Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 18:9-18; John 16:20-23)

Karl Barth, one of the twentieth century’s greatest theologians, thought that religion could be the enemy of faith.  Seeing how the needs of religious institutions often take priority over trust in God, Barth chastised the former in promotion of a God who demands human faithfulness.  Barth wrote cogently over the work of the apostle Paul, who is encountered in today’s first reading as taking a stand quite in line with Barth’s critique.

Paul’s experience of Jesus has led him to claim that only faith in Christ can save one from sin and death.  Trying to comply with the Jewish law as the way to salvation - he preaches - avails nothing because it inevitably falls short of its objective.  For such a claim the Jews of Corinth take Paul to the Roman administrator Gallio.  The statesman wisely stays out of the religious conflict and allows Paul to resume his mission.

We should not abandon our valid religious practices.  Properly pursued, they will take us closer to God.  Nevertheless, we need to realize that merely going through the motions of religious custom will get us nowhere.  We must hang on the words of Christ by imitating his ways and pleading his assistance.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Feast of Saint Matthias, apostle

(Acts 1:15-17.20-26; John 15:9-17)

A mother was concerned about the bad habits developing in her teenage daughter.  She saw as the source of the girl’s vices the friends with whom she was associating.  So the mother challenged the teenager to give up the friends – a move which was initially resented but in time came to be appreciated.  People are not only known by the friends they have but become like them.  For this reason we hear Jesus’ words in today’s gospel with great joy.

From the beginning of the Gospel of John Jesus speaks as the incarnate Son of God.  He lives on a completely different, what might be called a “higher,” plain than other humans.  Because of this divine nature, it seems that humans will always remain subservient to him.  However, in today’s passage Jesus tells his disciples that they have become his friends.  After years under his tutelage they now share deeply and completely Jesus’ own interests.  It is more wonderful than being born into the aristocracy or being made a CEO.

Just as surely as St. Matthias shared friendship with Jesus, so may we.  Of course, it entails keeping his commandment to love both God and neighbor.  It also assumes a continual dialogue with Jesus in prayer.  As his friends, we are to listen to Jesus’ words in the gospel and share with him are own joys and anxieties.  In due time we will find ourselves becoming just like him.