B. Reflection & Dialogue:
The struggling Church on earth; the Lamb reigning in heaven; the Petrine ministry today
1. We are witnesses to all this and the Holy Spirit given to believers. The first reading and its biblical context are very much about bearing witness, witness of the early struggling church on earth. The apostles were miraculously released from prison and commanded by an angel of the Lord to go and speak to the people in the Temple “all the words of this Life”. The gospel message is to be presented as the words of life, or of salvation (by Paul; Acts 13:26). It is something to be proud of, to be enthused about. It is in this way that an early, and recent, generation have viewed the Catholic religion. We should look on our religion like that again today. Another point from the first reading meriting attention is the apostles’ reply: “We are witnesses to all of this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him”, that is to those who believe. The apostles are witnesses through their preaching of the Gospel, an external action of no avail unless the Holy Spirit gives internal witness as to its truth, leading to faith. In John’s Gospel, too, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit (the Counsellor) bearing witness to him, and the apostles also being witnesses (John 15:26-27). As a lesson for us today: prayer and devotion are essential for true faith, for belief, for enthusiasm for “the word of Life”, and for a life in keeping with this belief.
2. Heaven open to all. The earth no tunnel. Pope Benedict XVI on more than one occasion alerted European leaders and others of the danger of living as it were in a mental tunnel, with the view that the mind has no access to the transcendent, to any reality not perceptible to the senses or within the range of the human reason. This would exclude the supernatural and all revelation from beyond reason and the senses. It is a view all too common in Europe today, to be perceived in various forms of atheism and agnosticism. The message of apocalyptic, and the Apocalypse of John in our second readings for Mass, is quite the opposite. In keeping with the central Jewish and Christian message God and the other world are realities. Today’s second reading speaks of the vision in heaven of the glory of God and of the Lamb. Jesus’ triumph, through his death, resurrection and ascension to the Father, are proclaimed. All this is intended as a source of confidence and hope for us on earth. In last Sundays’ second reading Jesus reminded us not to fear, that he is always with us, as the one who has triumphed.
3. The Petrine ministry today. The gospel reading highlights to place of Peter, and his role in continuing the work of the Good Shepherd, “that all may be one”. Despite the opposition of many churches East and West to Rome for centuries, the Pope, successor of Peter, has the ministry to bring Christ’s saving message to all, and to seek to heal present and past divisions. Let us pray that our present Pope will find ways to advance this, and receive a positive response.