Acts of the Apostles 11:19-26
Those who had escaped during the persecution that happened because of Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, but they usually proclaimed the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, who came from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch where they started preaching to the Greeks, proclaiming the Good News of the Lord Jesus to them as well. The Lord helped them, and a great number believed and were converted to the Lord.
The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.
Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’
It was the time when the feast of Dedication was being celebrated in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple walking up and down in the Portico of Solomon. The Jews gathered round him and said, ‘How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus replied:
‘I have told you, but you do not believe.
The works I do in my Father’s name are my witness;
but you do not believe,
because you are no sheep of mine.
The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.’
It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’
Many schools in Singapore have strong culture and identity. Alumni of these schools can often be recognised by others from the way they carry themselves. Confidence is associated with school A; speaking well with school B; wealth with school C, just to give a few broad examples. Often, people will remark “Ah, you’re from _______ school. I could tell by _______”. However, there are a few occasions when the impression a person gives does not match his/her school “identity”. This mismatch could be either a positive or negative.
‘Christian’ means follower of Christ. According to today’s first reading, the title ‘Christian’ first appears in Antioch. What is significant about this is that though the city had a significant Jewish population it was not a Jewish city. Why is it that the title did not first appear in Jerusalem where Christ gave up His life, in Bethlehem where He was born, or in any other Jewish city? Antioch is special for the people who accepted Christ. The Greeks of the city received the Good News and were converted. For this they were the sheep whom Christ as His in the Gospel passage. For this they deserved to be identified as Christian.
Have you ever heard comments on how some non-Christians are more Christian than Christians? I have actually seen this to be true. Clearly there is more to being Christian than having it listed in our identify cards or going to church every Sunday. Just as the Greeks of Antioch strongly displayed Christianity outside of Jerusalem, we have to do likewise outside of church. My brothers and sisters, can we impress on others our Christian identity or will they be surprised (in a negative way) to find out that we claim to follow Christ?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Aloysius Ting)
Prayer: We pray that our thoughts, words and deeds will make us stand out for Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for the world at large in which to preach His Word.
Wed, 18 May – Acts of the Apostles 12:24-13:5′ John 12:44-50; Memorial for St John I, Pope & Martyr
Thu, 19 May – Acts of the Apostles 13:13-25; John 13:16-20
Fri, 20 May – Acts of the Apostles 13:26-33; John 14:1-6; Memorial for St Bernadine of Siena, Priest
Sat, 21 May – Acts of the Apostles 13:44-52; John 14:7-14; Memorial for Ss Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Companions, Martyrs
Sun, 22 May – Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12; Fifth Sunday of Easter