In today's reading, there is a theme under the surface. St. Paul and Barnabas are off in distant lands witnessing to the power and glory of the risen Christ when John Mark turns his back on them and heads home. We don't know the reason for Mark leaving them. All we know is that in other letters Paul indicates how hard it has been for him to forgive Mark for the betrayal. Eventually, he rejoins Paul in his ministry and goes on to write one of the Gospels. At some point, Paul had to forgive him, and at the same time, Mark had to forgive Paul for his hardness and bitterness. They had to be reconciled.
Then we see in the Gospel the scene of the Last Supper. Jesus has just finished washing His disciple's feet and informs them that one of them will betray Him. Judas is going to be reviled for history. Jesus even at one point is shown as saying "It is better for him never to be born." Yet, Jesus washed his feet. The forgiveness was there on the part of God. Jesus reveals that He is God in a very simple statement, that He will continue to tell them the future to reveal that He is "I AM." People fall down in amazement and fright when He uses these words in the Garden of Gethsemane and they rend their cloaks when He again repeats them during one of the trials. Jesus was reaching out to Judas, to all the disciples, to remind them of who He was.
How often do we fail to do that? Peter came to Jesus to be forgiven. Judas ran away in despair. Do we see confession as the encounter with Christ that it is? The Sacramental Presence of the great "I AM" with all His mercy and love? Do we forgive others as we want to be forgiven? "[...]whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me." Often when we read that statement from the Gospel of John, we think of ourselves. We use it as justification for being angry with those who we are witnessing to, to those we are charged with sharing the Gospel with. I think today's strongest challenge is for us to realize that God is often sending them as well to us. Sending them to us to see Christ in us. To see God's mercy and forgiveness in action. Are we receiving Christ in the poor? The widow? The orphan? The intellectually challenged? The refugee? The man who betrayed us? In the prisoner and the sinner?
His servant and yours,
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14
A reflection on the readings for Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter: May 11th, 2017