Sunday Scripture: From darkness to light
May 23, 2011
By Terrance Callan
Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 6:1-7; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12.
When we first encounter a problem, we may not see how to solve it. We may need to endure the discomfort of confusion for some time before we see the way to the solution. This discomfort keeps us pressing toward the solution despite the difficulty of attaining it.
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells about a problem faced by the early church, not long after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Many people had believed in Jesus and been incorporated into the church. In order to provide for the poor widows in their midst, the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem had established a kind of free store. But the Greek-speaking followers of Jesus said that their widows were being neglected by the Hebrew-speaking followers of Jesus who were distributing food.
The Twelve, who led the church, said that it was not appropriate for them to neglect their task of preaching the word of God in order to solve this problem. So they directed the followers of Jesus to choose seven men from their midst, and the Twelve would appoint them to deal with the problem. This plan was followed, and the problem was solved. Consequently, the followers of Jesus continued to grow in number. We can see in the appointment of the seven men to solve this problem the beginning of the order of deacon, which has been revived in the church since the Second Vatican Council.
The reading from the First Letter of Peter interprets Jesus as the stone mentioned in several Old Testament passages. This stone is both the cornerstone of a building, and a stone that makes people stumble. For those who do not have faith in Jesus, He is a stone on which they stumble. They cannot see in Him the Savior sent by God to redeem them. But for those who have faith, Jesus is the cornerstone, the first stone to be set in place, establishing the pattern for the rest of the building.
The reading urges us to come to Jesus as a living stone, and to become living stones ourselves, forming with Jesus a spiritual house, i.e., a temple dedicated to the worship of God. If we do so, we are not only the living stones that form the temple, but also the priests who serve in the temple, offering spiritual sacrifices to God. The reading applies to the followers of Jesus words from the Book of Exodus originally applied to the people of Israel. The reading says that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” Our calling is to praise God who has called us “out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
The goal of our existence is to be with God forever, but we are not always sure how to reach that goal. In the reading from the Gospel according to John, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Jesus is the means by which we can be with God forever. What does this mean? Jesus also says, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”
When we are with Jesus, we are with the Father; when we see Jesus, we see the Father. Jesus is the way to the Father because if we believe what Jesus says about His relationship to the Father, knowing Jesus is knowing the Father. Jesus is the truth, because the Father, accessible through Jesus, is the ultimate truth. Jesus is life because knowing the Father through Jesus is life in the fullest sense.
Callan is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.