Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!" And immediately he got up. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, "Please come to us without delay." So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, "Tabitha, get up." Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.
How shall I repay the Lord
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will raise,
and I will call upon the name of the Lord. (R./)
My vows to the Lord I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the eyes of the Lord
is the death of his faithful ones. (R./)
O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have removed my bonds.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the Lord. (R./)
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father." Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.
So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Through the Easter season the risen Christ is summoning what seems dead within us, to make it bud forth into new existence. But despite this inner transition within ourselves, we continue to be recognisable the same as before. The lady whom Peter called back to life was the same Dorcas whose "good deeds and acts of charity" had established a family bond with many of the poor and oppressed, particularly with the widows in the city of Joppa. "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless, The words I spoke to you are spirit and life." "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." If I decide to follow Peter's example and to kneel in prayer, believing that God can work miracles, if he wills. Do I accept that God can achieve what seems impossible for weak human nature? "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh cannot do it."
We are inspired by the story of Peter's missionary efforts to bring the faith to the wider world. On his journeys he often had the power of working miracles. God does not ask the ordinary person to such heights. Still, all of us are summoned occasionally to things out of the ordinary. The wonders we are called to do may not be as startling Peter bringing a dead person back to life. But God may suddenly ask me to forgive another person, or to be silent and no longer make an issue out of an unpleasant situation, to accept the loss of a friend or relative, to live silently and patiently with an ailment. Moments of heroic faith come occasionally. We think that God is asking the impossible, but "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh cannot do it."
In John's gospel, Jesus often asks very probing questions. We find one of them today, when he asks the Twelve, 'What about you, do you want to go away too?' In the previous verses many of his followers are depicted as leaving Jesus because of his words about needing to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Their leaving is the occasion for Jesus to place the twelve before a moment of decision, 'Do you want to go away too?' He was probing, looking for them to make a personal decision as to whether they would stay with him or leave him like so many others.
The risen Lord looks for a similar personal decision from us, asking us, 'do you want to go away too?' In the culture in which we live not everyone has chosen to respond in faith to the Lord's presence and call. As a result, we each have to make a more personal and more deliberate decision for the Lord than was needed in the past, the kind of decision the Lord looks for in this morning's gospel. As we strive to make that decision we can do no better than to make our own the response of Peter to Jesus' question, 'Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.'