Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Lectionary: 282


“Fellow children of Israel and you others who are God-fearing, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt. With uplifted arm he led them out, and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert….


Americans, and American Christians in particular, have a fine disregard for history. Their story of the past amounts to “Jesus was born and then I was born. Nothing significant happened in between.”


Sometimes, when I tell a story of a saint, someone will ask, “Where is that in the bible?” as if, “If it’s not in the bible I don’t need to know about it.”
That was certainly not the attitude of Jesus’ first disciples, as you can see in today's first reading. Peter and Paul and John were eager to explain to Jews throughout the world precisely where Jesus fit into their history, traditions and beliefs. He could not be the Messiah if he did not.


Salvation includes the redemption of our history, with all its complexity. A recent article in National Geographic asked, “When does genocide end?” Does it stop when the last victim has been murdered? When the last murderer has been tried for war crimes? When the last person who loved a murdered victim has died, many years later? When no one remembers what happened? Or when enemies are reconciled, weeping together for the sins of their ancestors?


There was much discussion of ecumenism in the 1960’s, after the Second Vatican Council. Many Catholics and Protestants hoped the Church might be reunited. But there is a history of bloodshed and much rancor between Roman Catholics and Protestants, not to mention the Eastern Christians who also belong to Christ.
Many of us forget that the worse split in church history was not in 1517 with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation; the Great Schism occurred in 1054 between the eastern and western churches. 

But that split was a long time coming after centuries of heated quarrels, hurt feelings and misunderstandings.  Some people regarded as saints by one church were excommunicated by another. When ecumenism comes do we canonize them or condemn them?
Once a church has split for whatever reason, when tensions again rise it's tempted to split again. But, rather than gaining integrity with each rupture, it loses more and more. 

The only way forward is reconciliation and communion. This is why Pope Saint John Paul II, in his encyclical Ut Unum Sint invited the Church to breathe with both lungs, eastern and western. Until that day we are partially strangled and gasping for breath. 


Salvation cannot ignore history; Justice will not permit it. In fact we often refer to God’s saving works as “salvation history.” It is a project that must encompass the entire world and every human being. 

The saving work of Jesus goes deeper than my happy place; it upends that fairy tale castle altogether when God brings my enemies into my room and commands us, “Now work it out!”


Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:25

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.