bible blog 160

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

Reading 1, Acts 28:16-20, 30-31

16 On our arrival in Rome Paul was allowed to stay in lodgings of his own with the soldier who guarded him. 17 After three days he called together the leading Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, ‘Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and would have set me free, since they found me guilty of nothing involving the death penalty; 19 but the Jews lodged an objection, and I was forced to appeal to Caesar, though not because I had any accusation to make against my own nation. 20 That is why I have urged you to see me and have a discussion with me, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear this chain.’

30 He spent the whole of the two years in his own rented lodging. He welcomed all who came to visit him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete fearlessness and without any hindrance from anyone.

This story picks up a theme evident in the story of Joseph and his brothers, “You meant it for evil but God turned it to good.” The Jewish people who accused him meant to destroy Paul, but it simply meant that the apostle arrived in the capital city, to preach the gospel. The theme of the set-back which is really an advance, the defeat which is really a victory is common in folklore and especially in the Hebrew bible. It well fits a distinctively Jewish faith in the God who espouses the cause of the weak and oppressed. It is also a framework for thinking about the cross of Christ, and the persecutions of the church. Paul talks about the weakness of God which is stronger than men; and the Revelation speaks of the Lamb at the heart of the throne.

DEMO(lish) PLEASE/ GOD IS LOVE abandoned house after hurricane Katrina

This should encourage believers to look at what seem to be weaknesses or defeats in their own lives, or in the cause of the church, as occasion for unobtrusive but decisive divine action. You lost your job, but you now appreciate your real friends and you know who they are. A loved person died, but you are no longer scared of death. The popular newspapers had a huge and evil influence on the British election, but in so doing they exposed themselves in all their loathsome, lying, malignity. None of us, not even a great saint like Paul, wins the battle in the worldly terms, we all die; but the reality revealed in Jesus’ cross and resurrection, can  teach us different terms.

Gospel, John 21:20-25

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them — the one who had leant back close to his chest at the supper and had said to him, ‘Lord, who is it that will betray you?’

21 Seeing him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘What about him, Lord?’

22 Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.’

23 The rumour then went out among the brothers that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, ‘He will not die,’ but, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come.’

24 This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 There was much else that Jesus did; if it were written down in detail, I do not suppose the world itself would hold all the books that would be written.

This concluding passage tells the reader that the source for the gospel is the disciple whom Jesus loved, usually identified with John son of Zebedee. In the New Testament this gospel, the Letters of John and The Revelation are identified by scholars as “the Johannine Tradition” because they share certain distinctive concepts. There is no real reason to doubt that this tradition owes something to the disciple John, although another John, John the Elder at Ephesus, was also involved. The tradition is markedly “dualistic”, that is, it works by making clear separations between light/darkness, lies/truth, death/life, hate/love. Such sharp division is challenging to our culture with its cautious graduations, its suspicion of moral judgement, its fear of absolutes. Above all, however, the Johannine tradition provides the only biblical instance of the fundamental Christian confession, “God is love.” (I John4:16). This is essential to the understanding of the Jesus story as good news.

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