Posted on April 17, 2016 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    The cost of discipleship

    Our Gospel passage today comes from the Last Supper section of John’s Gospel.  Judas had left them to go into the darkness, to go to hand Jesus over.  Just before that Jesus had washed their feet.  He came to serve and not be served.
    Now he simply tells us that we are to love one another.  “This is how they will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  He gives us this lofty ideal, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” The Greek word for love here is “self sacrificing love” willing to lay down one’s life. As revealed in the dialogue between Jesus and Peter at the lakeside, two Greek words are used for “love”.  There is the “self sacrificing love” willing to lay down one’s life.  There is also the “love of friendship”.  In that question and answer, Peter is only capable of the love of friendship.  Jesus had to tell Peter that another would gird him and take him where he would not want to go.  Peter would finally be a man of self sacrificing love.  For him as for us, it is a process.
    The passage from Acts gives a piece of one of Paul’s journeys.  Paul was impelled by the Love of God.  In the Acts we hear what this love of God entailed.      To get a sense of Paul and Barnabas’ journey we need a map.  Today with all the difficulties in Israel, the land of Turkey, the land of these journeys of Paul are being offered as places of pilgrimage.    Paul was a man of many journeys.  Our passage from Acts today is telling a part of the first missionary journey of Paul. Paul and Barnabas traveled to many different places and experienced acceptance and rejection.  They covered more than several hundred miles by land and even more by sea.  On this journey they had met a magician and Paul said, “…the hand of the Lord is upon you and you shall be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.”  One of Paul’s companions John, had left them and returned to Jerusalem. (Later this would be cause for contention.)  Paul and Barnabas preached mightily  They had suffered from jealous Jews who turned people against them.  They were driven out, expelled from cities.  They fled before an attempt to stone them.  A man at Lystra, who could not use his feet, at the words of Paul, “Stand upright on your feet” was cured.  Paul and Barnabas were received as Greek gods.  The apostles response:  “Men why are you doing this?  We also are men, of like nature with you, and bring you good news…”  Again Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city and left for dead.  Finally he returned to the place from which he had been commissioned, Syrian Antioch..
    It is almost as though on this Sunday the Church is telling us.  Love one another is not an easy task.  This section of the Acts is contentious.  Paul the Preacher, led by God, goes teaching people about Jesus and his commands.   We learn something of the Cost of Discipleship. This life  is at times a Valley of Tears.  But we also share the promise of the Book of Revelation:  “He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.  The One who sat on the the throne said, “Behold I make all things new.”
    This Sunday we take an opportunity to reflect on our living out the love command.  Where am I in the process from the “love of friendship” to “self sacrificing love?” What has been part of my journey, in the distant past, the near past, the present?  Am I able to keep my focus on my following of Jesus and to retain the hope of the promise of life to come?  Am I receiving the strength I need to make it through life’s difficulties as I now am experiencing them.  The Paschal Mystery is suffering, death and resurrection. 
    We try to enter more fully into this mystery which is my life with Jesus, trying to love as he did.

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