Reflection for Sunday – March 17, 2024

Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5: 7-9; John 12: 20-33 
Preacher: Gloria Ulterino

This homily is different.  It came in a flash!  In the person of Prisca, a first century woman about whom I’ve researched and written.  Why?  Because, she seemed to fulfill God’s promise made to the prophet Jeremiah—then in exile, some 450 years before Jesus.   Remember the words?  “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  (See Jeremiah 31:33.)  Those divine words clearly were at work in her.  How might they be at work in us, as well?  Today, this very day?

Allow me, then, to introduce to you to my friends, Prisca and her husband Aquila.  First century tent makers, friends of Paul, and powerful preachers of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  In their day, she and Aquila were banished from their home and work in Rome by Emperor Claudius.  Why?  Because they had persisted in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ … week in and week out … at their early morning services on Sunday, a workday in the Roman Empire. 

Now what?  Where would they go?  What would they do?  Finally, they understood the Word, and the challenge, that God was placing in their hearts.  Yes, they would leave Rome; but Corinth beckoned.  Indeed, they could earn a living there, selling their tents.  You see, every May and June, the famous Isthmian Games took place there.  Surely, this would be a place where they could sell their tents.  And who knows what other possibilities would present themselves?

Here’s a question for each of us.  Have we ever been displaced, or experienced being out of place in a no-longer-familiar scene or situation?  Have we ever felt the urgent need to move on, when all we really wanted to do was to simply remain?  To hope and pray that everything would settle down again, to be just like it was before?  “Oh, please God, don’t ask me to change!”  Does any of that sound familiar?

Regardless, it happened to Prisca and Aquila.  For it was in Corinth that they first met Paul.  And their lives would never again be the same!  Almost in an instant, it seemed, they became his fast and faithful friends.  On one level, their tent-making business grew by leaps and bounds.  But on a far deeper level, they grew in unimagined ways.  Inspired by Christ, and encouraged by their good friend Paul, they simply exuded their growing, ongoing belief in the life-giving power of Jesus, the Crucified and Living One in their midst.  Yes, they had come to know him well, in the very depths of their hearts and souls.  And they could not keep the Good News to themselves!

 Here’s another question for us: when and how has life changed for us?  (It never does stay the same, does it?)  Has there been a time when all seemed to be lost?  Or, when it appeared that life was passing us by?  Or even, when we felt stuck in mediocrity, wondering how best to move on?  At such a time, have new friends appeared, who have seen the best in us and called it forth?  Has life, then, improved for the better?  Whether dramatically, or even one day at a time?  Where and how might we name and honor any friends who have urged us to become all that we can be?  In other words, who have become sources of encouragement on our life’s journey? 

Yes, Prisca and Aquila accompanied Paul to Ephesus, and remained there for a while to nurture yet one more house Church.  Paul, of course, continued on his missionary travels throughout the Mediterranean world.  In different ways, and in different places, all three ultimately discovered and lived out this essential truth: that nothing, absolutely nothing, can or will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Not hardship.  Not life’s struggles (in which we all share).  Nothing!  For Jesus truly lived into and out of his profound love for the God of all creation and all creatures.  So that we might become the potential that his God had so carefully and lovingly placed in every human heart, no matter what.

One final question: how and when have we discovered a piece of our genuine, true selves, the very ones dreamed by God into existence for the good of our world?  How have we tried to work with and through our inevitable difficulties, which every human life encounters?  Is there more that might yet be revealed in the creation of our best selves?  For, as Jeremiah once declared: God has written divine hopes and dreams into every human heart.  Are we listening well?  And responding?

Gloria Ulterino
Latest posts by Gloria Ulterino (see all)