Unknown year, May talk, Serial 00682

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I'm going to go and journey through these districts which are all today part of Turkey. It's very important to reflect on this fact that all these early churches were invaded by Islam and are now all Muslim country. And it's very striking in Jerusalem, you know, the very centre of Jerusalem where the temple used to be, there is a magnificent mosque, it's a beautiful building. Islam is based in the centre of Jerusalem and it's spreading all over the world, 800 million Muslims today and they're growing everywhere, in Africa particularly, but also in Asia and Europe and America. So one has to keep in mind that Islam is a tremendous power in the world today and is still a challenge to Christianity. So, Paul journeys through these various places. He noticed having, they stoned him and dragged him out to the city, supposing he was dead.


He has this wonderful capacity to enjoy every kind of fiction when he gets up and walks on and says nothing has happened. Extraordinary power of mind and body. A lot of the body must have been tremendously under the power of the spirit and some power within him which enabled him to sustain all these fictions. And then he preached the gospel there and goes through these other parts. And an important point, when they had appointed elders for them in every church with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord. The first sign we have of this kind of organisation of the church, and that was Paul's custom in a way, to appoint these elders, presbyters, not priests you see, the word heros, a priest is never used in these, and it's probably based on the synagogue, the elders of the synagogue, and the church spontaneously organised itself in the manner of the synagogue.


It was later that our prison structure, probably the second century or the end of the first, at the beginning we just had these elders in every city who administered the church, were ministers there. And then they go on preaching in these various cities until they return to Antioch where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled, this conclusion of this missionary journey. And this was the way the church expanded in the early stage. But it's not typical, you know. St. Paul's journeys were peculiar. The Christian faith spread in the Roman Empire much more casually by groups going from city to city, merchants and other people travelling, and that's how it seemed to spread through the Empire. We don't hear of other missionaries like Paul, or very few of them, must be some like Barnabas and so on. But that wasn't normal, and it's interesting that the faith spreads simply by forming these


communities, and then people go out from them and share with others, and so these, like a sort of network, spread over the Roman Empire. And I think that's rather significant, that is the way gospel is normally spread. And then when they arrived, they gathered the church together, and declared all that God had done. And at this time the church was the local community, you see. You can always see the place here. It was this local community, and each church was the Church of God in that place, you might say, Church of God in Ephesus or Corinth or wherever. And so I think this organisation of the church was very interesting, you see, at this stage is that these small communities are spreading out through the Roman Empire, each with their elders, and then with an apostle usually, Paul in this case, who's in charge and who visits them from time to time, and then they spread like that out. It was a movement of small communities.


I think it's a good model, you see, that all these small communities, and then they spread out from there. And then it says, they declared all that God had done with them, how he'd opened a door of faith to the Gentiles in the Romane Oedipal time. That, of course, was a great achievement, that they first of all preached to the Jews, and never forget that Christianity began as a Jewish religion and was intended to begin with and to be a form of Judaism. And then the Jews rejected the Gospel, and so they turned to the Gentiles, and then they began to throw in all these people in the Roman Empire who were looking for something. You see, there were many vague religions and philosophies in the Roman Empire, but people weren't satisfied as a whole, and Christianity was something which answered to a deep human need there, and so more and more gradually were converted to it. And, of course, in three centuries they converted the whole empire.


It's an extraordinary achievement. But now we just see the beginnings of it, and Paul laid the foundations, really, you see. And these foundations were very strong and very sure, and each community, you see, was a token Christian community. It wasn't a center in Jerusalem or Antioch organizing itself around. So each community organized itself at its own elders and managed its own, and that's the best model. Today we think more and more of the local church, not so much a centralized church organized from a center, but communities growing up, organizing themselves, sharing with one another, and finding a center in Rome or wherever, but still always the center is in the local church. That's the understanding today. The Acts of the Apostles. So the critical point in the history of the early church, as you know, the problem was


whether you should keep the law, circumcision of the law, or whether you would be free from it. And you can understand the point of these Jewish disciples, you see, the law of Moses given by God was supposed to last forever. It's an eternal covenant. And circumcision was a sign you belonged to the people of God, and the law was a sign that you were living as God had called you to live. So the argument was tremendously strong, you see, that you should keep circumcision of the law. But Paul saw beyond it. He saw that Jesus had gone beyond the law, beyond the limits of Israel, really, you see, and opened this, well, salvation to all humanity, you know, to the Gentiles, to the whole world. So it was a very decisive and a very difficult moment in the history of the church. And perhaps one of the problems, you know, is this, that it says here, unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.


And you see, both for the Jew and the Christian, it was always a question of salvation. If you had kept the law of Moses and circumcised, you would be saved. Or if you were a Christian, if you believed in Christ, kept the law of Christ, you would be saved. And if you didn't, you would be lost. So there's always this tremendous challenge of either salvation or eternal loss. And it has its value, it gives a tremendous meaning to life, but it also has a very negative force, you see. The result of it is terrible persecution and violence, which has gone all through Christian history and all through Jewish and all through Muslim history. You see, if you think people are going to be lost unless they are baptised or whatever, then you'll do almost anything to subject those people, baptised and disabled. And that's been the problem. And if anybody tries to prevent it, you feel they're preventing the work of God, you must try all means to overcome it. You see, St Thomas Aquinas held that a heretic, who hadn't got the right faith, was a danger


to society and a danger to souls. And therefore it was necessary that heresy should be suppressed. You must get hold of the heretics and put them in prison and prevent them spreading this, you see, losing souls. So this is a tremendous problem. And it's really only today that we've begun to realise you can be saved outside the church, outside Christ, outside any religion. In a deeper sense, Christ dies for all men and his grace comes to people in all situations, whether they're atheists or agnostics or whatever. If they follow the truth as they see it, if they follow their conscience, then the grace of Christ comes to them in salvation. And it's really only today that the church has really discovered this and is able to be open to all religions and to all humanity as it is. So at this stage the whole conflict was whether you should be baptised, circumcised and keep the law, or whether you were free from it. And of course it was a great liberation.


But later on the same problem, had you got to be baptised in order to be saved? And now recently we say you have. Now we recognise that baptism is only one way in which God opens the grace of salvation to people and there are other ways. So these are problems which challenge us still and we have to face them and to realise. Even in India you see all these different religions, a small number of Christians, we have to ask ourselves what is the core of the church? Is it primarily to get everybody baptised or is it rather to spread the kingdom of God to people as a whole? So those are the problems we have to face. I can ask you a prayer very special for Lord Maitreya. ...feeling of the axe to the famous council of Jerusalem where this problem of how the Jews and Gentiles were to relate whether the Gentiles were to keep the law of Moses and


first of all Peter gives it witness. And as you know Peter had this vision, he was uncertain whether he should receive this centurion called Elias and he had this vision of a teak bed down with animals, all kinds on it and told, rise Peter, kill and eat. He said, I've never eaten anything unclean. And then the vision said, for God is against what thou feel call common. And this made him realise that he needed to keep the Jewish ritual, the Jewish laws and he could receive this Cornelius and then the Holy Spirit descended and that was decisive as he says, God bore witness, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us. The Holy Spirit came and they were transformed by it. So he gives his vote that they shouldn't put a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear. It's interesting that the law had become to seem a burden.


It's meant of course to help people towards God but so many rules became accumulated that it became a burden and so they were bared in a sense to be relieved of it. And then Paul and Barnabas give their witness of the signs and wonders. God, it works for the Gentiles. And finally James replies. It's a little strange in a way but this James, the brother of the Lord, seems to have been the head of the church in Jerusalem and he takes charge. Neither Peter nor Paul, they give their witness but James speaking in the name of the church gives the summary and the final decision and he quotes the prophets and of course they were trying to see their faith, their new gospel in the context of the Old Testament as fulfilling the prophets who had always said that the Gentiles also would receive this word of God. And then he makes a rather curious decision.


We should write to them to abstain from the pollution of idols, from unchastity, from what is strangled and from blood. And the explanation of this is in the next verse. For from early generations Moses has had in every city those who preach him. And these are the proselytes. You see all over the world there were proselytes. There were Gentiles who believed in the God of Israel and worshipped him but didn't keep the law. But they had these four provisions were made. They were asked to keep these. So James suggests that these should remain. Of course, very soon they were abolished like everything else. It was only a very temporary measure. But it shows also, you know, how slowly these things worked. It wasn't a clear decision that the Gentiles be free. They had to observe these rather strange prohibitions about being strangled and blood. But soon, of course, common sense prevailed and this was removed.


So we see how the church freed herself from the yoke of the old law. It was a decisive moment, of course, and she never went back on it. But it could have been, you see, Christianity could have been a Jewish religion. It could have stuck to the law and just been a fulfillment of Judaism in some way. And it broke free and became a new religion together. This is a very interesting example of an early presentation of the gospel, you know, very early. This is how they expressed themselves, how they understood the gospel. It's very moving.


It says, in your heart reverence Christ as Lord. In that sense, Christ within, Christ in the heart, very important. Because after all, they knew Christ outside. As St. Paul says, Christ according to the flesh. They knew him as a prophet, miracles, his work, and so on. But to realize Christ in the heart was something more. It only came after the resurrection. And that's what we're called to do, to reverence Christ in the heart. That as he dwells in the heart of each one, have that reverence for him. And always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you account for the hope that is in you. It must have been a fairly late period, a second generation at least, when the gospel had spread and people were questioning it. And you had to give an account of it in the Roman world, very like the modern world, a very skeptical world. And so they were required to give an account, do it with gentleness and reverence.


Very interesting, you see, it's very easy to defend the gospel with zeal and enthusiasm. But to do it with gentleness and reverence is very different and much more meaningful. Then keep your conscience clear. That when you're abused, so to find your good behavior in Christ, you're put to shame. See, if you have a good conscience, you're not disturbed when people abuse you. When you're sensitive about it and have a problem in your ego, then you're very upset when anybody speaks anything against you. But if you've cleared that out, have this open heart, then you're not disturbed when people speak against you. So those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. This is your good behavior. But it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God's will, than for doing wrong. And this letter emphasizes very much how Jesus suffered for doing right.


And Christians also found themselves in the same position. They were all made to suffer for doing right. And it's something we all have to learn. He does say, if it should be God's will, it's not always God's will, but it does happen. And one should be ready to suffer for doing right rather than for doing wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous. This letter has very deep sense. Jesus gave this example to his disciples. He died for sin. He died by surrendering his life and allowing people to take his life and so on. But he did it for sin once for all. He gave his life for the sin of the world, to redeem it and set us free. The righteous for the unrighteous. And that was the great theme. This idea of the suffering servant of Yahweh. He is the righteous person who by his suffering redeems the unrighteous.


And it was a very profound insight. Normally you save people by conquering their enemies and overcoming evil and so on. But Jesus did the opposite. He suffered the evil and redeemed by his suffering. That he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh and made alive in the spirit. It's an interesting phrase, you see. That he might bring us to God, sets us free from sin, opens us to God, and put to death in the flesh and made alive in the spirit. He died on the cross, so he was put to death in the flesh. And then in the tomb, the body was transfigured by the spirit. You see, the body was put in the tomb as a dead body. But within it was, the soul was present. But the spirit, the spirit of God was present. And that spirit had the power to transform the body and the soul. So that Jesus was raised from the dead and descended to God, to be one with God.


So that's the mystery of death and resurrection at the different levels of the world. You can see it's very simple, very basic teaching, and yet put with great meaning, great sensitivity, a great understanding of this mystery, which is really something which we feel in our hearts, not something which we have a mere doctrine about, something which we experience as a reality within. They see a rather trivial incident in these Acts of the Apostles. I think it's very interesting and important that we have such a factual description of what actually took place. You see, in most religions, the writings of several hundred years later, very often, were descriptors of two or three hundred years after the time of the Buddha. And that's very common.


But here we have events described which were contemporary, and small incidents like this with all their details are given. And that's very important that the Gospel is situated in a very concrete historical situation, which we know very exactly. And this is just one small incident. They go to Macedonia, that is Greece, into Europe, and they go to this town of Philippi, where, as you know, there was a very strong community later. St. Paul writes his letter to the Philippians. And there they go out on the seventh day to the riverside, where there was a place of prayer, and sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. It's a very humble domestic sort of event. They just go out, meet these women. Presumably they were Jews, since it's the seventh day. And there's this woman named Lydia, the sender of powerful goods, who was a worshipper of God.


Probably that means a proselyte. You know, Gentiles who worshipped the God of Israel. They were called proselytes, worshippers. And the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul, and she was baptized in her household. Notice it takes only a day to be baptized. Today we take several months or a year. But at this time, the gospel was very powerful, and the Holy Spirit was very strong, and people were often received on the very same day. So she's baptized, and then she asks, come to my house and stay. So, as I say, a very sort of humble way that the gospel was preached. You see, just a group of women, and one of them is converted, and they go and stay in her house. So it puts the gospel, as I say, in a very domestic, very humble, simple way. And that's really how we want to see it, not something that has its grand moments, of course, and so on, but it also has its very humble, simple beginnings and way of life,


and perhaps its meaning for us all today. Thank you. We missed out a passage from this reading, which rather leaves a gap, so perhaps better fill it in. It says, as we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her own as much gain by soothsaying. She followed Paul and our scribe. These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation. This she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed and turned and said to the spirit, I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ, come out of her, and it came out at that very hour. It's interesting that Paul didn't want to have... She was proclaiming the truth, but he didn't want it done in that way. And then it goes on. When her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone,


they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrate, they said, these men are Jews and they're disturbing our city. They advocate custom which is not lawful for us Romans to accept or practice. Then the crowd joined in, attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them, gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. And having received this charge, he put them into the inner prison, fastened their feet in the stocks. Then it goes on, where we were reading about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying, singing hymns, and the prisoners were listening, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, and the foundations of the prison were shaken, and all the doors were opened, everyone's fetters were unfastened. This is, again, one of these psychic phenomena. As you know, they occur very frequently, and as I was saying, we must always distinguish the psychic from the spiritual.


These sort of things happen in all sorts of strange circumstances. There may be many haunted houses, but all sorts of weird things happen like this, and it releases certain psychic forces which are present. And the moon, the place may be shaken, and all these things happen. You shouldn't confuse that with the God, with the divine. It's something quite distinct. They're totally distinct. And the jailer woke and saw the prison doors were open. He drew his sword about to kill himself. Paul cried, do not harm yourself, they're all here. Paul is in complete command of the situation. It's very interesting, when there's a shipwreck, or when he's stoned, or when this sort of thing happens, he takes complete command. An extraordinary man in that way, could totally be in command of the situation. So he called for lights and rushed in, and then the jailer rushed in, trembling with fear, and fell down and said, what must I do to be saved? And they said, believe in the Lord Jesus,


and you will be saved, you and your household. And they spoke the word, and he took them and baptized them. It's a very unethical thing to do, of course. Clearly the man was in a hysterical state, and thought in his right mind at all, and not really fit to be baptized. But of course it was an exceptional situation, Paul had exceptional insight, and so they did these things. But it would be the worst possible model today, when a person is in that state, he's not to be taken seriously at all. You'd have to give him six months' instruction before you could baptize him. So we have to judge these things in the right situation. And then it's dangerous, you know, because, you see, people read this sort of thing, and apply it immediately to their situation, and you get these charismatic meetings, and people get terribly worked up, and they say, we believe in the Lord Jesus, and they're baptized, and the next week or so they may completely change. It's not a fundamental change at all,


it's an emotional change, you see. So one has to be aware of these things. Then he brought them into the house, said, poor but for him, rejoice in the house, so they believed in God. So, as I say, it's very important to read the Bible with discrimination, you see, and not to think that what happened in the 1st century is a model of what happened in the 20th century. You have to see the whole situation, historic, cultural, linguistic, symbolic, the whole situation, and then judge it in the light of all circumstances. And that's what the Church has to do, that's how the faith grows. We grow by seeing the Gospel in the context of a new situation. That's why today, say, in Latin America, they're interpreting the Gospel in the terms of liberation theology. It's a new way of seeing the Gospel in another situation. So we all have to learn this. And that, of course, is what we try to do in this ashram. We introduce all these Hindu customs and so on,


and many find it very strange at first, but we're trying to respond to the Gospel in the present situation in India, in this place and in these circumstances. So we all have to be watchful and try to, as I say, use this discernment, this discrimination as to what is the actual meaning of the Gospel now, here and now, to us and to this place, you see. So this is a challenge for us all. Reading from the Acts is rather an important event before coming to Athens. As you know, Athens was the center of culture in the ancient world. In the 5th century, it was one of the miracles of human history. It goes to the climax of wisdom in poetry and philosophy and art and almost every side of human life. And on the other hand,


it was a very limited culture in its way, and actually it was based on slavery, so it was very fragile. But it still had an important place, and for centuries, Athens, a little like Oxford or Cambridge perhaps, a kind of cultural center in the Roman Empire. So Paul arrives there, and first of all, he argues for the Jews, devout persons, and then in the marketplace every day with those who chance to be there. And this marketplace, the Agora, it was called, was the place where everybody met. And Socrates was alive in the 5th century. He went down to the marketplace, and there they discussed all these questions of philosophy. So Paul went there and shared in this way, and some of the Epicureans and Stoic philosophers met him. But they were the two chief schools of philosophy at the time. And so they questioned him and brought him to the Areopagus.


The Areopagus was the central shrine in Athens where all the temples were. It's a hill that's still there where all these temples were built. So it was a kind of center for the whole city. And now, as you say, the Athenians and their foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. They were always inquiring about new ideas and so on. So Paul has a unique opportunity to present the faith, and he does it in a very interesting way. He really tries to speak on their level. He opens the whole question in the way in which they would understand. And rather cleverly, he says, I passed along and observed the objects of your worship and found an altar to a description of an unknown god. And then he comments on that. Actually, what it meant was


you normally offered prayers to a certain god or a number of gods, and you expected a reward. But sometimes you got something and you didn't know who had given it to you. So in order to be sure, you offered your prayer to the unknown god. So it was a very limited view. But Paul takes a start from that and says what you worship is unknown, that I proclaim to you. And then he speaks of the god who made the world and everything in it, the lord of heaven and earth. And this would have been fairly well recognized by the Stoics. They would have recognized the supreme god and the lord of the creation. There wouldn't have been anything new to them. And then, of course, he denounces. He does not live in... He does not live in shrines made by human hands, so he needed anything. And, of course, it's not true.


Those who make idols, like in India, don't imagine that god depends on them. They're for human help because we can't imagine god without some human form. We make a human statue to remind us of god and to turn our minds towards him. But the Jews always thought that they worshiped idols, which is an illusion. Nobody worships an idol. And then he made from every nation men on the face of the earth, having determined a knotted period. Here again, this would be quite understood by the Stoics. They had a very strong idea of this unity of mankind. Marcus Aurelius, the great Stoic philosopher of the 2nd century, said, Shall they say of Athens, O beautiful city of Kikrops, Kikrops was supposed to be the founder of Athens, and shall not we say of the world, O beautiful city of God? The whole world is the city of God, you see. So the Stoics had a very profound idea


of human unity and the divine wisdom which shaped the world and shaped human life. And human reason was a way of coming to know the divine reason. That was their whole philosophy. So Paul is really saying more or less what the Stoics would have been. Then he says, He made of every nation to live in the faith that they should feel after him and find him. It's a very beautiful expression, you see. It's a recognition that people were seeking God all over the world. And in Christian tradition, they've often obscured this, but there always has been that recognition that everywhere human beings are seeking God through all the different religions of the world. So there's something very positive there. And then he quotes, In him we live and move and have our being. As even some of your poets have said, we are indeed his offspring. That is a Stoic poet he's quoting from. It's very profound, you see. In him we live and move and have our being.


And that was a Stoic idea that God pervaded the whole universe and everybody participated in the life of God through reason. Reason is the power by which you share this life. So being then God's offspring, we ought not to take the deities like gold or silver or stone or reputation by art and adoration of men. And so he takes the whole idea of idolatry. And then times of ignorance God overlooked and now he commands all men everywhere to repent because he has fixed a day to judge the world in righteousness by the man who will be appointed and be raised from the dead. So he comes around to the gospel preaching of Jesus and the resurrection and that of course is something quite new to them and they don't quite know how to take it. But they're interested. And then it ends with a very interesting point. Some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite. And this, the Areopagus, was of course the center and he must have belonged there.


And this Dionysius gave his name to some writings in the 6th century, the mystical theology and divine names. And this was attributed to this Dionysius the Areopagite. And so his name became famous in history but it really wasn't anything to do with it. And another legend about him is he went to Paris and Denis in Paris is simply a memory of Dionysius the Areopagite who is supposed to have gone there. These are all legends probably but this man gave his name to some very important movements in the church. So as I say, this whole meeting in the Gnathians was very important. It was the first time the gospel encountered Greek philosophy and Greek wisdom and in the next centuries of course Christianity absorbed all this Greek philosophy. Plato and Aristotle, Sir Thomas Aquinas finally sort of built it into a whole system. So this was the beginning of the whole movement in the church.


It all goes now from Athens to Corinth and they compare Athens as rather like Benares or Varanasi the great spiritual center. Corinth is more like Bombay a great commercial center they feel of immorality but also obviously people seeking God and obviously a colony of Jews there, quite strong. And he found a Jew named Aquila the native of Pontus come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because Claudius had commanded all Jews to leave Rome and that was quite well known event if you know the exact date of it 52 or something like that. So that gives this historical context and it's quite important that the Acts of the Apostles are all integrated in the history of the time. It's quite an authentic record. Very important because as you know most religious stories


have a very vague background, especially here in India but in the Acts of the Apostles they have very authentic history and this Aquila and Priscilla are interesting, they are a married couple and the church used to meet in their house. So it's an example of a married couple who acted as kind of leaders of the community. And then it goes on to say they were the same trade, they were tent makers before. And he argued in the synagogue every Sabbath persuaded Jews and Greeks. It always begins with the Jews and then as you saw after testifying the Jews that Christ was Jesus and that Jesus was the Messiah, of course, was the message you see for the Jews. When they opposed, rebelled, he shook up his garments and said to them, your blood be upon your head, from now on I will go to the Gentiles. So this was really a turning point. He always went first


to the Jews, nearly always they rejected the message and so now he turned finally to the Gentiles and of course a great many came in, of course it became a very important center of Gentile Christianity. And then he interesting, the ruler of the synagogue believed in the Lord together with his household. There were always some Jews, you see, who believed and entered the church but the majority would always remain Gentiles. Yes. So as I say, it's a rather important stage. Luke takes you through all these stages of the gospel from Jerusalem to Samaria was one of the first, from the Jews to these unorthodox Jews in Samaria and then going to Antioch where the Greek speaking people were and then turning


more and more to the Gentiles and the Greeks, still going first to the Jews and then finally turning away from the Jews and preaching to the Gentiles. So the gospel spreads from Judea and Palestine to remember, to Asia and then to Europe, to Macedonia and Athens, Corinth, and finally takes you to Rome. So he has the whole thing mapped out in a very interesting way. Good deal about St. Paul Good deal about St. Paul as we read on this story of his life and his postulate. First of all he has this vision Paul had a lot of these visions and revelations, he's got a psychic


personality as we should say and must always remember in such visions they always have a subjective element can be quite objective but at the same time there's always a subjective aspect to it it comes through the human psyche see with all prophecy God may reveal himself to a prophet but it comes through the psyche the cultural formation of the prophet and therefore has a subjective element they never take him simply as objective so Jesus appeared and spoke to Paul it's an inspiration from Jesus came to see through Paul's psychic personality and he receives this message do not be afraid speak, do not be silent for I am with you, no man will attack you, to harm you for I have many people in this city and clearly had a very fruitful postulate in this city of Corinth it often happens a city like Corinth a commercial city with a great deal of immorality it's also a place where


many people are seeking God and obviously he was able to respond to that call and then we have this pro-consul Gallio, a typical Roman and the Jews try to make a case against Paul and Gallio very sensibly says, oh Jews it is a matter of question about words and names in your own law see to it yourselves he didn't want to interfere with this purely religious matter very sensible attitude and I refuse to be a judge of these things he drove them from the tribunal then they all seized Sosthenes the ruler of the synagogue and beat him in front of the tribunal but Gallio paid no attention to this and the Roman government rather like Pilate, rather like that their job was to sort of keep public order they weren't going to get involved in these religious disputes and if people misbehave like that well they could tolerate it but they wouldn't allow any serious


disturbance in the city they were sensible people on the whole this Roman government don't forget they kept the Pax Romana this Roman peace for about four centuries they kept a comparative peace and order throughout a large empire covering most of Europe and part of Africa and Asia it was an extraordinary achievement because these kind of men who kept that should pay our respect to them Paul stayed many days and then took leave at Cancri he cut his hair and he had a bow, another very interesting thing you wouldn't have expected he made these bows, like going to Belangari you see and having his hair cut there it was typical you know pious practice which obviously he felt was meaningful so you can respect him for that also and then he came to Ephesus here I think that's where we take off that's his next great


place for apostolate we had Philippi in Macedonia where he obviously had a very fervent community he writes the letter to Philippi and then he comes to Corinth builds up a church there and he writes the letter to Corinthians and then he goes to Ephesus and builds up a church there it's extraordinary how he had this capacity to build communities he had a very deep foundation of faith in Christ to build this community to become a solid witness to the faith to the gospel for centuries to come so we have to honorate St. Paul for his achievement we have read in the Acts today about this Apollos in the age of Alexandria who received this baptism of John


and apparently it was quite uncommon, I think the sect survived quite a long time who received the baptism of John but hadn't received Christian baptism properly and I forget the history of it but I believe they survived quite a long time and one must remember there was far greater diversity in the early church than we imagined we have a few records of the Acts and so on but there were many groups of Christians which had different views the most obvious of course were the Jewish Christians who went on keeping the law and they died out eventually they formed a sect called the Ebionites and eventually they died out and there were other groups like this it was much more diverse than we imagined and this is a very good man apparently been instructed in the way of the Lord fervent in spirit and taught accurately the things concerning


Jesus so he knew only the baptism of John and then Priscilla and Aquila heard him looking expounded and they noticed this Priscilla she's a woman you know she and her husband they're quite leaders of the church a very interesting married couple and the church met in their house so that's a good example where they were using a ministry in the church which is quite fully recognized again we must remind ourselves that the organization of the church was much more diverse than we imagined bishops and priests only came later the early church was much more diverse there were prophets very important people were the prophets and evangelists, pastors all these different leaders in the communities so we're more aware of the great priority of organization in the early church and this upon us arrived and


computed the Jews in public sharing scriptures I don't know why they translated that Christ was Jesus the obvious meaning is Jesus was the Messiah Jesus was the Messiah the word Christ of course is a Greek translation of Messiah which is the Hebrew so this is an interesting person some people think he might have been the author of the letter to the Hebrews the letter to the Hebrews which was sent off by St. Paul and probably comes from Alexandria it's got the very platonic background to it typical in Alexandria and Apollos is one of the candidates nobody knows actually who did it that's the possibility then today is the ascension tomorrow and it comes as a kind of climax of this Easter season the meaning being that


Jesus departs from the flesh and ascends to the father, he goes to the source of all, and then of course the Pentecost, he descends in the spirit and it isn't that he leaves humanity, he leaves in the flesh the human existence in order to really become present in this divine mode of existence and that's what St. Paul brings out in this reading the working of the great and mighty accomplished in Christ, when he raised him to dread, he had him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places far above all rule and authority and power and dominion think of heavenly places in a physical way but obviously it's not that it's a higher level of being altogether it transcends our present mode of being, of consciousness and enters into the divine mode transcendent


and above all these powers and dominions all these cosmic powers, the powers of this world both good and evil it goes beyond all these powers above every name that is named not only this age, but that which is to come, it's the idea that Jesus transcends all creative being and all spiritual being as well and is one with the absolute supreme, and that is Christian faith and it raises problems, you know when you think of Krishna or Buddha or Rama or all these all these claim in some way to be one with the infinite and each have their place but Jesus has this unique place that he's ascended to beyond the present world and is one with the supreme and beyond all power and authority, dominion or whatever exists in the world and he's put all things under him and made the head over all things


to the church, the whole creation is under his power and then the church is this humanity chosen out of the world and redeemed and made one with Christ that is the church is this new creation when we get out of the first creation it builds up this new creation which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all we have in Sanskrit we have this fullness and the Jesus is said to be his body is said to be the fullness of him who fills all in all God is the supreme fullness and he fills the whole creation, fills humanity in the church with the new creation which he builds up so the whole creation of humanity united with God who is supreme so it's a wonderful revelation this when we reflect on it


we need more and more to and I think particularly today because people are so occupied with the work of the church in the world they tend to neglect to some extent this other aspect which is totally beyond this world, Jesus helped many people in the world and healed and so on, but he goes above the whole and he's carrying the whole creation beyond which there's a state to this new creation this new mode of being and we're all destined for that other mode of being that new life beyond so we all have to keep that in mind And uh, I pray for Thomas himself he is in the 2004, comes to Ephesus which was an important stage he's a philosopher who recorded all these stages he came to Philippia the first place in Europe, Greece and then to Athens


and Corinth which had their importance and Ephesus, with a very important center in Asia Minor, of Gnosticism, of that kind of wisdom which was current, came from the East, probably came from India originally. And that's where St. Paul encountered this deeper philosophy, and it is better to the Ephesians, comes out, he has this new vision of Christ as the firstborn of all creation through whom all things exist. It's a tremendous vision he gets. So it's really important to see how St. Paul's faith grew as he encountered new movements, new understandings. So his faith grew, and the same happens with us, or with the Church continually, as the Church encounters new cultures and ways, and understanding of Christ grows. It's our responsibility here in India. And then it goes on to say about these people who received John's baptism, the Songhefe


Apostle is one, and apparently it is quite common, you see, that John the Baptist must have had many disciples, and they went out and they baptized people in the same way, in the same kind of baptism, repentance, and waiting for the coming of the Messiah. And so Paul gives them the baptism into Christ. Notice he baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. You get baptized in the name of the Trinity today, in the early days, but then in the name of Jesus. And then you get this, see, Paul laid his hands, and then the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke the tongues of prophecy. And from a faithless discernment, you know, you see, they speak of these gifts of the Holy Spirit, and some are essential. Love is the primary and essential gift of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom, and joy, and peace, these are the gifts. But also the accidental gifts. And we speak in the


tongues of prophecy of what we call accidental gifts. They can come from the Holy Spirit, but they depend largely on psychic gifts, which people have. They're not necessarily from the Spirit, because we have tongues, and we can prophesy without the Holy Spirit. And so we have to discern, as I say, between the essential gifts, which are given to all and which constitute Christian perfection, Christian fulfillment, and these secondary gifts, which can be given and may not be given to some, not to others. And they're also said to be given for others, rather. Tongues and prophecy are not given for yourself, they're given for others, to help others. And they have their place, but we shouldn't exaggerate these gifts, the poor fields of them, we have to decorate them very effectively, because people easily make too much of them, they think everything is in tongues and prophesying, when I say quite secondary gifts, but we should keep that in mind. And then he spoke boldly


in the synagogue for three months, speaking about the Kingdom of God. And clearly it was one of his most effective years of teaching. He spent, I think it was, two or three years, I forget the exact number of times, but he had a very, very fruitful time, and Ephesus, you know, became one of the great centers of Christianity for many years. So see each stage of development, how the Gospel grows, and how its meaning gradually also grows with each stages. It inculcates new cultures, it also opens to new understandings, I think that's the lesson we need to learn. Fading this story of the Acts and the Apostles, we come to St. Paul's day in Ephesus, where he spent three years, and at the end of his day he gathers the community together and


he takes leave of them, and we read this farewell speech. And he says, Take heed yourselves to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit is made to oversee us, to care for the Church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. There's several things of interest here. First of all, he speaks of the flock in which the Holy Spirit is made to oversee us. He wasn't an overseer in Greek, there's episkopos, which we get the word bishop. And at this stage, the bishop was simply one of the many people who were in charge of the Church, who haven't got the meaning which it has today. And it's interesting, he speaks of the Church of God, and today we recognize the Church is present in every local church. The Church is not one monolithic whole. It's a communion of churches, of local churches all over the world, which are in communion with one another,


and recognize a center in Rome. But it's the local church, it's the Church of God, it's the Church of God in Shanty-Wana, it is the church here. It's not simply a part, it is the whole church is present in every part, because Christ himself is present in every Christian community, which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. You see, the church is this community which created through the pastoral ministry through the death and resurrection of Christ. And then he said, I know that after my departure, just wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. In your own self will arise men speaking perverse things. And the church has always been subject to these controversies and conflicts, and one must recognize it from the very earliest times, it occurred right from apostolic times, and it goes on. And in a sense it's inevitable, you can't get everybody to agree on everything, there will always be division, there will always be adversity, and we have to learn


to live with them. Today we're learning to live with these differences. There are many Christian churches, they all have some truth in them, and we have to recognize the values in each and truth, not simply to reject them. In the earliest ages, they rather tended simply to reject anybody who differed in any way. But today we try, through humanism, to recognize the values of each church, not simply to reject. And then he says, remember for three years I did not cease night and day, admonishing every one of you with tears. Now I commend you to God. And one can see that Paul's apostolate was one of extreme humanity. He gave his whole heart to his disciples, and to feel the deep love he had for them, which they had for him. It's very touching in many of his letters, and you see it here very clearly, where he says, when he had spoken, he knelt down, and they all wept and embraced Paul and kissed


him, sorrowing most of all, because were he to have spoken, they would see his face no more. So there was a real bond of human, not just divine human love, but divine love, which is also totally human, and that is really what we see. And then he goes on to say, I coveted no man's silver or gold, nor that these can minister to my necessity. And Paul always boasted that he earned his own living. He was a tent maker, and he earned his living wherever he went. He was very proud of that. He said he could have depended on others, but he preferred to have that independence. And perhaps it's a good example for us all we all need to be able to support ourselves to some extent. And in all things I've shown you, that by toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, more blessed to give than to receive. And that has been a constant practice in the Church, that in the earliest times, the support of the poorer


and the weaker people has always been very strong, particularly widows and orphans were of particular concern, but also anybody indeed. And every Christian community has that call to be concerned for the poorer members, for the weaker, for the suffering, and so on. So we get a good model of the Church here. We see very much what the Church was, and what it is called to be. And that's why reading these texts is helpful for us day by day. We ask the Apostles to come towards the end for Luke's purpose, which is to show how the Gospel spread from Jerusalem to Rome. He takes it step by step to Jerusalem and to Samaria, and then to Antioch, Asia Minor, and then to Europe, Greece. And now he shows how when St. Paul was a captive here in Caesarea, we've missed out a good deal,


we don't read it all. He first of all appealed through his Roman citizenship. Are you a Roman citizen, the tribune said. He said yes. The tribune answered, I brought this citizenship for a large sum. Paul said, I was born a Roman citizen. So he only took advantage of whatever status he had. And to be a Roman citizen gave you very great privileges in the Empire. So he takes advantage of that, and for that reason he can appeal to the Emperor, and it's that way he comes to Rome. Not through any effort of his own, but he's taken there by the soldiers, having the right to appeal to the Emperor. And then in the passage we're reading, they have this dispute in the council, and again St. Paul shows his skill in debate. He sees that they're divided between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and so he says, I'm a Pharisee, son of Pharisees, respect to the


hope of the resurrection, I'm on trial. And the difference was, the Sadducees were more old-fashioned. They had the older tradition, because the belief in the resurrection was comparatively recent, to get to the book of Daniel, the second century before Christ. But it was really before that that the Jews had no hope of resurrection, very strange, but there was no belief in a future life. And only towards the end did they believe in resurrection, also believe in the angels, that came very much through Persian influence again in the fourth century and so on. So the Sadducees represented the more conservative party, and the Pharisees were the more up-to-date. And St. Paul allies himself with the Pharisees. And so he didn't support his case, they find nothing wrong with him, maybe a spirit or an angel spoke to him. And then it gets very violent, and the centurion, the tribune has to...


So the tribune has to rescue him. It's very interesting, you see, St. Paul feels for the Pharisees first, but his real strength is that as a Roman citizen he had the right to be for fair trial and for fair treatment, and so he's rescued by the Romans and given his freedom. So it's rather important, you see, the Roman Empire became a great enemy of the Church at various times, but at other times it was a great support. And most of the New Testament they always say pray for the Emperor and all the authority of the Church on the whole, and kept good terms with the Roman authority. I think we should turn to the story of the Acts of the Apostles. We continue with the


story of St. Paul in prison at Caesarea. And I think the main thing is that it brings out the significance of the Roman Empire at this time. The Christianity grew up in the Roman Empire. Palestine was a province of the Roman Empire, and it had its disadvantages. The Pilate certainly didn't behave in the best way, but it also had a great good on its side. And it was the first time in history, really, that an empire was really based on law. Roman law was a just law, and on the whole it was observed justly. And we see it very clearly here. You see, Paul is accused at Jerusalem by the Jews of various crimes, chiefly of denying of claiming Christ from the resurrection. And the chief priests and elders of the Jews gave information about him, asking for sentence against him. And


I answered, it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused, let the accused have face-to-face and had an opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge made against him. You see, a law like that was something very new, and it prevailed all over the Roman Empire. Whatever realm was in charge, you had the right to put your case when you were accused. And it's a very important stage, you see, today. We more or less take it for granted that law can be rebused, it's true, but the law is still there, and that makes all the difference. So Rome really established this principle of law, and Paul took full advantage of it, you see. So when they came together and so on, the accuser stood up and brought no charge. It's very interesting from the Roman point of view, you see. It was no serious matter, but their own superstition about one Jesus who was dead but whom Paul answered to be alive. And that's how the gospel would have appeared to a Roman


governor, some Jewish superstition about somebody who's supposed to be dead and somebody else says he's alive. Well, I can understand how they regarded it as a superstition which had no relevance at all. And that was the Roman view of Christianity for a considerable time, until the apologists came and began to explain deeper what it really meant. And then gradually, of course, it took possession of the Roman Empire, but it took a long time. And then when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, see, he had a right as a Roman citizen to appeal to the emperor. It's an amazing thing when you think of it, as an ordinary citizen in Palestine, if he was accused and had a case, he could appeal to the emperor. And he was sent to Rome, you see, by the Roman authorities. I commanded to be held until I could send him to Caesar. And so that's how he comes to Rome, simply because the Roman authorities sent him there.


This story of St. Paul coming to the end now of the Acts of the Apostles, and as you know, St. Luke brings himself from Jerusalem to Rome, which is the last stage. And here, as Paul says, he makes his defense, I've done nothing against the people or the customs of our fathers, but I was delivered to the prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. And when they examined me, they wished to set me at liberty because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. Now, the Romans, you see, were defending Paul all the time. It's very interesting, the Jews were attacking him and the Romans were defending him. When the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar. I had no charge of being against my nation, and so on. And so he makes this appeal, and he's kept there for two years. He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed


all who came to him. And St. Paul's imprisonment seemed to be very mild affairs. Also, when he was in Rome, he was imprisoned, and he seemed to be quite free to meet people, to preach the Gospel, and so on. So it says he preached the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered. So the Acts give a very good impression of the Roman Empire. It was an institution which brought law and order wherever it went, and a great deal of liberty, and defended the just cause. So perhaps it's a little important that it was the Roman Empire which really enabled the Christian faith to spread through the world. And it's quite true it persecuted it at various stages, very severely at some. But there were others, large periods, when there was no persecution, and the faith simply spread. So we should look at it with some moderation, not to feel that the Romans were


the persecutors. True, Pilate gave Jesus up to death, but even he wanted to free Jesus. So the Romans on the whole come out well, I think. ...the cross tomorrow, and this gift of the Holy Spirit. Of course, in a sense, it's the culmination of the whole Church's year, and there are many ways we could look at it. The way, the feeling we have today from the Corinthians is rather the Spirit as the principle of life in the Church, the whole Church. You see, in a very deep sense, Jesus comes, lives on Earth, dies, rises again, and then brings to birth this new humanity, this new community of love, and communicates the Spirit. And the Spirit is that power which animates the Church in its essential nature. And, of course, we always have the problem that the Church


becomes a big institution, filled with all sorts of people, and manifests many qualities not of the Holy Spirit at all, but still at the center of the Church, at the heart, there is always this presence of the Holy Spirit. And that is the sort of guiding principle, you see, it says, St. Paul says, there are varieties of gifts of the same Spirit, varieties of service of the same Lord, varieties of working with the same God, the Spouse of the Lord, and everyone. And all these gifts and services and workings of God that are in the Church, and they all come from the same Spirit. And each has given his own gift, in the sense that every person in the Church has his own unique gift to the Spirit. You see, the Spirit is different in each person, isn't it? It's one, and yet in each person it's unique. You always see that according to our own unique capacity, some more, some less, some in one way, some in another, but each one has a unique gift to the Spirit, and I think it's worth


reflecting, you see, that each one has something which no one else can give, not in the world, but in the particular gift that I have. And when we open our hearts, then God can work this unique work in each one. I think that's very much what St. Paul means, each is given a manifest dissipation of the Spirit for the common good. And then he compares it to a body with many members, you see, one by one Spirit, we're all baptized into one body. And this sense of belonging to one body, and of course we have to see the Church in its fullest manifestation, which embraces humanity. Some measure the Holy Spirit is given to every human being, and so the whole of humanity forms this body of Christ, and in it there is this one Spirit which is working to bring humanity into unity. Today we feel very much this basic unity of humanity, and at the same time the tremendous divisions in it. And nothing but


this gift of the Spirit can create that unity in humanity as a whole. And that's our responsibility. We can only do it on a small scale, but wherever you are, whatever group you belong to, you have to try to discover that unity in the Spirit. We're all made to drink of the one Spirit, you see, it's the life principle Jesus said in the Gospel to the Samaritan woman that the water that I will give will be a spring of water and bring me up to eternal life. It is this gift of the Spirit to drink of that gift. So we all have a great responsibility, each one has this unique gift, and only if we're open to it can it work in us. And then it's done not only for ourselves, it's done for the common good, and the community has its own unique gift. And every community in the Church, in families, in groups, whatever, has its own gift to the Spirit, and we're building up the Church in that way. And then of course it extends beyond the visible Church to the invisible Church, to humanity as a whole.


And God is at work building up this one humanity through the Spirit. And that is really the meaning and purpose of human history and of human existence. So we all try to realize a little, this great mystery that you said about the Pentecost, is the coming of the Spirit into humanity to transform the whole world. It may not appear on the surface, but still beneath the surface that work is always going on. Please, from the beginning of these letters from Paul, often very instructively, give us an insight into the Church at his time and into the nature of the Church as a whole. He begins, Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and Paul is very conscious of this calling. He was called by God and by this will of God to be


an apostle. And then he says, to the Church of God this is occurring. And it's very important today we emphasize very much the local Church, that the Church is composed of these many churches, and each is a Church of God. God is present in each church, Christ is present, and they form a communion, and they share together, and they have their center in Rome and also in other centers, in the early church there are several others, and all form one communion, and yet each is a Church of God in its own place. And then he says, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints. And this applies to everyone who is baptized, who is sanctified in Christ Jesus by baptism and called to be a saint. Very remote for many people today, of course, but still we should keep it in mind that it's always that it's the type of the Church, that it's the inner reality of the Church, it may be very different in its external form, but still we should never forget the inner reality is


that baptism is sanctified as a gift of the Holy Spirit, we were thinking, given to each person, which makes them holy, makes them saints. And together with all those in every place called in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, each local community is linked up and communed with all the other communities, and that's the structure of the Church. In the bishops, as they were called in the Eucharist, the bishop always remembered the other bishops, the other churches all through the world, and that's how the Church kept in communion. And we were in every place called in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and calling on the name is characteristic, and as you know, there's tremendous emphasis on the name, but it's so much in the secret, it's the name of God, and thus the name of Christ has this power, this meaning in it. Then grace and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, again it's interesting, God is always the Father, and Jesus is the


Lord. Scarcely ever is Jesus called God, if I could emphasize that. God is the Father, Jesus is the Lord, who receives his Lordship from the Father. St. Peter says in the Day of Pentecost, this Jesus whom you crucify, God has made Lord and Christ. God has made Lord and Christ. Jesus receives everything from the Father. Lordship is Messiah, it's Godhead itself, it's from the Father, from himself. Very important aspect of the whole Christian history. And then, I give thanks to God because the grace which was given you in Christ Jesus, again it reminds us of the whole Christian life, it's the script of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God which comes from it, you were enriched in him with all speech and knowledge. It's very important, this gnosis, you see, speech is one thing, and then this gnosis, this knowledge, it's not ordinary knowledge, you see, it's insight,


we often call this knowledge, insight, insight into the mystery of Christ. And every Christian through the gift of the Holy Spirit has that capacity to know the mystery of Christ. Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed among us, you're not lacking in any spiritual gift. It's a weight for the living. And, you see, every Christian has a spiritual gift which carries them, as they're called, and they're offered to every Christian in the church through baptism, receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then these varying gifts are given to all, with all the feeling we had this morning, the various gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit in the church. And wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. There's still that very, very strong sense of waiting for the parousia, the coming, and I think we all ought to have that, we're all waiting for the fullness of knowledge, we have a certain insight, a certain knowledge, but we're all waiting for the final revelation, for the fullness.


It remains true all through history to the end of the world, waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God, if you like, who will sustain us, the unguiltiest, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. He speaks one word, it is the day of the Lord. And it's a very important thing, we're waiting for that day, the day of fulfillment. In all Christian life it's expectation, it's hope, it's waiting, it's pilgrimage towards gold, towards an end. And God is faithful, by whom you were called, into the fellowship of his Son, this is his koinonia, the Greek word koinos means common, koinonia is community, communion, common life, they all have that meaning. And by our baptism and confirmation we enter into this koinonia, this common life with Jesus Christ, the Son, and with the Father. So Pope John says, our koinonia is with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. So you see the whole Christian


mystery is contained here, and it's present for every Christian, in principle. In principle if you're a baptized Christian, the whole mystery of Christ is made present. Of course if you realize it, we all have the responsibility to realize it.