14:21-27; Psalm 145; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-33; 34-35 THEME
OF THE READINGS Building the Kingdom involves a historical process
that includes "many hardships" (First Reading). Amid the struggles we
face for the faith, we are called to love as
Christ loved (Gospel).
DOCTRINAL MESSAGE Though
a supernatural project, the Church also builds on human effort
(First Reading). Paul and Barnabas aren´t content to sit back
and wait for the Holy Spirit to do his magic.
Rather, they collaborate fully with the contribution of their own
efforts, and they make "a considerable number" of new disciples,
while "strengthening the spirits" of existing disciples. They appoint
elders to oversee each local church. They travel. They report.
Above all, they undergo "many hardships to enter the Kingdom
of God." Christianity makes use of human effort to give
a foundation for God´s work of sanctification.
Because of our first father´s fall, we, “the children of
Adam" (Psalm), share in the pain of this world. Suffering
saturates the human condition; it spares no one. What sets
Christianity apart is that it gives meaning to suffering. Christ
by his passion and death shows that death doesn´t have
the last word. Indeed it is through Christ´s suffering that
"God is glorified in him" (Gospel). This pain and suffering
will see its end for those who remain faithful to
God. In the end "He will wipe away every tear
from their eyes" (Second Reading) and "make all things new."
Rather than being a source of bitterness, suffering gives us
a chance to share in the redemptive suffering of Christ.
The Church requires structure and strategy. Yes,
the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, but in
its human dimension God has willed that it have a
hierarchy and organization which require docility and obedience. Unsurprisingly, Paul
and Barnabas´ activity bespeaks strategy _ they didn´t simply wing
it. Though some people might yearn for a spiritualized Church,
the shortcomings of human nature and the world demand discipline.
Not even a marriage can function well without a structured
life and system for decision making. Moreover, weakened by original
sin, we are prone to subjectivism ("I think it´s OK,
so it must be OK"), selfishness ("Let someone else´s child
become a priest _ not mine") and just plain laziness
("Let someone else build the school / teach CCD /
take meals to shut-ins").
Catechesis: Though often
unconscious collaborators with God´s will, people can also enter deliberately
into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers, and
their sufferings (CCC 307). Man expresses and perceives spiritual realities
through physical signs and symbols (CCC 1146). Faith comes from
what is heard (CCC 875) implying the need for the
Church and the community of believers.
PASTORAL APPLICATIONS Time and places have transcendence. We can
easily overlook the importance of our day-to-day routine. We work,
raise families, pay taxes, laugh, cry, pray. These can be
the building blocks of sanctity! Every activity, offered back to
God, can help us grow in holiness. It doesn´t take
much to sanctify the little things _ a short prayer
will do nicely. "Lord, I offer this to you." And
little sacrifices aren´t without merit: "This is for my spouse,
my child, my parish, etc."
Church takes hard work. A glimpse at old churches confirms
this truth. Think of the generations before us who sacrificed
in order to build churches, schools and hospitals. God blessed
those works, yes, but they didn´t fall from heaven. Countless
pennies, dollars, and hours of toil went into them. How
much do I tithe to support the works of the
Church? How many hours a week do I contribute to
these works? People often go to extremes for the most
passing of experiences: a soccer game, a fancy meal, an
exotic vacation. Do we invest as much time in something
of more last duration?
Time is kingdom.
No one understood the value of time better than Our
Lord: "I will be with you only a little while
longer" (Gospel). One of the most precious gifts God gives
us is, precisely, time. We cannot save it, simply use
it, or lose it. And we will be called to
account for what we did with our time. Time is
the context for growing closer to God. How well do
we use this precious commodity? Do we work with a
daily or weekly schedule? Or do we improvise constantly? Try
programming just one day of your week better, and see
how much more you can accomplish.
the great crippler. Judas accompanied Christ for three years, and
yet he failed. Do we presume that we can´t fail
because we are Sunday Catholics? Or because we are not
like "them" down the street? "Do not presume to say
to yourselves, ´We have Abraham as our father.´ For I
tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from
these stones" (Matthew 3:9). Growth in the spiritual life demands
a regimen of daily prayer, a sacramental life, a healthy
asceticism, and works of charity.