> Breath of the Spirit
> RVC’s Weekly Spiritual Essay
> MAY 6, 2007: FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
> Acts 14:21-27
> Revelation 21:1-5a
> John 13:31-33a, 34-35
> Luke mentions some significant items in today's Acts reading.
> Perhaps the most significant is most frequently overlooked. "After
> proclaiming the word in Perga (Paul and Barnabas) went down to
> Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been
> commended to the grace of God for the work they had now
> accomplished. And when they arrived, they called the church
> together and reported what God had done with them and how he had
> opened the door of faith to the Gentiles."
> The evangelist is narrating the end of what many believe is Paul's
> first missionary journey. Where do Paul's evangelizing junkets
> begin and end? Most falsely guess Jerusalem. Today's Acts pericope
> tells us it's Antioch.
> Paul's made such a lasting impression on Christians that we regard
> him to be an independent faith contractor: a proselytizing Lone
> Ranger, answerable to no one but God. Luke paints no such picture.
> In Acts, Paul is a member of the church in Antioch. He and Barnabas
> are sent out by that community, and, as today's reading tells us,
> the pair report back to that community.
> If modern Scripture scholarship teaches us anything, it's that you
> can't properly understand any biblical text without understanding
> the community behind the text. Early Christianity only exists
> within the context of communities. These churches are at the heart
> of the faith Jesus' first disciples passed on to us.
> The author of Revelation informs us that such communities are a
> prefiguring of the "new heave and new earth" which many first
> century Christians anticipated. They were convinced of the message
> which the "loud voice" proclaims in our liturgical selection.
> "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with
> them and they will be his people and God himself will always be
> with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their
> eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or
> pain, for the old order has passed away."
> The only problem was that this old order didn't instantly
> disappear. It continued to show itself both in the external
> persecution which those for whom Revelation was written endured,
> and in the internal tensions which threatened to tear the community
> apart for whom John's gospel was composed.
> This latter situation is clear from the many times the evangelist
> has Jesus, during the Last Supper, remind his followers to love. "I
> give you a new commandment," he states, "love one another. As I
> have loved you, so you also should have love for one another."
> Jesus gives this command against the background of a foot washing.
> As I've mentioned before, Sister Sandra Schneiders' 1961 Catholic
> Biblical Quarterly article pointed out that Jesus' actions that
> night not only demonstrate that it's the Christian community norm
> for "superiors" to serve "inferiors," but, as Jesus demonstrates,
> such service should extend beyond the superior's "field of
> expertise." Jesus wasn't an expert foot washer. Yet he chose that
> form of service to demonstrate his command of love. As his
> encounter with Peter showed, he wasn't in total control of the
> situation once he picked up the basin and poured water into it.
> Sister Sandra insists that true Christian communities are based not
> just on people doing things for others, but people doing things
> which at times cause insecurity for the doer. That's true love of
> one another - the kind of love John longs his church to experience;
> the kind of love Paul must have encountered in his Antioch community.
> It's interesting to speculate what Paul would have done and been
> had he
> not committed himself to that specific group of Christians, and
> they to him.
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