Many of us think that our acts of charity and love have to be performed on a grand stage. This is not the teaching of our church. Often it the simple and mundane actions done in love that change the world.
Your service, no matter how small, is pleasing to our Father in Heaven.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple, and give thanks to your name.
Because of your kindness and your truth, you have made great above all things your name and your promise. When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me.
Your right hand saves me. The LORD will complete what he has done for me; your kindness, O LORD, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands.
In today’s gospel, Jesus instructs us to keep his commandments, to love the Lord and our neighbor. How do we do that?
When I was a kid in Catholic School, we had to memorize the Ten Commandments. Now that I’m an adult, I think about them even more. Want to examine your conscience? Refer back to the Ten Commandments.
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”
In case you have forgotten, here’s the list:
I am the LORD your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.
Honor your father and your mother.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
In today’s first reading we hear an argument between Jewish followers of Jesus and Gentiles over the issue of circumcision. The Jews believed that circumcision was required to be a Christian. The Gentile believers disagreed. Of course, over time the Church determined that circumcision was not a requirement to become a member of Christ’s church.
What is interesting about the debate is our natural inclination to focus on the external aspects of being a follower of Jesus. In essence, we sometimes are more concerned with form over substance.
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters about this question. They were sent on their journey by the Church, and passed through Phoenicia and Samaria telling of the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brethren. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church, as well as by the Apostles and the presbyters, and they reported what God had done with them. But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.”
The Apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter.
The rules and rituals that give us comfort and guidance are important. However, we cannot neglect the interior experience of a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles reveals that the early Christians endured the most severe persecutions by remaining steadfast in their faith in the Lord Jesus. Paul was so severely beaten by the the Jews in Antioch and Iconium that they believed that he had been killed.
Today, Christianity is the largest faith among world religions. It is rare that Christians are martyred for their faith in Jesus. I wonder about how many of us would be willing to give up our lives, as St. Paul ultimately did.
In those days, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won over the crowds. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and entered the city. On the following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” They appointed presbyters for them in each Church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. And when they arrived, they called the Church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Then they spent no little time with the disciples.
We live in a different world than those who lived in the first century. Would we make the decision to risk our lives for the faith?