Saturday, May 15, 2010

Whatever You Ask The Father In My Name, He Will Give You. For The Father Loves You, Because You Have Loved Me.

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Reading I
Acts 18:23-28
After staying in Antioch some time,
Paul left and traveled in orderly sequence
through the Galatian country and Phrygia,
bringing strength to all the disciples.

A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria,
an eloquent speaker, arrived in Ephesus.
He was an authority on the Scriptures.
He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord and,
with ardent spirit, spoke and taught accurately about Jesus,
although he knew only the baptism of John.
He began to speak boldly in the synagogue;
but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him,
they took him aside
and explained to him the Way of God more accurately.
And when he wanted to cross to Achaia,
the brothers encouraged him
and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him.
After his arrival he gave great assistance
to those who had come to believe through grace.
He vigorously refuted the Jews in public,
establishing from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.
Today we begin the Third, and final, Missionary Journey of Paul.
After leaving Corinth, Paul, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila, crossed over to Ephesus on the west coast of present-day Turkey. He separated from them there and went to preach in the local synagogues. In spite of the unwelcome reception he so often got from his fellow-Jews, he always made a point of approaching them first when he arrived in a new place. He apparently did well there because they asked him to stay longer. However, he was clearly anxious to get back to Syrian Antioch but he promised that he would return - and he did.
On reaching Palestine, he landed at Caesarea where he greeted the local church before going on northwards to Antioch and it is at that point that today’s reading begins.

He stayed in Antioch for an unspecified length of time before setting out on his third - and final - missionary journey. He began by revisiting the places where he had planted the church almost 10 years previously. He followed the same route he had taken when beginning his second journey but in the reverse order. The only places mentioned are “the Galatian country and Phrygia” which are in the southern part of present-day central Turkey..

We are then introduced to Apollos, who had just arrived from Ephesus in Lydia, on the west coast. He was a Jew and a native of Alexandria, which was on the north coast of Egypt and, at the time, the second largest city of the Roman Empire. It also had a large Jewish population.

Apollos is spoken very highly of as a man of eloquence, well versed both in the Hebrew scriptures and in the “new way of the Lord”, as well as being a deeply spiritual person. Strangely enough, in spite of all that he knew about Jesus, he had not yet been properly baptised. “He only knew of John’s baptism”, that is, he had not been baptised in the name of Jesus. Basically, like John, he was still looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. His baptism was based on repentance for sin rather than full incorporation through the gift of the Spirit in the Christian community.

In Ephesus, he became an enthusiastic preacher and spoke fearlessly in the Jewish synagogue there. Here he drew the attention of Paul’s friends, Priscilla and Aquila, who took him to their house and gave him a deeper understanding of the new Way.

Perhaps because of what he had heard from Priscilla and Aquila , Apollos was anxious to go across to Achaia, in other words to Corinth, and letters were written to guarantee him a warm welcome. There he gave great encouragement to the believers while continuing to debate with his fellow-Jews, proving from the scriptures that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

It is clear that Apollos had a very special charism for evangelisation, so much so that cliques began to form in the community where some were for Paul and others for Apollos. These developed into quarrelling factions. Paul would later deplore this development in one of his letters, (1 Cor 1:12ff; 3:4-11.)

These remarks about Apollos have something in common with the description of what we find in the following passage where we are told that disciples there only knew of John’s baptism. Paul had all these people baptised in the name of Jesus.

All the same, we could do well to pray today to Apollos and ask him to share with us some of his insights into and his zeal for the Way of Jesus.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm 47
God is king of all the earth.
All you peoples, clap your hands;
shout to God with cries of gladness.
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.
God is king of all the earth.
For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.
God is king of all the earth.
The princes of the peoples
are gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For God’s are the guardians of the earth;
he is supreme.
God is king of all the earth.
+++    +++    +++    +++
John 16:23b-28

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father
in my name he will give you.
Until now you have not
asked anything in my name;
ask and you will receive,
so that your joy may be complete.

“I have told you this in figures of speech.
The hour is coming
 when I will no longer speak to you in figures
but I will tell you clearly about the Father.
On that day you will ask in my name,
and I do not tell you
that I will ask the Father for you.
For the Father himself loves you,
because you have loved me
and have come to believe
that I came from God.
I came from the Father
and have come into the world.
Now I am leaving the world
and going back to the Father.”
We are coming now to the end of John chapter 16 in Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper.

Today Jesus makes a solemn promise that whatever his disciples ask the Father in Jesus’ name will be given to them. Up to this, of course, they have not been praying to God through Jesus. That will only happen after the resurrection and ascension. But then it will become the normal way for the Church to pray to the Father as we do in all the prayers in the liturgy of the sacraments.

“Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.” As we have pointed out before, this is not a carte blanche for us to make any request that comes into our heads. It is understood that we will be praying, first of all, for what we genuinely need and not just for what we want.

And what we need most of all is to be close to our God and to be equipped with all those things and do all those things which will bring us closer to his will and which will enable us to work with him for the building of the Kingdom. Those prayers will be answered, although not always exactly in the way we might envisage. It may not be until much later that we will realise just how our prayers have been answered and often in very unexpected ways.

Jesus says a strange thing at this point. When his disciples ask for something in his name, “I do not say that I will petition the Father for you.” And the reason he gives is, “The Father already loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” Our Father already knows all our needs and he wants to satisfy them for us in his love. He will not need the intercession of his Son.

And, when we are already closely related in love and faith with the Father and Jesus, mediation is hardly necessary: our relationship is the mediating factor. Our prayer through Jesus is not to tell God something he does not know already. Rather it is to help make us aware of what our real needs are and to go to where those needs will be answered.

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

Asking the Father for things reminds me of the parable Jesus told about children asking their fathers for bread, a fish or an egg. Bread is associated with Sunday, fish with Friday and the egg with Easter. All these foods are linked to Jesus himself. He completes our joy.