A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
The final work of Our Lord’s earthly ministry is to prepare His followers for the strange, and in some ways painful event of His earthly departure at the Ascension. ‘Because I have said these things, sorrow hath filled your heart’: they were not yet ready to perceive the world as it was to appear in the new light of the Resurrection. Only with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost would the vision become clear: “Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” Only through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, who is God unlimited by time and place, unlimited by the mortal constraints of body and language, could their hearts and souls be filled with the whole expression of the Gospel. Jesus takes care that the point is not glossed over: “[The Spirit] shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” The whole account of God’s redeeming will, the gracious humility of God expressing the good working of His loving nature, would be poured out upon them, so that the plan of salvation could be free to accomplish its purpose, without fear or confusion.
In the first place, though, their fears and confusions would have to be confronted, and Jesus provides that confrontation in His Easter appearances in two ways: by proclaiming His Peace, and by illuminating the limits of their faith and understanding: “because you have seen me, you have believed,” He told Thomas, “blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” There was to be a new, and utterly more profound, basis of life and understanding, proceeding from spiritual and eternal certainties, not under threat of earthly weakness or limitation. The disciples were to leave their earthly fishing nets and become the fishers of men. The worship of God was to transcend places and cultures and times: “the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24).
Therefore, James would write to the churches, “Of his own will he brought us to birth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of all his creation.” The new way had arrived, the way of divine opening into human life and story, filling the earth with heavenly blessing, granting to us here gifts of grace ‘from above’. The challenge, for them as for us, would be to continue patient in that heavenly focus. Earthly fears and confusions continually reoccur, and need to be overcome with renewed faith and deepened understanding—yesterday’s triumphs will never accomplish today’s victories. Our passage through time must always devoutly consider and reconsider the heavenly goal and calling which guides us, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:13-16). And the fulfilling of Paul’s stirring prophecy is the history of the church, and the perfecting of our faith.