Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this occasion today as we continue to live through the glorious season of Easter, each and every one of us are continuously reminded that as Christians all of us have the obligation to be the bearers of God’s truth in our lives and within our every communities. We are all called to follow the Lord with all of our hearts and to show our faith through our every words, deeds and actions. We must no longer be lukewarm in our faith but instead we must live our faith with ever greater enthusiasm and zeal from now on.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have known God and the truth about Him has been revealed to us all through His Church, through the same Apostles to whom God Himself had revealed Himself. Those Apostles and many other disciples had followed the Lord, witnessed His many wonderful works and miracles, and through the revelation of truth and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit they had received knowledge and understanding of the Truth and the salvation of God through Christ.
It is from these Apostles then that all of us, many people had received the truth and the Good News of salvation of God. St. Paul and St. Barnabas among the many other missionaries of the faith had travelled far and wide, and preached the Good News in various places and communities. But at the same time, as we heard in our first reading today, they did not have it easy and had a lot of challenges as they carried out their mission. They encountered tough opposition from the Jewish community in one of the cities they visited during their missionary travels.
At that time, many of the cities and towns across various parts of the Mediterranean region and beyond had sizeable Jewish populations and communities, as the descendants of the Israelites spread during the few centuries since their exile in Babylon and in further lands, and during the past few centuries of increased openness and migration patterns during the Hellenistic era that lasted through the early years of the Christian Church and faith. Just like the Jews in Judea, Jerusalem and Galilee, the Jewish diaspora communities were also divided in their outlook of things, their way of life and the diversity of their thoughts.
Quite a few among the Jews were open minded and they were very receptive of the foreign practices of the Greeks, the Romans and the other Gentiles, and in fact some even adopted some of these practices themselves, while others had been pretty much assimilated into their respective greater societies. Meanwhile, there were also quite a few among the Jews who were still very conservative then, keeping closely to the traditions and customs of the Jewish people, much like the Pharisees in the land of Israel. In fact, some of these Jewish diaspora were themselves likely to be member of the Pharisees, like that of St. Paul himself before his conversion.
That was why, the Apostles encountered a lot of resistance during some parts of their travels and works, as some of the Jews carried on the same attitude and prejudices of the Pharisees, while others might have heard the news of what had happened in Judea and Jerusalem, and toed in the line of the Sanhedrin and the Jewish elders in rejecting Jesus and His teachings. This went even to the extent of those people inciting a riot in the city and also spread false news in order for the whole town to reject and cast the Apostles out of their place.
This was just some of the challenges that the Apostles and the disciples then had to face, as they also encountered tough challenges and oppositions from the Gentiles. While quite a few among the Gentiles were willing to learn more about the faith and some were very enthusiastic in welcoming Christ into their hearts and into their communities, there were also quite a few of those who disliked the Christian faith and viewed it as a threat against their own pagan faith, worship and also way of life. And hence, persecution, challenges and oppressions came from many origins for our first Christian brothers and sisters.
Yet, these did not dampen their spirits or their courage to continue to preach the Good News and reaching out to others, even to those who have rejected and persecuted them. The first Christians, the many saints and martyrs walked in the path of the Apostles and that of St. Paul and St. Barnabas, fearlessly being witnesses of their faith in God in all occasions, and because of this, countless souls had been saved and many more were brought closer to God’s salvation.
Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have been entrusted with the responsibilities to carry on the good works of our devoted predecessors. Are we able and willing to follow in their footsteps in serving God? Are we able to spend the time and effort to be the bearers of the Good News and the witnesses of our Lord’s truth and resurrection to all those whom we encounter in life? Let our every words, actions and deeds be exemplary and bring hope to many people around us.
May the Lord be with us always and may He strengthen us in our resolve and courage to live our lives with faith and dedication from now on. May the Lord bless us all and may He guide us in our journey of faith, now and always. Amen.