26 May 2019
Some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved.’ This led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument with these men it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.
Then the apostles and elders decided to choose delegates to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; the whole church concurred with this. They chose Judas known as Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, and gave them this letter to take with them:
‘The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us; and so we have decided unanimously to elect delegates and to send them to you with Barnabas and Paul, men we highly respect who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly we are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter. It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.’
In the spirit, the angel took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. The walls of it were of a great height, and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
I saw that there was no temple in the city since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple, and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light, since it was lit by the radiant glory of God and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it.
I am going away
Goodbyes are complicated. The English language doesn’t do justice to this word. There are several kinds of goodbyes – those everyday types, when you know you will see the person soon. Or the more final separations when you know you are unlikely to see the person again. French and Italian are more precise. For everyday brief separations, Italians say ‘ciao’, ‘buongiorno/buonasera’, ‘Alla prossima’. The French say ‘Au revoir’. For more final departures, Italians say ‘Addio’ and the French say ‘Adieu’.
I hate goodbyes. In recent years, I’ve had to say goodbye to several situations and people – from dysfunctional family relationships, to friendships, to a business I built and also to people who mean a lot to me. These were not simply ‘au revoirs’ but ‘adieus’. They take a lot out of a person and sometimes I wonder if we ever heal from them. When we invest time and energy in relationships, goodbyes are ever more difficult; it is as if a piece of you died with them.
Jesus, in his ministry, prepared his disciples and friends for his eventual departure from them. While they didn’t know what it meant at the time, when the time came, the disciples were completely lost, discouraged and of course very sad. The text in today’s gospel reading are our Lord’s words at the ‘Last Supper’, uttered in view of His imminent departure. He knew His time had come and he wanted to spend that last evening with his most intimate friends. It was a meal filled with emotions. It would be a meal to remember, not only because this event forms the basis of the Lord’s Supper, but also because Jesus predicts a betrayal, defines true leadership, promises authority to the Eleven, predicts Peter’s failure and warns of coming rejection. Even as he faces death, Jesus serves by preparing others for their tasks. We can only imagine how he felt knowing what was ahead of Him. This time together is clearly bittersweet for Jesus. His destiny requires separation from those he loves. However, Jesus has promised not to leave his disciples orphaned. He has promised to send another Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, to be with them and continue the work that he has begun.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. These words have been such a source of comfort for me when my world comes crashing down; When I don’t understand what’s going on in my life. People may come into your life and leave — God brought them to us for a reason, for a season. We may be attached to some things in our lives, only to lose them later. Know that God has something better planned for us, but not as the world sees it. We may be stripped of everything that defines us, but Jesus has never ever left us. Because Jesus is present with us through the Holy Spirit, we need not be anxious. ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ When the kingdom comes, we shall resume celebration.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Lord, so many times we do not understand your ways or see how certain events can be any good in our lives. Help us to persevere in faith, and in prayer. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, may we begin to see how You might be working for good, even in the midst of terrible and confusing events.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. May we be guided by the Advocate as we navigate through this earthly life.