Saturday, 29 April 2017

Easter Week 2 Saturday

Readings: Acts 6:1-7; Psalm 33; John 6:16-21

The Church, the community of disciples, begins to take shape in the days and weeks after the Resurrection of Jesus. Some things had already been established while Jesus was still with them and more are added as the Body builds itself up in love - the college of apostles and their authority, a leading role for Peter, prayer together, sharing all things in common, the breaking of bread, the teaching of the apostles, the sacrament of baptism, the call to faith and repentance, confidence in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, sent by Jesus from the Father, guarantees the continuing presence of Jesus with them ('do not fear, it is I', 'I am with you always') guiding the Church as it takes its first steps in the world.

Not everything is spiritual and pure in the life of this new community. Already there are complaints as one section of the group feels it is being discriminated against in favour of another. This new religion is very much about bodies, here the body that is the community with the stresses and strains that test the structure and coherence of any group of human beings. Is everybody being treated fairly? Are possessions and power being shared appropriately? The instruments with which the apostles respond to the fresh challenge are prayer and a calling down of the Holy Spirit, discernment and the election of men of wisdom and faith, anointing and the laying on of hands.

It is clear that the apostles, bold in their preaching, also had confidence in the continuing presence of the Spirit of Jesus to assist them as they faced the challenges arising from within and from without. Those challenges were soon to become much more serious, as they faced expulsion from the synagogues and persecution even to death. This is their real 'walking on water' as they step out into a world that proves to be at times interested in what they have to say and at other times indifferent, hostile and even violent in response to their preaching.

The event recorded in today's gospel reading could be a Resurrection encounter: the strange phrase 'Jesus had not yet come to them' invites us to think along those lines. Being on the sea, having Jesus come to them over the waves, the fear it engenders, hearing him say 'It is I, do not be afraid' - the atmosphere is that which characterises Resurrection encounters also.

The most important point is clear and is found in each of the readings today - no matter what the Holy Spirit is with the Church and the word of God will continue to spread; no matter what Jesus is with those who believe in him and will bring them quickly to their destination. It encourages us to pray all the more confidently the verse of today's psalm, 'Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you'.

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