Scripture: 1st Reading: Acts16,22-34; Resp. Psalm: Ps138,1-3,7-8; Gosp. Accl.: Jn16:7,13; Gospel: Jn6,5-11
The cost of discipleship could be very high. This is because the sacrifice for sins is always high. The disciple who works for the Master does the work of the Master by setting oppressed and captive souls free. The powers of the underworld that are attacked and defeated by these exploits would not sit down and applaud. They would fight back.
This is why the cost of discipleship could be high: it could lead to terrible hatred, persecution, the worst form of inhuman maltreatment, tortures and even death. The Master had forewarned all those who would pass this road with Him to prepare themselves well. He foretold that such treatments would be the lot of believers but that like the grain of wheat that falls down and dies, they would yield a rich harvest.
Paul and Silas experienced a share of the passion of their Master. They were attacked by the Philippians, their garments torn even by the magistrates who were supposed to uphold the law and these gave orders for them to be beaten with rods and thrown into prison, with their feet fastened in the stocks like condemned criminals. But while this was going on, Paul and Silas did not recriminate with God. They did not curse the day they were born.
Paul and Silas did not renounce their discipleship, despite their pains and agonies. Instead, they prayed and sang unto the Lord. Their praise and singing reached the throne of mercy in heaven and a great earthquake was sent as a sign of divine approval and liberation. God made them understand that nothing could stand in the way of His sovereign designs. No human powers could stand in His paths and truncate His designs.
That earthquake broke the shackles on their feet. It also broke the ones on the feet of the other prisoners. The witness of Paul and Silas and that singular sign from heaven brought about a great harvest of souls. The jailer became a prisoner of divine love. He washed the wounds of Paul and Silas and took them to his house that night. Paul and Silas preached the word of life to them. They all believed and were baptized.
The Master went away. His work of salvation continued. His promise was fulfilled. In today's gospel, He prepared their minds about His impending departure from this world. He told them they needed not be sad because His departure would not create any vacuum. His departure was to their advantage.
The advantage was that when He eventually departed from them, He would send them the Counsellor. The coming of the Counsellor would become epochal in the annals of the early Christian community and indeed in the life of any believer who submits to His powers. This is because the Holy Spirit "will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgement: of sin, because they do not believe in me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; of judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged."
The Spirit would convict. The Spirit would enlighten. The Spirit would give power to witness. The Spirit would strengthen to endure the most extreme of sufferings and torture. The Spirit would empower to preach without counting the cost. The Spirit would give life and chart new directions. The Spirit would bring new vigour to discipleship. We see all these in the lives of Paul and Silas, two powerful and faithful witnesses of the Risen Lord.
The Spirit would do same for us if we open to the fire of divine love that He brings. The Spirit would transform our weaknesses and fear into strength and courage. The Spirit would give new power to us to bear witness, even in the face of extreme sufferings, if we fully make ourselves available without reservations. As we prepare to commemorate the Ascension of our Lord into heaven, let us ask Him to rekindle in our hearts the fire of divine love. Let us ask Him for the courage to bear authentic witnessing to Him.
Let us pray: "Grant, almighty and merciful God, that we may in truth receive a share in the Resurrection of Christ your Son." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.