Hope Looks Backwards and Forwards
THURSDAY, Easter week six: May 5, 2016
The Responsorial Psalm tells us: “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power” (Psalm 98). In the readings we see him doing it without dramatic “signs and wonders.”
Acts 18: 1-8 shows Paul living as an ordinary working man, a tentmaker, in Corinth. And “every Sabbath, in the synagogue, he led discussions,” trying to convince both the Jews and the Greeks that Jesus was the Messiah. He persuaded some. But when the Jewish faction “opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, ’Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’” So he moved in with a Gentile named Titus, “and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized,” including “Crispus, the official of the synagogue, together with all his household.”
Here we see Paul making progress, making converts, by the power of God, but doing it “the hard way,” without signs and wonders. This is the ordinary way, but it is no less a manifestation of the power of God. In fact, it is a greater revelation of God’s power when people accept the faith just through ordinary preaching, teaching and grace, without the extraordinary motivation of miracles. This is the power we see at work in the Church today.
John 16: 16-20 warns us not to think that our relationship with Jesus will always be filled with his evident, felt presence, or that we will never feel discouragement and doubt. In the early Church the apostles felt the physical absence of Jesus keenly. At times they felt abandoned, insecure and inadequate (see Matthew 14: 13-21 and 22-34; 15: 32-38; Mark 6: 34-15; Luke 9: 11-17; John 6: 4-45 and 16-21). But Jesus had warned them, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” The Christian life is a life of hope that is both suspended between and sustained by remembering and anticipating. We look back, remember and celebrate all that Jesus did on earth, especially the crowning event of his death and resurrection. We look forward to his coming again in triumph. The Christian present is life transformed by awareness of the past and the future. Because of Christ’s victory, we know, even when we “weep and mourn,” that “the world will rejoice.” We may “have pain, but our pain will turn into joy,” because in Christ’s death and resurrection “the Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.” And he is doing it still.”
Initiative: Be a prophet. Recognize Jesus working and helping you in others. Find him “in the breaking of the bread.” Look back with faith and ahead with hope.