Whenever I reflect on the early days after Jesus ascended to heaven, I imagine halcyon days of love, service and commitment. I imagine all the apostles of sainted memory and the disciples who worked with them coming together every chance they got to celebrate the Eucharist and to be the source of strength and happiness for one another. The early Christian communities were easily noticeable for they impressed others by the joy in their lives and the love they showed and had for one another. They had a certain glow because of the indwelling of the Spirit among them.
But a closer look shows that it was not all tongues of fire and songs of joy. These early followers of Christ had to struggle through a lot of challenges. Internally, there was bickering among them. There were people dipping their fingers into the till. There were the problems of exclusions. There were disagreements on who could be baptized and over what was expected from those to be baptized. Externally, there was the hatred and condemnation from the Jewish authorities. Later, there would be the persecution by the Roman authorities. Soon, to be a Christian meant certain death at the hands of the Jews or of the Romans. Very much like what is happening now in some Muslim lands in the Middle East.
The apostles were no different. Right after the Resurrection and just before Christ ascended into heaven, Peter perhaps in a pique of sibling rivalry or jealous curiosity asked Him “Lord, what about him?” referring to John. And this only after Christ had asked the same Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”
In the end, it is all about God writing straight with crooked lines, about making the cornerstone that stone which they builders had rejected, about transforming Adam’s happy fault into the great story of our salvation, about proclaiming the one and only commandment of love.
Sometimes, when faced with all that is wrong in the world, I wonder if God has a Plan B, in case love does not work. Can he not make it to rain fire and brimstone to knock some sense into our heads? Sometimes I think that time is coming as we reap the fruits of our despoilment of our planet. God says, “There is no Plan B. There is only love.” But love can get us killed if we don’t fight back! God replies, “Yes, it could and it might. Why do you think I had to die on the cross?”
The just will gaze on your face, O Lord.
~ Psalm 11
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved,
the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper
and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?”
When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come?
What concern is it of yours? You follow me.”
So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die.
But Jesus had not told him that he would not die,
just “What if I want him to remain until I come?
What concern is it of yours?”
It is this disciple who testifies to these things
and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.
There are also many other things that Jesus did,
but if these were to be described individually,
I do not think the whole world would contain the books
that would be written.