Reflections on the readings

 

Reflections on the Bible readings 

Bible notes

Acts 16.16-34; Psalm 97; Revelation 22.12-14,16-17,20-21; John 17.20-26

Acts 16.16-34

The brutality of life in Philippi, a prominent city in a Roman province, is well described here.

The slave-girl is a disposable possession. Her owners’ lucrative business disappears with her spirit of divination, and sadly we hear no more about her. Paul and Silas are dehumanised by racial and religious prejudice, mercilessly flogged and shackled in a dark prison cell. After the prisoners escape the jailer moves to suicide, fearing either summary execution by the authorities or lingering revenge from the released. But ‘the word of the Lord’ creates a new humanity. The jailer washes Paul and Silas’ wounds, and in return they baptize him and his family, perhaps with the same bloody water. Baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6.3), they become together ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5.17; Galatians 6.15).

 

Psalm 97

The glory of God is revealed as a sovereign power that acts justly to put things right. While heaven and earth can rejoice at this revelation, humanity is divided between the wicked, who serve what is ultimately worthless, and the faithful, who are rescued from their hands. The proclamation, ‘The Lord is king’, brings hope to the righteous who oppose evil. The very trembling of the earth (v.4) can unfasten the chains of oppression, as in our first reading from Acts.

 

Revelation 22.12-14,16-17,20-21

There is little escaping the theme in this selection of verses from the end of Revelation: Jesus is coming soon. Indeed, this has been the warning from the beginning. Jesus is coming, and unless the churches in Ephesus and Pergamum repent of their collusion with the cruelties of city life, Christ will come to denounce and destroy them (2.5,16). The inactive church in Sardis is warned that Christ will ‘come like a thief’ (3.3; 16.15). And the church in Laodicea must repent of its complacency and open the door to Jesus (3.20). In contrast, the churches in Thyatira and Philadelphia are encouraged patiently to continue their work because Jesus is coming soon (2.25; 3.11).

After the presentation of John’s vision is complete, and an assurance that ‘These words are trustworthy and true’ (22.6), we hear three more times, ‘I am coming soon’ in the last few verses of the book. The churches must be transformed and ready. They must live in the expectation that Christ is coming soon and all that is described will soon be fulfilled. The light that shone in the darkness, the one who came into the world, will be the undisputed, universal and eternal light of the world. And at this point we might recall every reference, every allusion, to God or Jesus as, in some sense or another, light – the bright morning star, the light to which nations shall come, the brightness of the dawn, and many more. Or as the source of life-giving water – cleansing, renewing and refreshing. Or as the bride of God, filled with mutual desire and passion – perhaps this in particular, as the intimacy of desire brings Revelation, and the Christian Bible, to its conclusion.

We are reminded of these words in every Eucharistic we make: ‘For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’ (1 Corinthians 11.26). And the letter ends as it began, as does our worship and life itself, with God’s grace in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

John 17.20-26

At the end of his ‘farewell discourses’ Jesus intercedes for his disciples and for those they will bring to faith, including us as readers of John’s Gospel, ‘written so that you may come to believe’ (20.31). His disciples are being drawn into his relationship with the Father whose love for him and for them is eternal. And they will draw others after them, so that ‘the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them’. His hour has arrived and, as Jesus prepares to go out into the garden, he looks back to his ministry to his disciples, ‘I made your name known to them’, and he looks forward to their ministry to the world, ‘And I will make it known’.

 


Page last updated: 26th May 2022 8:20 AM

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