May 10, 2024 – Friday of the 6th Week of Easter

Acts 18, 9-18; John 16, 20-23 


Dear Brothers,

          The Bible is the Word of God transmitted to us in human words. Each book has a human author who shares with us his experience of God, in his own human words, according to his own preoccupations and in his own style. Likewise, the history of the beginnings of the Church that we find in the Acts of the Apostles is the human history of a little group of people who lived out their Christian faith in their own human life -- most of the time a rather normal human life. During the last few weeks, the first reading at Mass gave us an idea of the human relationships and at times the human tensions within the early Church. We saw how Barnabas, at the beginning of the predication in Antioch, went to fetch Paul in Tarsus, a move that certainly influenced dramatically the history of the Church forever. They worked together for a while and then Paul separated from Barnabas and recruited Silas. In yesterday’s first reading, we saw Paul arriving in Athens, looking for a place where to stay and for a job to earn his bread. In today’s reading, we see his difficulties with the Jews of Athens, and his first difficulties with the Roman courts, which, for this time end rather well for him.

          That reminds us that, still today, it is not through extraordinary events or through huge, visible demonstrations or events that the Church can be built, but through the daily, ordinary life of each Christian. It is through our own lived experience, with our successes and our failures, through our communion and also our tensions, that our community and our Church is built and grows.

          In today’s Gospel, which gives us another little segment of Jesus’ talk to his disciples during the Last Supper, He speaks to them about their personal and collective growth, using, as He often does, images of the most important elements and moments of human life – joy and sorrow, pain and consolation, birth and death. He had already told Nicodemus, at the beginning of his public life, that unless someone is born again, he cannot enter Life. And here he reminds us that any birth implies pain. To experience grief in our life is a normal human experience; but we know that pain can be transformed into real joy. Suffering is also a normal human experience, but we know that it is part of bringing new life to the world. Each time we really grow, a new human being is born and therefore we can – and we must – rejoice, because a new human being has been born.

          I would like to draw your attention to just one other expression used by Jesus. He tells his disciples : “You are sad for a time, but I shall see you again and your hearts will rejoice”. Throughout the Bible we find a longing desire to see the face of God. But, in the end, it is not man who sees God but it is God who looks at man. There are several examples of this in the New Testament – Jesus looking at Zacchaeus who had climbed in a tree to see him; Jesus looking at the adulterous woman without any condemnation but with a call to grow; Jesus looking at the young rich man and also calling him to grow, but respecting his freedom. Here Jesus does not say, as we would expect : “you shall see me again and your hearts will rejoice”. No, he rather says : “I shall see you again and your hearts will rejoice”.

          So, let’s not be too preoccupied with our own “contemplative activities”, with our own desire and efforts to see God, but let’s rather become more and more aware that Jesus looks at us. And when He looks at us, he loves us and calls us to conversion and to growth.