Scripture: Lectionary 292. May 7. Acts 16:22-34. Psalm 138:1-2.2-3.7-8. John 16:5-11:
Luke, the magisterial and literary genius of Acts, now has a series of conversion stories that help us see how people respond to Paul’s preaching and healing. They are an idyllic imaging of some great miraculous events that happen in these early days of the emerging churches that the apostles start. We have already seen the Spirit at work in Lydia, a merchant of purple dye and its products in textiles. She hails from a city called Thyatira that is described in Revelation. It is one of the seven churches in Turkey founded by the apostles—Paul and probably Barnabas. Paul will also drive out a spirit who gives a young girl the ability to divine the future; she is a soothsayer. He stirs up anger by curing her and probably converting her. She was being used by others to make money with her predictions; money that went to the charlatans that used her. She probably was only given a place to rest by them. Paul frees her but creates havoc. Then Paul and Silas are freed from prison by an earthquake that loosens their chains. The jail keeper panics when he thinks they have escaped and is ready to kill himself. Paul prevents this and the man is converted to following the Gospel after being baptized with his whole household. He then washes the wounds of Paul and his companions. God is at work through the apostles and keeps giving them such power to cure, to convert, to exorcise.
What Luke is doing for us the readers is to create scenes that motivate us to continue to work with the Holy Spirit and bring about change in persons and in secular systems of oppression. The “Magnalia Dei” (the great miracles of salvation history)of God thus continue from the Hebrew Scriptures into the New Testament through Jesus and then through the apostles bringing the Good News to everyone.
We are being encouraged as today’s missionaries or apostolic agents to do what the apostles did on our level and sometimes we may even experience the miraculous in our work and ministries. People are often touched by our witness even if we are not aware of it. We are to have confidence in the workings of God in our daily lives and are summoned to be “fortes in fide”—sttong in our faith.
The Psalm 138 and its response is a good prayer to join the first reading to the Gospel for the day and give us a direct revealed prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit. The psalms are our prayers and are found almost in the middle of the Bible. You may notice a change in the numbering in certain psalms. This occurs in the difference between the Hebrew numbering and the Greek numbering in some Psalms. Thus the Good Shepherd psalm is Psalm 23 in the Hebrew while it is Psalm 22 in the Greek (Septuagint) and the Latin (the Vulgate). Our Psalm is a thanksgiving for God’s salvific action in our lives. We as believers both Jewish and Christian realize the hand of God working within our ordinary lives. The Psalmist affirms that God’s kindness endures forever.
We are often puzzled by the circular thinking of the Johannine Jesus. Today’s Scripture sounds like we already have heard this. In reality it is another version of the earlier farewell discourse of Jesus. The passage reaffirms the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate (Paracletos in Greek) after the death of Jesus. “In order for the disciples to carry out their mission, they must be aided by the Holy Spirit and Jesus has promised to send the Paraclete only when he himself departs.” (Invitation to John, by Fr. George W. Mac Rae, S.J.). May we call upon our Evangelist John to assist us in our mission of bringing the Good News to others today. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.