20 April 2008. 5th Sunday of Easter
Acts 6, 1-7; Psalm 33; 1 Peter 2, 4-9; John 14, 1-12
Jesus says in the Gospel today that He is the Way for those who are lost. What does He mean? It is like finding someone who knows the way and offers his help. It is different when you have a map of a friend’s house, than when you have someone who have been there.
Being lost and finding Jesus as their way is experienced in our personal lives. New situations bring with it new challenges. When our lives make a sudden turn, we feel lost. We lose sight of our life’s directions, or we feel that we are moving without a sense of purpose. Even if we have in our hands a map, a mental plan we have concocted in order for us to reach our goals, an unexpected situation throws us off balance. And we just don’t know how to get there. Should I resign and take the offer of another company? Should I break up with my girlfriend for 7 years because I am not happy with her anymore? Should I follow what I really wanted for my life and risk everything I have built?
Being lost and finding Jesus as their way is not just experienced personally but also institutionally as the community of the first Christians. The first reading tells us that the ‘young community of believers in Jerusalem’ were increasing in number and organization. The overwhelming expansion brought new problems.
The Jews had a greater sense of social responsibility. Every Friday morning, two collectors were sent to houses and the marketplace to collect goods or money for the poor, including those who were permanently dependent or temporarily in need. What the collectors got and distributed was called the kuppah or basket. The fund for emergency needs was called the tamhui or tray. The kuppah and tamhui were distributed in the afternoon of Friday to sustain the poor at least during the week.
The Christian community adapted this beautiful custom, however, there were discriminatory problems: the Hellenists’ widows were neglected in this weekly distribution. Why? In the Christian community there were two groups of Jews: the ‘pure’ Jews who spoke Aramaic and had no admixture of foreign blood and the foreign Jews who do not speak Hebrew but Greek. The latter were the Hellenists who complained. The ‘pure’ Jews looked down on the Hellenists. The distribution thus were more in favor of the Aramaic-speaking Jews.
Invoking the Holy Spirit, the disciples appointed deacons to correct this practical situation. It is interesting to note that deacons were first appointed for a practical purpose than for preaching.
When we are lost in our personal and institutional lives, we have a choice: we can follow the Way of Christ and be fulfilled, or take another route. In our lives, our being lost may be a result of several factors. We may have followed the road paved by someone else or by a motivation that moved us away from our heart’s desire such as fame and fortune. We may have joined the bandwagon when we were meant to blaze new trails. Or we have been controlled by our fears. If we follow our hearts, we have two roads: one with guide, and the other is at your own risk.