The Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 07, 2023
Lectionary Readings: Acts 6:1-7; Ps. 32:1-188.8.131.52-19; 1 Pet. 2:4-9; Jn. 14:1-12
Theme: Coping with Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Community and Society
In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Cycle A), an idyllic community in Jerusalem, the first fruits of Peter’s preaching and characterized by an inner dynamism; organized under the leadership of the apostles; dedicated to prayer (in the Temple with other Jews) and the Breaking of the Bread (in houses), a specific Christian form of worship, a celebration associated with joy and sharing, having both the inner experience (one heart and one soul) along with external expression (holding all things in common), in respect and reverence for one and all; avoiding all unhealthy elements and insincerity with the profound experience of the Risen Lord and the power of the Spirit binding them together as a charismatic community, is thrown into its first major crisis where the atmosphere is suddenly changed and charged.
After the idealized portrait of the apostolic community that the Lucan tradition has drawn, the reader is unprepared for the conflict that breaks out wrinkling an otherwise smooth community surface: a heterogeneous community of Palestinian Jewish Christians and Hellenistic Jewish Christians emerges wherein the former appear to be exercising some sort of superiority over the latter by neglecting the widows in the daily distribution of food. Little is known about the conflict apart from the fact that “the Hellenists,” who suddenly appear without introduction, as a constituency separate from “the Hebrews,” certainly hold the key to young Christianity’s advance beyond the borders of its Palestinian homeland (cf. 11:19–21). The Lucan tradition is certainly making a case for linguistic and cultural diversity in community and society.
The Twelve intervene to solve the crisis. The qualities of those to be chosen are to be spiritual, intellectual and social. It is at once a democratic and hierarchical exercise, wherein the Seven, belonging to the marginalized group, as is clear from their names, are entrusted with the daily distribution of food, as servants of the table and playing other important roles as prompted by the Spirit, especially Stephen and Philip; whereas the apostles remain committed to the ministry of the Word, not necessarily preaching, but rather the scrutiny of the Hebrew Scriptures, a sort of archeology of the Word. It is also possible that the Lucan tradition has smoothed over some bigger disagreement between the two elements in the community which led to the institution of a parallel leadership. What is evident is a sharp difference between the table service assigned to the Seven and the elaborately instituted “ministry of the Word.”
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Coping with linguistic and cultural diversity in community and society has always been a challenge. Reflect upon and discuss some of the hallmarks of such diversity in today’s pluralistic context. 2. List some of the striking areas of these diversities in your own immediate community and society while suggesting what might be the way forward.
Bibliography: Brown, Fitzmyer & Murphy. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Theological Publications in India, Bangalore: 1992); Pathrapankal, Joseph. The Church of the Acts of the Apostles: A Model and a Challenge for Our Times (Mimeographed Class Notes, Bangalore: 2003);
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Roy da Silva, India, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2002 – 2006, 2015