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Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A-2011

Witness to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Rev.1 9:10—NAB)

The Twelve did not deem it right to neglect the Word of God in order to attend to those Hellenist widows who were being neglected in the daily distribution. Proposed therefore and carried out were the election and the ordination of the Seven. What is surprising, however, is that, after such election and ordination, nothing more was mentioned about the Seven serving at tables [1]. In fact, two of the Seven, Stephen and Philip, started preaching and thus took upon themselves the responsibility that appeared to be within the reserved jurisdiction of the Twelve.

Indeed, divine Providence surprises. It looks like even when God agrees with us, as was the case, I think, regarding the ministry of the Seven, he does not always dispose of things to develop exactly as we have them proposed, planned or as we expect them to happen. And there are times, for sure, when we human beings propose one way and God disposes another way. The Jewish religious leaders, for instance, proposed to get rid of the first Christians and so persecuted them. But far from hindering God’s word, impossible to chain really (cf. 2 Tim. 2:9), the persecution fostered it. The persecution led to the scattering of the Christians, which, in turn, gave way to evangelization since those scattered, like Philip, preached where they went (Acts 8:4). And the one who had consented to Stephen’s execution and was intent on breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s followers did not altogether reached his proposed goal because God disposed otherwise (Acts 8:1; 9:1-5).

Hence, no matter how vulnerable we Christians are, we have no reason to feel like orphans. God sees to it that all things work for good for those who love him (Rom. 8:28). The Spirit of truth, the Advocate given by the Father at Jesus’ request, comes to our defense. The Holy Spirit makes ever present in the Christian community the risen Jesus who identifies especially with the persecuted and the most vulnerable, those who are forged in the fire of tribulations and crises. And having Jesus with us is having the Father, too, for with him is Jesus.

No, we Christians need not be self-absorbed, asking how we could maintain our identity in world of relativism, for example, or what would the Church of the future be like. Besides the guarantees spelled out in today’s Gospel reading, we have another that says that the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against the Church, be our leaders and members to the right, the center or the left (Mt. 16:18). Let us always be ready, yes, to give an explanation to anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope; but let us do so with gentleness and reverence and a clear conscience. Our good conduct in Christ is the best testimony and compels more than do threats, sanctions, restrictions, coercion and repression.

First of all and above all, we have to love Jesus, welcoming his commandments and observing them, taking him, in accordance with the thinking and practice of St. Vincent de Paul, to be the rule of life and of the mission [2]. Without this love, Jesus will not reveal himself to us. And not seeing and not knowing Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit, will mean being as blind as those blind guides, from whom the kingdom of God was taken away and given to another people who would produce its fruit (Mt. 21:43; 23:16).

And, of course, anyone who does not discern the body of Christ, eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Cor. 11:29).


NOTES:

[1] Cf. footnote 2 on Acts 6:2 in the New American Bible at http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/acts/acts6.htm#v1 (accessed May 25, 2011).
[2] P. Coste I, 295; XII, 130).