expect them to fulfil the task or mission that they are chosen for. Yet, for Israel, the Chosen people of God, such was not the case. In fact, as St. Paul puts it in the 1st reading, they did everything contrary to their task or mission as the Chosen people of God.
Yet, in doing so, they ironically fulfilled the prophesies in the scriptures. In a way, we can say that God made it straight even despite the crookedness of His Chosen people. Indeed, it was God who chose Israel and it was God who fulfilled the mission of Israel.
It is God who chose us to be His people. As His people, we have to learn the lessons from the history of Israel and to straighten up the crookedness of our lives. We may have failed in the past but let not our hearts be troubled or lose faith. Let us trust in Jesus who will show us the way of truth so that we will know how to live our lives.
Lord, our God, your Son Jesus Christ, is to us the way that leads to you and to one another, the truth that is Good News of love and hope, the life which he sacrificed to give it to us. Help us to show the way to him and to go his way to one another, to speak the truth that is encouraging and credible, to give life by sharing happiness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen