A Reflection on the Readings of Saturday 4th May 2024 – Kevin O’Gorman SMA

Today’s readings from Acts and the Psalm are very positive and upbeat. Paul and Timothy travel teaching leaving local churches to live in peace and grow. The only halt to their gallop – one might say – is put by the Holy Spirit who prevents them preaching in Asia. Hearing the plea from and cry from Macedonia they head there to help immediately. The Psalmist praises God with a rollcall of the Lord’s revelation of loving goodness, responding with songs of joy and glad service. The bond of belonging between God and His people is brought out by the image of sheep, indicating the identity of Jesus as gate of the sheepfold and shepherd that we have heard and seen throughout the Easter season. 

The tone of the Gospel is very different, suggesting a more difficult and even dangerous situation for the church, struggling with hatred and persecution. This is not just a historical reference but is happening today to Christians throughout the world. Opposition and obstruction are one thing, overt hostility an altogether another. In his Priestly Prayer from which today’s text is taken, Jesus warns his followers of future suffering, reminding them that ‘A servant is not greater than his master’. The status of being a disciple is not shock proof, a shield from toxicity and being a target.  Indeed a report in last week’s Tablet recorded that ‘Christians were victims of a new wave of attacks in the weeks after Easter’ with ‘at least 29’ slain in the diocese of Pankshin in Nigeria and a catechist kidnapped and killed in Burkina Faso’.[1]

Where the previous readings convey consolation, the Gospel may suggest desolation. However, that is not the case for two reasons. Firstly, the Gospel of John is a struggle between light and darkness, life and death. The latter – darkness and death – are defeated because of the Word of God who has come into the world not to condemn humanity but save it for eternal life. Secondly, from the very beginning – indeed ‘in the beginning’ – the Gospel of John proclaims the presence and power of Jesus, the Son  whom his  followers know was sent by God the Father.

A line and a half from Pope Francis’ Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel serves as a fitting commentary on today’s three readings: ‘I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures’.[2]

Christian joy endures because of Easter and is expressed in the final line of today’s Psalm : ‘How good is the Lord, eternal his merciful love’.

[1] ‘Nigerian Christians killed in 3-day-long massacre’, The Tablet, 27th April, p.25

[2] Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel, 2013, par. 6

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