1st Reading: Acts 11:19-26
Those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews. There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.
Gospel: Jn 10:22-30
The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
The Christ and the Christians: We derive our identity as Christians from Christ because we hear his voice and believe (cf. Jn 10:27). The multitude in the first reading who believed and turned to God are the true Christians. The verb šûb meaning to turn, in Hebrew theologically involves repentance which is a turn to the ways of the Lord and never to return to evil ways. Therefore, the Easter event is a perpetual call for all of us to turn to and believe in the Lord. As true Christians whose identity comes from the name Christ, St. Paul invites us to have the same mind as of Christ (cf. Phil 2:5) which demands a change or turn in our moral walk and inner turnings. This is a fundamental change that every Christian must undergo, becoming “agents or representatives of the Messiah” which implies reflecting Christ in all our dealings. May people see Christ in every Christian so that being Christian becomes synonymous with Christ.
Prayer: Almighty God, grant us your Holy Spirit to have the same mind and identity as Christ your Son.
THE FATHER AND I ARE ONE: “Are you the messiah? Tell us plainly,” the Jews ask. Jesus never answers that question of messiahship directly – even in front of Pilate during the trials. On the other hand, he adds: “The Father and I are one.” Elsewhere: “Before Abraham was, I am!” (Jn 8:58). “For unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins” (Jn 8:24). Jesus constantly refers to himself as “the I am” (Jn 4:26). In other words, Jesus openly claims that he is not just the messiah – the Christ, but He is the Son of God, possessing the same nature as the Father. This will make him controversial, up to the cross. If we do not experience him as the Son of God, then his death and resurrection were in vain.
Prayer: Lord give me the grace to declare you as: “My Lord, and My God!
A LIGHT TO SHINE: Many people fear darkness and so only few people accept to be alone in the dark. A shepherd lost in a thick forest or a fisherman lost in the depth of the lake eagerly awaits the early morning rays either to trace the way back to the open lands or to the shore. The long duration of waiting is risky, and often appears longer than normal. Our lives without Christ are similar to the long wait of the lost shepherd or the lost fisherman. Jesus enters the temple at the Feast of Dedication also known as Hannukah or festival of lights. He “the Sun of Justice” shines upon the cold-hearted and darkened hearts of the people, to bring them warmth and the light of salvation from on high. At baptism the priest or the deacon hands a lighted candle to the newly baptized saying, “Receive the light of Christ.” It is the responsibility of the sponsors, the parents and the baptized candidate to keep this light burning! “In the midst of darkness, light persists.” – Mahatma Gandhi.