Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter, April 21
We Are Each Called to Become Christ-like, in the Sense That We Become His Instrument of Love and Charity Here on Earth, Reaching Out to the Less Fortunate.
In today’s Gospel, John continues to present Jesus’ discourse on the “bread of life”, and we hear our Lord saying to us today, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”
“I will not reject anyone…”
When one thinks about it, this was a rather new concept for the Jewish people in Jesus’ day. There was an air of condescension by the Sanhedrin over the Jewish populace; there was oftentimes animosity by the Roman occupying forces over those who lived in Judea; and there was considerable discrimination between the Jews and the Samaritans. So what do we see Philip, who was one of the seven original deacons, doing in our First Reading? – preaching to and converting those in Samaria.
Philip was, as we would say with a slight twist in today’s vernacular, “walking the talk”. In other words, he was putting into practice that which Jesus had preached. He was truly living the Gospel message in his ministry to others.
And remember our Lord’s last words, His last instructions to His Apostles before He ascended to His Father in Heaven, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…”
Philip, therefore, took the initiative and went to those who were considered “non-persons” in Jewish society. The Samaritans, as it were, were an “invisible” people without respect, without rights, without justice.
Philip threw aside this cultural cloak of discrimination and invisibility and took God’s Love to them. He threw aside all the feelings of disrespect and hatred, and reached out to them with God’s hand. In essence, he became Jesus to them; he became Christ-like in the sense that he became Jesus’ human instrument on Earth!
Philip became the extension of our Lord’s Heart, His hands and His feet to bring love, healing and salvation to the less fortunate. And he did this at a time when Christian persecution was just beginning in Jerusalem.
Luke presents to us, in today’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, a picture of the beginnings of Christian persecution and harassment by Saul, a man who was devoted to the Mosaic Law as the way to salvation. Saul accepted the task of crushing this new Christian movement, insofar as it was a threat to the Jewish traditions of the Old Covenant.
His vehement opposition to Christianity reveals how difficult it was for a Jewish citizen of his time to accept a Messiah who differed so greatly from what they expected the Messiah to be – for Jesus preached love and forgiveness, and they thought the Messiah would be the one responsible for bringing back the glory that was once Israel of old, and forcibly remove the Roman occupation forces.
As a result of this persecution, we see the Christian Church beginning to expand and grow outside of the city limits, for we see Philip who, after the death of his fellow deacon, Stephen, went to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Gospel message.
And together with the miracles of healing that he performed in the name of Jesus, there were many conversions. For, as the Scriptures tell us, “There was great joy in the city.”
In today’s Responsorial Psalm, the psalmist is praying a song of great praise, which, in essence, is mirroring the occurrences in Samaria, when the psalmist prays, “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth, sing praise to the glory of his name; proclaim his glorious praise. Say to God, ‘How tremendous are your deeds!’”
And in the glory and wonder which is God’s alone, we hear in today’s Gospel, “I will not reject anyone…” These are Jesus’ own words. How difficult do we, as followers of Jesus, find it to make these words our own? –
“I will not reject anyone…”
In our society today, we have some very real issues which many face each day – homelessness, unemployment, hunger, poverty, discrimination, even religious persecution in many areas of the world. And most of these issues of social injustice and evil exist right in our own “backyard” – in other words, right where we live and work and raise our own families!
As a Christian people, when you or I are confronted with one or more of these social concerns, how do we react to the very real needs which many of our brothers and sisters face on a daily basis?
We may not have any answers to most of the problems which plague so many of God’s children in today’s society, but Philip, in today’s First Reading, teaches us what we must, at least, first do – reach out with love and understanding, not condemnation, not indifference or disregard.
We cannot become one such as Pilate, whereby we wash our hands of the situation and say, in essence, “It’s not my problem. You take care of it.” If we wish to be Christ-like in the way we live our lives, then it becomes a concern for each of us.
Our Catechism teaches us that “…feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, sheltering the homeless, and burying the dead…” are all corporal works of mercy. And I believe it is very important that we listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, when He was describing what it would take for each of us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and we have heard this many times before:
“‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
“And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven is open to anyone who is truly contrite and humble, regardless of race, creed, color, religious persuasion or social standing. And since our Lord’s Heart is open to all of His children, the words which we hear Him speak in today’s Gospel ring so true when reflecting upon the culture within which we live, “I will not reject anyone…”
To repeat the question I had asked earlier – in our own personal walk of faith, how difficult do we find it to make these words our own? Can we throw aside this cloak of invisibility with which our culture has covered the less fortunate, and take God’s Love to them? Can we throw aside all the feelings of “not wanting to get involved” and reach out to those truly in need by becoming the extension of God’s hand? Can we become Jesus Himself, in the sense that we become Christ-like, in the sense that we become His instrument of love and charity here on Earth?
Again, placing a twist on today’s vernacular, are we able to “walk the talk” for the needs of the less fortunate, or are we more comfortable just “talking the talk?”
Philip became Jesus’ Heart, hands and feet to bring love, healing and salvation to the less fortunate. Can we do no less, especially in the times in which we are living today? †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” (John 6:37-38)
- “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” (John 6:40)
- “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth, sing praise to the glory of his name; proclaim his glorious praise. Say to God, ‘How awesome your deeds!’” (Psalm 66:1-3a)
- “‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40)
- “In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
- “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind.” (Hebrews 13:16)
- “If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)
Prayer for the Day
“Eternal and Most Loving Father,Anonymous
I submit my entire self to Your holy will.
All that I am today, transform me into Your servant;
living Your Truth amongst my brothers and sisters.
“Thank You for imbuing me with Your Holy Spirit,
who guides me to live a life of righteousness,
enabling me to be all that You desire me to be,
so that I may give my best in service to Your children.
“Forgive me for my past failures,
rejecting the image of Christ in those around me.
In selfishness, I held back Your Love
and fell short in living the virtue of charity.
“Fill my heart with humility,
so that I may always fulfill Your will,
imitating the life of Your Son, Jesus,
giving love without counting the cost.
“In Jesus’ Name, I pray for this grace
for the glory of Your Divine Majesty,
in the Presence of the Holy Spirit,
and for the well-being of my soul for all eternity. Amen.”