Commentary on the Gospel of

Eileen Burke-Sullivan - Creighton University's Division of Mission and Ministry


As I prayed on these texts and the other rich offerings of the Easter Season I have been struck again by how important the Church is, not only to handing on the Good News of God’s saving love, but on the gift of the Spirit embodied in the life and compassion of the Church.  We are not just a human association that helps us along, but confirmed together by God’s Spirit we together are the Body of Christ called to touch and challenge, comfort and heal the world the way that Jesus served his own community and time.  We have been given the power of Jesus to accomplish this.

In today’s first reading about the Disciple Timothy who assisted Paul in preaching the Good news throughout Greece and the world we hear that the Church, knowing the needs of the world they were going to, had this Greek (Pagan) believer circumcised so as to not cause scandal with the Jewish communities where they would stay on their preaching tour.  Then we hear of Paul and Timothy reporting on decisions of the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem.  Even this early in Church history every local Church was being bound to all the others in Obedience to Apostolic witness and decisions.  This sense of being stones in one building or branches of one plant is from the very foundation and root of Jesus’s ministry in the Father through the power of the Spirit.

God sends Paul a dream to serve the peoples of Macedonia in Europe, a part of the world the Good News had not yet penetrated (this is prior to Peter’s move to Rome) and thus began the great effort to bring all Western humanity to know how deeply God desires our participation in the Divine life – even while we are here on earth.  What makes this possible is the unity and charity of the Church also called to Catholicity – a worldwide openness to the truth of God’s Creative mercy embedded in some ways in every culture and time. 

Today’s Gospel invites us to realize that aspects of culture will also reject the goodness of mercy of God and will hate the messengers of God’s love.  The believers in the Church must be constantly on guard and being renewed in the Spirit to discern what is of God in every culture, and what opposes God’s desire for humanity and the world.  This discernment is no easy task.  The Spirit of God filling the Church and binding it in love makes it possible to discern, but it takes time and slow conversion of heart to truly know and follow what God wants within each pattern of human life.  The heart of the Christian faith is this desire to dwell in God and in God’s desire, but the world will try to seduce us into believing in our own desire and especially our desire to be independent of the authority of faith.  If any of us desires the consolation of God’s mercy, we are challenged to listen to Jesus’ voice in the Church, even if the human sin of leaders makes it difficult to hear.

Paul and Timothy had their conflicts with other disciples and apostles in the Church in Jerusalem, some of them never seemed to trust Paul.  None-the-less, the leaders confirmed the mission of Paul and Timothy, and the two missionaries confirmed the authority of the leaders. All of them sought to be ruled by Jesus’ assertion that no slave is greater than the master and all must be obedient (listening) to the Father’s Will.

In my own heart this is often a challenge.  I want to pick and choose which leader (or no leader?) I will attend to in faith – but that is the way of the world who hates Jesus.   I must be about prayer, attention, and humility.  God will bring the Divine Will to fruition, and it is my heart’s deepest desire to be in union with that Will so that God’s work will be done in me and in us together, the living Church. There is no Christian Spirituality (life in God’s Spirit) that is not anchored in the Church as it lives its authentic mission. 

In this Easter Season let us give thanks for the Church as institution and community.  We could not hear the Good News apart from God’s love made present in her.


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