bible blog 153

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

Reading 1

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26

Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers and sisters (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place).

He said, “My brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus. Judas was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry. For it is written in the Book of Psalms:

Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.

and:

May another take his office.

Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John, until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.

Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.”

Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.

a great Ethiopian picture of the Twelve

The existence of the “Twelve” is probably the one surviving piece of evidence of Jesus’ organisation of his followers. Clearly he had many followers of both sexes, some of whom travelled with him and the “Twelve” in the course of his ministry. The “twelve” were chosen to represent the movement as the “true Israel”-some would say as the “new Israel” but that is less likely: they were not to supplant Israel but to be the focus of national renewal under God. In all probability that would still have been the meaning of the institution in the first church. The reason for replacing the dead Judas, was to make clear that the church continued Jesus’ prophetic call for the renewal of Israel as the people of God. Luke saw the main duty of the “Twelve” as to “witness to the resurrection.” This is a more doubtful historical guess by Luke, as either disciple would have been able to do that already. Perhaps the ability to witness to the resurrection, limited to those who’d known Jesus in his life, was a necessary qualification for being one of the “Twelve”. Luke seems confused about “The Twelve” and the “Apostles”. If these are the same, how can Paul, who was not one of the “Twelve”, be an apostle?

Luke’s story nevertheless, shows that eye-witnesses of Jesus’ ministry remained a vital part of the church, as it developed. Their contribution to the memory of Jesus enshrined in the gospels, has been instrumental in challenging the church in all places and ages, with the image of its Lord. The Catholic tradition, that we listen to all scripture, but stand only for the reading of the Gospel, expresses the church’s dependence on the witness of the “Twelve.”

John 15:9-17

Gospel

Jesus said to his disciples:

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you, and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.

The purpose of love is fruitfulness

This I command you:  love one another.”

What has love to do with commands? Very little, our contemporary culture would say. Love presupposes an equality which rules out commands.

John’s gospel gives another answer. Love gladly recognises the authority of God, as father, son and spirit. The love of the father given to Jesus is itself a command, just as the love of Jesus in laying down his life, is also a command. The spirit is not mentioned just here, but the gracious advocacy of the spirit is also a command. The one command of God’s love includes all the other commands which Jesus gave.

The nature of loving authority is expressed in Jesus words about friendship. He and his followers share in a joint enterprise in which there are no secrets: the business plan is known to all, but the nature of the enterprise and the choice of workers is the responsibility of Jesus.

What is the business plan? We are to be fruitful people: it is as simple and as devastating as that.

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