4th Week of Easter, Tuesday, April 27
Acts 11:19-26 /
Jesus speaks about discipleship: "My sheep hear my voice and follow me. "
"Two shepherds were separating their flocks after their sheep had shared the same pen for the night. The first shepherd called, "Manah" (Arabic for "Follow me"). At once his sheep came to him. The second shepherd did the same with the same results.A visitor, familiar with Jesus' words in today's gospel and interested in testing them, put on the outer cloak and turban of the first shepherd and called, "Manah?' The sheep didn't budge. "Will your flock ever follow someone other than you?" asked the visitor. "Yes," said the shepherd. "Sometimes a sheep gets sick and will follow anyone."
How carefully do we listen to the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd— and follow him faithfully in all situations? "The LORD is my shepherd He guides me in right paths." Psalm
Antioch was the third biggest city in the Roman empire after Rome and Alexandria. It was an international city. The Roman legate (we might call him High Commissioner) for Syria and Palestine had his residence there. It is to this town that many disciples fled in the persecution. There they preached, not only to Jews, but also the Gentiles who too embraced the new faith. The apostles thought they would like to get some objective information. They chose Barnabas. They could not have chosen a better man. He had been one of those who had sold his property and given the whole amount for charity. When Paul came to Jerusalem after his conversion, even the Christians were afraid of him and shut their doors to him. Barnabas took him to the apostles (9.26). In the meantime, Paul had gone home to Tarsus. Barnabas needed Paul. He went personally to Tarsus.
"Christ needs you", he told him. Paul closed his shop and came with Barnabas to Antioch, where they worked, instructing the people. They went together to Jerusalem with a collection they had made for the needy in Judaea. Barnabas especially chose Paul to help build his reputation in Jerusalem. The faithful were called Christians for the first time in Antioch.
The Christians of Antioch, the first to be called “Christians” as disciples of Christ, were of two kinds: those Greek-speaking of Jewish origin, who had fled to Antioch from the persecuted Church in Jerusalem. They communicated their faith to their fellow Jews, but they must have spoken of their faith in Christ also to some people of pagan roots who accepted Christ, now no longer as the promised Messiah but as the Lord of all. This placed the Church in a dilemma. Were these marginal Christians only second-class followers of Christ? Barnabas, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognized God’s grace at work in them. Where the official Church of Jerusalem hesitates, Barnabas reads the signs of the times. To him, it is God’s will that these people accept Christ as their Lord. He faces and solves the missionary problems locally and is not afraid to go new ways.
The feast of the dedication of the temple is called Hanukkah today. It recalls that triumphant event when Judas Maccabaeus reconsecrated the temple and altar, three years to the day after Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 BC had installed a statue of Zeus in the temple. Then the Jews asked Jesus with some annoyance: "If you are the Christ, tell us openly". They got the greatest self-manifestation so far made by Jesus: "I and the Father are one" (verse 29). In what are they one? They are one in love and in will. One in love means the love between the Father and Son, which is the Holy Spirit, who in his love, proceeds from the Father and the Son. One in will, shows itself in what Jesus does. What he does is what the Father wants him to do. To do the will of the Father, is for him food and drink. He will be obedient unto death. The Father's will is that all men should belong to Jesus forever and that he will give them eternal life.
During this season of Easter, one of the necessary reflections that we must make is to think about what being a Christian is all about. The word Christian means "being anointed" or the "anointed ones". So, what are we anointed for, and what should we do as Christians? In short, we are to proclaim the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is THE Anointed One. A quick glance through the Acts of the Apostles will give us a picture of how this Good News was proclaimed.
Lord God, our Father, the Spirit of Jesus calls us, as he called your Son, to abandon our old selves and our old world to be free for new life and growth. Forgive us our fear and hesitations, lead us out of our worn-out phrases and habits, and our self-made certainties, steep us in the Gospel of your Son, that his Good News may become credible in our times and our world. We ask you this through Christ, our Lord. Amen