The word of God continued to spread and grow.
After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission,
they returned to Jerusalem,
taking with them John, who is called Mark.
Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers:
Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene,
Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,
“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them.”
Then, completing their fasting and prayer,
they laid hands on them and sent them off.
So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit,
went down to Seleucia
and from there sailed to Cyprus.
When they arrived in Salamis,
they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues.
Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me believes not only in me
but also in the one who sent me,
and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.
I came into the world as light,
so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.
And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them,
I do not condemn him,
for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.
Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words
has something to judge him: the word that I spoke,
it will condemn him on the last day,
because I did not speak on my own,
but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: We must obey God.
There are many differences between God’s and human words: God’s words are of highest wisdom, unchangeable, giving life to men both in this world and the next one; while human words are less wisdom, changeable, not guarantee to give life in this world and impossible to bring out eternal life.
Today readings teach people to obey God’s words through the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and to practice what Christ commands us. In the first reading, even though the church of Antioch had just been formed, the faithful were ready to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance. They sent their three distinguished leaders, Barnabas, Paul and John Mark, on their first missionary journey to preach the Good News to the Gentiles. In the Gospel, Jesus declared that he only said what he has heard from God. Therefore, to obey his words is to obey God’s words; if not, these words shall be the judge to condemn men.
1/ Reading I: The church at Antioch obeyed God.
1.1/ God’s words continued to spread out: Salvation through preaching is the purpose in God’s plan of salvation; therefore, God provides many opportunities for Jesus’ disciples to preach the Good News. Some examples shall illustrate this point: There must be a persecution in Jerusalem after Stephen’s martyr so that the disciples must be scattered around to preach the Good News. While the apostles stayed at Jerusalem to confirm the central church, deacon Philip went up to Samaria to preach the gospel for the Samarians; he also sowed the seed for the Ethiopians when he explained Scripture and baptized the Ethiopian eunuch. Christ converted Paul from an eager persecutor of christians to an eager preacher of the Good News as in today report. Wherever the Good News are preached, God also gave more new teachers and prophets. At Antioch, God gave the church Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
1.2/ The church at Antioch followed the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Paul and Barnabas have a special mission to the Gentiles: While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
This was a difficult command to obey for the church at Antioch because they were the two main poles for the young church. According to human tendency, they shall not sacrifice these two because the young church can’t survive without them. But they decided to live according to their faith in God and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, not according to human thinking, so after “completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.”
This must also be a valuable lesson for all the believers. We must sacrifice for the preaching of the Good News so that God’s kingdom can be extended everyday, not to be selfish by keeping good people for our community. Moreover, when the present leader leaves, God will send other leaders to, and all the believers in the local church shall realize their roles and be more eager in upbuilding their community.
Paul, Barnabas and John Mark began to establish new churches: “So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived in Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. They had John also as their assistant.” This is the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas.
2/ Gospel: People should obey Jesus as he obeys his Father.
2.1/ People should obey in Jesus: Chapter 12 of the Fourth Gospel is the conclusion of Jesus’ mission to people; beginning of chapter 13, Jesus’ mission turned to his disciples. So, we can say that chapter 12 is the conclusion of what Jesus taught people. Most of Jesus’ important teachings are in today passage.
(1) “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me.” The sent has full authority as the sender; therefore, to believe in the sent is to believe in the sender, to deny the sent is to deny the sender.
(2) “Whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.” This is a new revelation. To human beings, the sent and the sender are two different persons. To God, the sender is the Father, and the sent is His son; both are one since they are God themselves, but they do different works. Jesus also repeated this revelation to Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
(3) “I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.” Light is contrasted with darkness, when there is light, it is no darkness, and the opposite is also true. The one who believed in Christ might not stay in darkness because Jesus is the light. This isn’t meant that whoever believed in Christ shall not have any darkness in him; but if he let Christ’s light shine through all parts of his mind, he shall only have light.
(4) “If anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.” This verse is the conclusion of what Jesus said in John 3:16-21.
(5) ” Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day.” According to John 3:18, people judged themselves when they chose not to believe in Christ. To those who have no opportunity to see Christ and those who existed after Christ, his words become the judge to condemn those who refused to believe in his words.
2.2/ Jesus obeys his Father: “Because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.” The sent must speak what the sender wants him to say; if not, he is no longer the sender’s messenger.
However, Jesus’ obedience isn’t slavery or blinded because he said, “And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.” In other words, he knew that God’s words are true and have power to liberate men from sins and to bring eternal life for them.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must always remember that God still works and controls everything in this world. Our duty is to recognize and to do His will for us.
– We have the responsibility to preach the Good News to all people, not only to those in our community. When we understood God’s words, we must live and witness for the Good News.
– We shouldn’t despise God’s words because they shall be the judge to condemn us.