Acts of the Apostles 14:21-27

Paul and Barnabas went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. “We all have to experience many hardships,” they said, “before we enter the kingdom of God.” In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

They passed through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. Then after proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia and from there sailed for Antioch, where they had originally been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now completed.

On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans.
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Revelation 21:1-5

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, “You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.”

Then the One sitting on the throne spoke: “Now I am making the whole of creation new.”
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John 13:31-35

When Judas had gone Jesus said:

“Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.
My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another;
just as I have loved you,
you must also love one another.
By this love you have for one another,
everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

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I’ve just come back from watching Spider-man 3. In the movie (don’t worry, I’m not giving you any spoilers!), Aunt May says to Peter who is preparing to propose to Mary-Jane, “A husband must place his wife before himself.”

In today’s readings, we see that is exactly what Jesus has done for his bride. He has placed his bride before himself, by offering himself on the cross. His blood washes his bride clean. His sacrifice has made his bride beautiful. This is the essence of love - sacrifice.

Sacrifice is not a nice word that we like to talk about. Nowadays we try to live lives that have as little sacrifice as possible. In so doing, we are actually living lives that have as little love as possible.

The kingdom of God is a kingdom of love. A kingdom of love is a kingdom of sacrifice. It is not a kingdom where there will be no more sacrifice. We normally associate sacrifice with suffering, but they are actually two different things.

Suffering takes place when we undergo something unpleasant that we may or may not want to undergo. Sacrifice takes place when we undergo something unpleasant for the sake of something or someone. In life, we are going to suffer any way, so why not make it a sacrifice? Offer that suffering to God or to someone else and give meaning to that suffering by turning it into a sacrifice.

The reason why marriage is a vocation is because it prepares married people for heaven; it helps married people to enter the kingdom of love. Married people know that there is a lot of suffering and hardships involved to make a marriage work and last. In marriage, husband and wife sacrifice themselves for the good of each other. As parents, father and mother sacrifice themselves together for the good of their children. All this suffering and hardships do not go to waste, because they are necessary for those sacrificing themselves to enter the kingdom of God. Unfortunately, many married couples today choose not to have children because they do not want to undergo more sacrifice than they need to. The question is: more sacrifice than they need to what?

All sacrifice prepares us for heaven. A person who spends his or her life avoiding or escaping from sacrifice is not prepared to enter the kingdom of God. Sts. Paul and Barnabas reminds us that we all have to experience many hardships before we enter the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God, as mentioned earlier, is a kingdom of love. It is where we all willingly undergo sacrifice for others because we love others. There is no sadness or mourning because we are not being forced to do things we don’t want to. On the contrary, despite the suffering, we are doing these things because we want to, because we love.

This is the kingdom of love. This is the kingdom of God. And we spread his kingdom by making our love visible for others to see, for by this everyone will know that we are Christ’s disciples, by our love, by our sacrifice.
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Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we thank you for showing us how to love through your sacrifice for your bride - the Church. We ask that you grant us the grace to love others as we love you, to sacrifice for others as we sacrifice for you, and you for us. And we pray that we might be able to help the increase your kingdom through the love we have for others. Amen.

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