Friday, April 04, 2008
Friday in the 2nd Week of Easter
Readings: Acts 5:34-42; Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14; John 6:1-15
Picture: CC valentinapowers
Counterintuitive. This is a word that I learnt not too long ago. According to the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary it refers to that which is contrary to what one would intuitively expect. Expectedly or otherwise, this is the word that springs to mind as we listen to the readings for today. Counterintuitive. Many of the things that we find people saying and doing in today’s readings are counterintuitive.
Probably the most obvious example is the reaction of the Apostles to the treatment meted out to them by the Sanhedrin. After having been flogged and ordered to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, they leave rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. Not only that, but we’re told that they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ. And no less counterintuitive is the Sanhedrin’s chosen course of action. Here, before it, is a band of subversives, people whose words and actions will plainly undermine the stable order of the status quo. In another time and place, these people would be considered deserving of execution, as was Jesus. In our own local context, they at least cry out for detention without trial. And yet, Gamaliel counsels release. Have nothing to do with these men, he says, and let them go. A serious problem arises calling for urgent action. But the Sanhedrin accepts Gamaliel’s counsel and chooses to wait.
And what of the gospel? Don’t we find the counterintuitive here too? Five thousand hungry people are gathered. Yet, even before discovering what meager resources are available to meet their need, Jesus initiates preparations to feed them. And counterintuitive too is the reaction of the people. A hungry boy with a lunch-box of five loaves and two fish is willing to part with it, and for what? Did he really expect to feed a crowd so huge that two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each… to have a little? One would expect too that, finding themselves far from the nearest restaurant or hawker-center, five thousand hungry people would leave hurriedly to search for food. Instead, calmly and obediently, they recline on the grass. Stomachs rumbling, with no reasonable source of satisfaction in sight, yet still they choose to wait.
Counterintuitive? Indeed! But, then again, much depends on one’s intuition doesn’t it? What might be considered counterintuitive for some may well be intuitive for others. Which is why our responsorial psalm is so important, especially today. Here we find the context out of which the apparently counterintuitive might be considered otherwise. For, as in the readings, we find here someone who chooses to wait. Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord. We know, of course, that waiting upon the Lord doesn't imply total passivity. In the gospel, for example, isn't it through Andrew's efforts that the boy with the loaves and fish is discovered? Nonetheless, waiting still seems counterintuitive, except that, for the psalmist, two things make it the appropriate thing to do: a profound desire and a heartfelt belief. The reason why waiting on the Lord is intuitive for the psalmist is because more than any craving for material things, he is conscious and lives out of that one yearning that characterizes every human heart: one thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life… And he knows too that it is only God who can satisfy this hunger, and indeed God’s desire to satisfy it is greater even than the hunger itself. Which is why the psalmist is able to say: I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living… Which is why he asks for the courage to wait…
And what of us? In the daily problems that beset us, what do we want? What do we believe? How and for whom do we wait? …
Posted by Fr Chris at 9:45 am