Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter ©, May 19th, 2019:
Today’s gospel gives us a vignette of Jesus’s Passion and Death. It is another short story within the larger story. This vignette gives us Jesus’s essential command to His disciples and to us today: “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other”(John 13:34). This is a new commandment because it is modeled on something new-Jesus’s love for His disciples. Earlier in this chapter Jesus has washed the feet of His disciples, including Judas. Jesus tells His disciples that He is their teacher and as a teacher He has washed their feet. Jesus did so to be an example that they must follow. Jesus tells His disciples that mutual love must be the hallmark, the indispensable sign of their own discipleship after Jesus leaves this world. Jesus tells this to His disciples after Judas has left and entered into darkness. Jesus speaks this to His own disciples, minus the one who would betray Him. Jesus delivers this lesson to His Own, His dearest, most trusted friends.
What does that indispensable, mutual love look like? One answer is in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit grows this church, the Catholic Church, which is in its infancy in today’s reading. God’s Holy Spirit has opened the doors of faith to the Gentiles, as well as the Jews. God sends down benefits and fills our souls. Listen to these phrases from today’s reading: “After Paul and Barnabas had PROCLAIMED THE GOOD NEWS in that city (Derbe)”(Acts 14:21). “…and MADE NUMEROUS DISCIPLES….”(Acts 14:21). “…they retraced their steps to Lystra and Iconium first, then to Antioch”(Acts 14:21). It is in Antioch of Pisidia that they were expelled due to the jealousy of the Jews. Sts. Paul and Barnabas had been persecuted in Antioch of Pisidia. They return to danger. In Antioch of Pisidia, “They GAVE THEIR DISCIPLES REASSURANCES, AND ENCOURAGED THEM TO PERSEVERE IN THE FAITH….”(Acts 14:22). So, this love Jesus tells His disciples to practice would have us proclaim the good news to others, to make more disciples. This love would have us face danger courageously and reassure those who already have this beautiful Roman Catholic faith to persevere in it. Jesus wants our practice of this love of His to strengthen our faith and the faith of others. Sts. Paul and Barnabas preach.
Here is another important point: The two establish teaching authority and priests in every church they establish. The tasks of those priests would be to lead their respective churches and to perform liturgical rites in them. Those priests have teaching authority.
Then, Sts. Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch of Syria. It was in that church that the Holy Spirit designated Paul and Barnabas for this (dangerous) mission. They will return and give a full report to the church authorities there. Sts. Paul and Barnabas know that they are responsible to the Antioch, Syria church authorities for they’ve done. They report to the authority structure that is established in THIS CHURCH, in its infancy. There is an authority structure, teaching authority, and a liturgical function present in this church, from the time it was born on Pentecost. So, we are witnesses to God’s love by carrying it out by strengthening other people’s faith in Christ. That is a hallmark of our love for Jesus Christ in this Roman Catholic Church/faith of ours. And yes, contrary to the messages you might hear from this sinful world, this church does have authority to teach, to love, and to strengthen others’ faith.
So what should we know? We should know that Jesus requires us to love others with the same love that He has for His disciples, and for us. It is a love that serves. What should we do? We should carry out that love by encouraging, reassuring, and strengthening other people’s Catholic faith. We do that by living out our faith and speaking out about it. Why should we care? We should care because Jesus will return to His Father soon after His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Jesus will ascend into Heaven and leave His disciples with that mission. We will celebrate Jesus’s Ascension on May 30th. Jesus will return. We don’t know when. When He does, may He find us working in His vineyard, carrying out this love, which He commands His disciples, and us, to perform.
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