Easter 6th Week, Thursday, May 13
Acts 18:1-8 / John 16:16-20
Jesus speaks about his leaving: “In a little while and you will no longer see me” (Jn 16/16)
But in deeper matters, hindsight is a slow process of realization. The Holy Spirit gives hindsight on Jesus. This is the Spirit working in us, the patient inner teacher, opening our minds slowly to the light that has long since come into the world. The Spirit guides us (hodegeo) along the way; it is Jesus who is the way (hodos) itself – indeed the truth itself (Jn 14:6).
“The Spirit will guide you into all truth,” that is, all the truth about God. The Son has revealed the Father, and now the Spirit will reveal the Father by revealing the Son. We are being attracted by the Spirit into the inner life of God.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” The disciples to whom these words were addressed had the best of excuses for not having hindsight: the event had not taken place yet. The event was the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. They could not possibly have understood him at that time, except as a remarkable man.
When disciples of any age consider Jesus without the guidance of the Spirit, that is what they find: a remarkable man. There were so many boring things written in the 19th century about the ‘moral excellence’ of Jesus…. This would only get him a place among the Pharisees. It is the Spirit alone that can draw us into the mind of Jesus.
The work in Athens had been a failure. It is good to remember that this is not because it was the seed that was defective, but the soil, as Jesus taught in the parable of the sower (Mark 1-13.3-0). God cannot enter a proud heart. People who are impressed by their own cleverness and holiness, have no need of God Here get some information on how Paul financed his travels: By the work of his own hands. Throughout the week he worked and on Sundays he preached. Of course, he had the right to be supported by his parish. Only from Philippi he was glad to receive money. He had been so close to them that they had to express their love more concretely. What he needed and appreciated more than money was men to work. Here in Corinth he found two wonderful friends: Aquila and Priscilla. They were tentmakers. Tentmaking was a big business then. Every traveller had to carry a tent with him. There were no hotels or boarding houses on the way. Travellers had to camp in tents. Aquila was from the Pontus along the Black Sea. He had spent years in Rome, where he married Prisca (Luke likes to call Priscilla), a lady of noble birth. They had to leave Rome when Claudius issued an edict in 49 AD, banning Jews. A year later it was revoked. This friendship lasted a lifetime.
The context: In the Last Supper discourse, Jesus tells the Apostles about leaving them in order to return to his Father and about coming again at the end of time to usher in the new age of God’s kingdom. When they start asking each other the meaning of these statements, Jesus explains to them the hardships they will have to face after his departure and the glorious reward waiting for them in his Second Coming. But as he had consoled them earlier, promising to send a Paraclete, now Jesus assures them that his absence is only temporary.
A little while: Jesus is speaking about a three-level disappearance and reappearance. The first level is Jesus’ death and Resurrection. The apostles will no longer see Jesus when he dies. But they will see Jesus again in three days as their risen Lord. The second level is the mystical level: They will lose sight of Jesus physically when he ascends to the glory of the Father. But they will see Jesus again in many ways by Faith, when the Holy Spirit comes. There is also a third level. Jesus is not now visible physically to the world but will manifest his glory to the whole world when he comes again in glory. In the light of eternity, a few thousand years are but an instant, a very short while.
Life messages: 1) Let us try to recognize the presence of the living Lord in our midst here and now. 2) Let us ask Him to help us adjust our daily lives accordingly, so that we, too, may inherit the eternal joy prepared for us.
Many people are lamenting because they do not feel the presence of God, particularly in moments of deep sorrow. At the occasion of the death of a beloved person one hears often: “Where is God now? He has deserted us!” It was a thought that many Jews expressed during the “Shoah” (holocaust, literally “destruction,”). Yet, some tenaciously held on to God, saying that it was God who suffered there at the hands of people.
Prayer: Lord, our God, when we suffer deeply, we tend to cry out: “My God, where are you?” Give to us, people who believe that your Son died for us and by your power rose from the dead, a faith deep and strong enough to know that you are with us also in the difficulties and woes of life, even in the throes of death. Give us this faith, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen