thoughts and observations on the daily readings
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Readings may be found here
My dog Agnes is a Labrador. She is built for one purpose, retrieving. She has a wide chest and big lungs for buoyancy and a double coat to stay warm in the water. She has a thick tail for steering, and webbed feet for paddling. It’s not just what she does, it’s who she is – and you can see it in her when there is a ball or frisbee to about. She comes alive with purpose and a kind of joy that all is as it should be.
Today in the Acts, we hear Paul and Barnabas summoning Israel to remember its purpose. When God called Abraham and established the family of Abraham, He told Abraham that this family of faith would be a “blessing to the nations.” Even as God called this one man, God’s purpose was the reconciliation of all. The prophets reminded the people of this vocation over and again, but somewhere in the cruelty of history, invasion, conquest, exile, and oppression, some of the people lost this sense of purpose. They did not want anything to do with the foreign oppressors let alone devote themselves to being a blessing to them. Remember that Saul was one such. He was persecuting Christians precisely because they welcomed Gentiles into their communities. The converted Paul, however, becomes the Apostle to the Gentiles. He remembers the reason for which this People of God were made: to participate in the Divine purpose of reconciliation and healing.
As Jesus speaks to Philip and the others today in the passage from John, notice that His mission and purpose flow from His identity. It is the communion between Father and Son that underlie Jesus’ own mission. And Jesus is speaking here also of their identity. He is remaking them in His image, entrusting His work to them, giving them a renewed purpose in communion with Him.
While we are more than capable of inauthenticity and sin, we were not made for such. We were made to love and to be loved, to participate in God’s own mercy and compassion for the world. Our purpose flows from this truth of our identity. And when we embrace that identity and that purpose, we know the gift promised by the Lord: that His “joy may be in us, and that joy may be complete.”