9 May 2017
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.’
The Father and I are one
There are many people who choose to be identified by the institutions they belong to, e.g. alumni clubs, members of a renowned society or through the workplace. In aligning their identity with these places, they choose to abide by the norms and beliefs which these institutions stand for. The readings of today remind us that we all have a common identity, that of belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first readings shares with us that it was in Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians. This marked a continuation of the separation from Judaism as a religion. There were some who thought that believing in Jesus was a sect of Judaism, perhaps like a variant of certain beliefs. However, as we have read in the past few days, the incorporation of Gentiles into the belief of Jesus Christ meant that Jesus came to save all men in the world, and not only the Jews. They then had to identify themselves separately as Christians. This was a significant step because it would mark the break from Judaism.
Indeed, Jesus Christ has shown us that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The reason why the Jews could not see and accept that Jesus was the Christ was because they were stuck in their own assumptions and beliefs. This meant that they could not be open to hearing the call of Jesus to a way of love for one another, and the need to demonstrate charity to all regardless of their belief system. In our own lives today, we sometimes show concern to the people who matter to us but forget the others. Perhaps we can take some time today to say a kind word or show an act of kindness to the people who we may have forgotten.
(Today’s Oxygen by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the strength to remain close to you.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the many people who have touched our lives.