The first reading reminds us about evangelization and suffering for the faith. Paul and Barnabas converted many people in Jesus’ name. They began to set up the first local primitive dioceses or parishes of the time. However, they reminded the people that suffering was part of the package if they want to enter God’s kingdom (Luke 9:62). God’s grace was working in them and brought the seeds of their work to flourish (Romans 11:6, Ephesians 2:8). In today’s world, we see so much hatred against God and the Church. Religion is being pushed aside as irrelevant and useless.
Christians are being persecuted and slandered as being backward or an annoyance. We all must bear with this. Suffering for the faith gives testimony that the faith is true and scares the world. If the faith was not true, then the world would not focus so much attacks on it. Think about this carefully. Nevertheless, we must not become cowards and hide our faith for God’s spirit is not a cowardly one (2 Timothy 1:7). We must proclaim it boldly and face whatever may come from it (Romans 5:3-4). God is number one which is what the responsorial Psalm reminds us of today. We must praise God’s name forever. God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger. All creation must thank God for everything. God is God. There is only one. God loves us so much that He became one of us in all things except sin (John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:21). He dwells with us even today as we read in the second reading.
God dwells with the human race. He is with His people. God is with us in the Blessed Sacrament. We see bread and wine, but in reality these are the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ after consecration at Mass (John 6, 1 Corinthians 10:16). Like the Jews with the Ark of the Covenant, we have our own holy of holies in the Holy Eucharist (Joshua 7:6, 1 Samuel 5:3). Jesus awaits us in every parish and chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. We should make time to spend with him in the silence of His Sacramental presence (Matthew 18:20). There He will wipe away our tears as we tell Him of our struggles and ask for His help.
In the Gospel, we read of how Christ is glorified because He is God. He ascended into heaven in His human form, but is still present with us in the Blessed Sacrament. He calls us to love one another (John 15:12). When we love one another and our enemies, this shows we are His disciples because Jesus is all about love and mercy (Luke 5:32, Matthew 5:44). Unfortunately, we see so many ‘Pharisees’ in the Church and even in Protestant sects who claim to follow Christ, but promote animosity, gossip and discord. There are those who refuse to help those who come to our nation and who ask for help as refugees. They even attack the Pope for reaching out to others who are not Christian or may be living publicly in sin while calling themselves ‘true Catholics.’ This is not a sign of discipleship in Christ. It is a sign of arrogance and hypocrisy (Matthew 7:9, Matthew 6:5). This is surely a path to hell and not heaven for not everyone who cries out “Lord Lord” will enter God’s heavenly paradise (Matthew 7:21). In this year of Mercy, love and compassion must accompany our evangelization. We must not treat others who are not Catholic as pariahs or unworthy of our acknowledgement or time. Rather, we must welcome them with open arms showing them the love of Christ. Let us go out and preach the Word with love and mercy; seek God in the Holy Eucharist and love on another. Those who pray all day and live life judging others and not loving them are only fooling themselves. God will say to them, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).