Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded of the need for all of us to be constantly filled with God’s love and grace, to be genuine in our faith and devotion to God, and to be sincere in following Him that we all may reflect the fullness of God’s love and compassion in our own lives. God has loved us all so much that He has given us His generous love which He has shown through His Church and by which He has called on all of us to be His disciples so that, as we turn towards Him and enter into His love, we may be saved from everlasting death.
In our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles we heard of the conclusion of the First Council of Jerusalem in which the Apostles, led by St. Peter made an important decision on behalf of the entire Church with regards to the issue on whether the Church need to follow and obey the Jewish laws and customs, and whether those laws ought to be imposed on the non-Jewish people or the Gentiles or not. These matters divided the Church and the faithful back then quite bitterly, and the factions were in heated argument between each other.
The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among the early converts to the Christian faith were on one side, arguing that all the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people must also follow the entire Jewish laws and customs, such as circumcision and many other rules as established by the Jewish tradition. This would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles to convert and become Christians as some of those regulations and customs were abhorred and found as incompatible by the societies in which the Gentiles came from, such as the Greeks and the Romans among others.
On the other side, St. Paul, St. Barnabas and all others who had ministered to the Gentiles spoke up on their behalf, in insisting that the Jewish laws and customs should not be imposed on all the faithful and the Gentiles should not be forced to do what was really difficult and unnecessary for them to do. After all, the Lord Himself has always criticised the excesses with which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law enforced their version of the law and the commandments, imposing very heavy demands that the Jews themselves were unable to comply with, and even while followed, but those who followed them did not genuinely believe in God.
That was why, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and the Council decided that all the faithful had no obligation to obey the full laws, rules and regulations as stipulated in the old laws and rules handed down from Moses and which since then had been heavily modified and expanded, and in the way they were practiced, they had lost their true meaning and purpose. Instead, the Apostles, represented by St. Peter, declared that what was truly necessary for all Christians, be it Jews or Gentiles alike, is to adhere to the core tenets of the faith, that is to act justly, avoid fornication and sinful ways, and to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.
The Lord sent forth His disciples to call all the people therefore to His presence, to turn away from their sins and wicked ways, and embrace wholeheartedly henceforth His ways, His commandments and laws. Just as all had been called to love the Lord, we all have been called to be bearers of this love, to make Him the focus and the centre of our whole life and existence. And we have to live our lives in this way, just as the Lord in our Gospel passage today spoke of the commandment He has entrusted to us, that we all love one another in the same way that we ought to love Him and dedicate ourselves to Him.
Unless we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ, then our faith is empty and meaningless, and no different from the faith of hypocrites. If we love only ourselves and not all our fellow brethren around us, then we should not call ourselves as Christians, because to be Christians means that we believe in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour wholeheartedly and entirely, that we embody His teachings, truth and ways in our every day living. This is what it truly means for us to be Christians, and that just as the Lord loves everyone, every single one of His children without exception, then we should also aspire to love all to the best of our abilities too.
In this season and time of Easter, all of us are called to be courageous in faith, as well as to renew our commitments to the Lord. We are all called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, in being good role models and guides of our faith, that we may become inspirations for one another, and that we can help strengthen each other in the daily struggles in life we face. This is why we are reminded and called to be good Christians, not just as mere formality only. We must have that strong and ardent desire to seek the Lord and to love Him from now on.
Let us all therefore reach out to our fellow brethren, especially those who need much love, and those who have been ostracised and forgotten, marginalised and oppressed. Let us all bring God’s love, hope and light into their midst, and be the concrete proof of God’s love in our respective communities, that this world will become an ever better place for all of us. Let us all commit the effort, time and attention for this, brothers and sisters, responding to the Lord’s call as best as we can.
May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to guide us through life, that all of us may grow ever stronger in our love for Him, and that in all things, we may continue to love Him and also our fellow brothers and sisters, as genuine and dedicated Christians, now and always. Amen.