A New Way of Life

"It is better for you that I go, for if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you" (John 15:7).

Jesus' departure in his death, which for John is also his ascension and the sending of the Spirit, is necessary for his disciples to experience his presence in a new way. As long as he remains, they are focused on him and a mission only he is able to accomplish.

The long farewell discourses in John's Gospel were to prepare his discipes for the crucial transfer of power from Jesus to the church. The first followers were frightened and felt totally inadequate. But there is no Plan B. If they do not seize the torch and take up the task, there will be no church and no mission.  

The interval between Jesus' earthly departure and the birth of the church was a time of profound prayer and openness to what can come only as a pure gift. No human genius of initiative can kindle the spark that sets the world ablaze with a love so powerful it creates the world anew.  But once that love takes hold in a believing community, history is turned in a different direction, from futility and death to hope and new life. 

Evidence of this renewed presence of the risen Jesus is found in today's readings from Acts 16. Paul and Silas are imprisoned for preaching the Good News. But in the middle of the night an earthquake opens the prison. Set free, the APostles minister to the jailer and his family and they are baptized.  The joyous scene ends with a meal.

If the story seems familiar, it is a perfect parallel to the resurrection of Jesus. Neither tomb nor prison can chain the Gospel, which liberates and saves anyone who believes in it. A meal celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus is now the pattern of our lives. 

Do we perceive this same pattern now? If we die to ourselves and live for Christ, no obstacle or suffering can contain or prevent us from living as Jesus did, for we are now his presence and power in the world.