The responsorial response sets the tone for today’s readings: “God is king of all the earth.”
The first readings in Acts, Paul passed on a message from the Lord: ““Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city.”
The Jews went up against Paul, saying,“This man is inducing people to worship God contrary to the law.” The governor of the province dismissed the case, saying that as their complaint was about doctrine and titles, and not any “crime or malicious fraud” – so he would not judge it. The Jews, in turn, publicly beat a synagogue official in retribution, and Paul stayed quiet and left for Syria (then shaved his head, because he made a vow).
It is not hard to picture the above scene: Paul is going against the human response of squashing truth by any means possible, including in violation of religious laws. The cards are stacked and the schism is felt: Christianity has arrived, and they are attracting more and more followers. By publicly attempting to control Paul’s message, the Jews were attempting to put fear in his (and other Christians’s hearts); but Christ came for peace, in our hearts and in the world. And so we keep quiet, when necessary, and continue to carry on with our mission. Paul did not gloat that the case was thrown out and he did not verbally attack or taunt – he kept quiet, so the ease the pain many of those people may have been feelings.
Fear often motivates bullying. In the Gospel, another side of feeling overly burdened:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
On that day you will not question me about anything.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”
And when you ask God the Father for a new car, please be aware that the Gospel is not about material possessions any more than it is about winning Facebook arguments. There will be pain and suffering – even an epidural will not take away birth pangs or the effort that goes into bringing a new creation forth into the world. There is goodness in the struggle; there is light in the darkness.
I have noticed, especially in the Catholic blogosphere, the permeance of negativity. Instead of seeking Truth, we seek to Be Right – and often on topics that are going to be differences of opinion. For some of those topics, the Church gives us nice parameters. On other topics, we must reasonably discuss with compassion. For though God is the king of all, our world is still permeated with sin. We still grieve, and we still cling to our joy.
We must not be afraid to share the Gospel and the Good News: we must also not be afraid to let go of hurts and the ability to belittle another. We must know that our fellow Christians are supporting each other, loving each other, even when we misunderstand each other. The best advice a priest ever gave me was this: “You do not have to like a person, but you must love them.”
When we love each other, we curate joy. God gives us the grace to overcome our sins and glorify the Kingdom. And when in doubt, sing this in response: “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.”
His will be done: may our words and deeds be blessed, and may we be silent as Paul was, if necessary, in order to further the message of hope and love.