Readings for Thursday of Easter Week: Year C
“And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets.” (Acts 3:17-21)
I don’t think we expect a leader to be weak, much less be one who suffers. Then, like today, we want someone to be in charge who is strong and flawless. However, I have noticed and pondered about the fact that conquering nations often copy habits or traits of those they dispossessed. This is the stronger copying the weaker. For example; European colonist displaced Native Americans and picked up their smoking habit as a pastime. The Romans dispossessed the Hebrew people from their native land only for Rome to then become the seat of the Judeo-Christian Church of the world. Often a dominant group will adapt the habits or customs of a minority group. This seems to me counterintuitive. Peter recalls from the prophets that the Messiahwould suffer. This is not what they expected but it seems the suffering people leave a lasting change on those who oppressed them: good or bad.
Yet this is the path to universal restoration, that is, change for good. Peter says that universal restoration is when Jesus will return to us. I ponder that this means all people; all families, are reconciled back to God. Currently, there are many families who are not reconciled back to God. So we’ve got work to do. I’m at a loss as to how to proceed. Perhaps I’m still in ignorance as Peter says about his friends and their leaders. I guess the best that I can do is to keep on pondering, praying, and preparing to be a suffering leader. Ouch!
It is said that it is lonely at the top. Does that mean suffering at the top? Jesus often went to a place by himself to pray. Abraham was also a suffering leader and often afraid of what following God was going to cost him, even his own son. Many of the prophets also suffered because they followed God. But Peter reminds us that “You [we] are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, “And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Acts 3:25 recalled from Genesis 22:18)
All the families of the earth sounds like universal restoration to me. This means everybody acknowledging God and God’s love working in us for all people. I am thinking only a leader willing to suffer on behalf of their people can do this kind of work. It’s hard to hear this message but necessary for our salvation. So, hear it we must, and hopefully our future leaders will be people who are willing to suffer, and hopefully, we will appreciate them. I continually want to lift up Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine, as a great example of a suffering leader. He is standing strong for the people of Ukraine. God bless him. We could use more leaders like him.
As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John