thoughts and observations on the daily readings
Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings may be found here
Hatred and violence burn hottest from a distance. When people divide into camps and distance themselves from the “other,” they have an easier time of convincing themselves that the other side is evil or unworthy. When, by contrast, people recognize common humanity or common struggle, it gets much more difficult to fan the flames of division. Perhaps this is why Pope Francis has frequently called upon believers to “build bridges.”
The early Christian community struggled with questions of identity: did the Gentiles belong? If so, would they have to keep Jewish ritual custom in order to live the Christian life? Paul certainly became the most public and insistent proponent of a new kind of People of God, one that joined Jew and Greek in the communion made possible by the grace of Christ. It is curious then that Paul has Timothy, son of a Greek father and Jewish mother, circumcised. Did Paul recognize that Timothy himself might be a bridge between communities? Perhaps Paul recognized that hatred requires distance and that getting to know this man, a child of both worlds, would encourage understanding, empathy, and compassion across that divide.
In the passage from John, Jesus is speaking to His disciples about rejection and persecution. The words are intensified by their place on the eve of His passion and death. And Jesus warns these frightened men and women that they will experience similar suffering. The warning contains the seeds of consolation in that He is assuring them of His solidarity with them in that suffering. And here is a great irony, the trusting, uncomplaining suffering of the Lord will in fact change hearts. The soldier at the foot of the cross will marvel at the “Son of God.” Many of the people that called for His death will repent and believe at the preaching of the Apostles. As Jesus prophesied, they and many other disciples did more than preach, they offered their lives in witness to the Lord. Again, that strange transformation happened as crowds baying for blood were shamed into compassion by the peace and fidelity of the martyrs. The hatred could not stand before the truth of love. Suffering and solidarity built the bridge that bode countless men and women into the communion of the Church.