Saturday, April 16, 2016

Who Can Accept It?

The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. She was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit she grew in numbers. Acts 9:31

Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”  John 6:60

How can I repay the LORD for all the great good done for me?
I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
Dear in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his devoted.
LORD, I am your servant, your servant, the child of your maidservant; you have loosed my bonds.
I will offer a sacrifice of praise and call on the name of the LORD.  Psalm 116:12-17

The Church was at peace.  Really?  Methinks St. Luke is being more a publicist than a journalist. 

The Founder was just arrested, given a mock trial in a kangaroo court, convicted, and executed on the very same day.   No appeals.  No mercy of the court.  No consideration for his services to the community – feeding the hungry; curing the sick, the lame and the lepers; or ministering to the lonely. 

The prophets of the New Testament “church at peace” also met untimely deaths at the hands of the state or the regional armies starting with John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, who was famously beheaded in response to the request by Salome (prompted by her mother).    

Among his closest followers, not one was a professional clergyman.  The majority were fishermen. Despite not being learned men, they continued to upset the prevailing secular authorities and the leaders of the Jewish faith.  They mostly met their match in the disbelief of the prevailing authorities. Maybe one – the Apostle John – may have died of a natural death. 

The first to go was the one who famously betrayed him and then committed suicide when he realized the enormity of the evil of his deed. Among the others, we find:

Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome about 30 years after the crucifixion.  Paul was beheaded. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, since he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.

Andrew went into what is now Eastern Europe and Russia.  Christians there claim him as the first to bring the gospel to their land. He also preached in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, and in Greece, where he is said to have been crucified.

"Doubting" Thomas was probably most active in the area east of Syria. Tradition has him preaching as far east as India, where the ancient Christians there revere him as their founder. They claim that he died there when pierced through with the spears of four soldiers.

Philip possibly had a ministry in North Africa and then in Turkey where it is reported that he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation, the proconsul had Philip arrested and cruelly put to death.

Levi/Mathew the tax collector and writer of a Gospel, ministered in Persia and Ethiopia. Some reports say he was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.

The church was at peace?  Hardly.  At its founding as today, the church is more known for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

Probably G.K. Chesterton was inspired by Christ’s comment in today’s Good News when he wrote:  “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”  That may have been as true in the first century as it is today.

How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?

Despite the fact that Jesus just fed five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish, then he walked on water, they found the Bread of Life discourse hard to take.  Jesus never waved a magic wand over people to get them to accept his word.  But eventually, the disciples came around and they spread the word to others after the witness of the Resurrection.

Despite what fate was in store for their faith, the disciples finally picked up their crosses to follow Jesus – several literally following him to the cross while others met their death because they preached the Word to a world without faith.  We may not be asked to give up our lives but we are asked to live out the Good News with our deeds. 

While the days of Lenten fasting, almsgiving and sacrifice are over, the Fourth Day commitment to piety, study and action never end.  How shall we make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me by dying to forgive my sins?

One way would be to offer “Palanca” to leaven the experience of the candidates on the Men’s 132nd Cursillo next weekend.  There are many opportunities for service still available through letter-writing, Palanca Clock, attendance at prayer services or at Closing.  Come and be with us.

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