It is not unusual for most Catholics to have their own copy of
the Bible today. However, many Catholics raised before the 1960’s probably
had our first introduction to personal scripture reading and reflection after
Vatican II encouraged everyone to study and pray with the Bible. Luckily
for me, this time coincided with some wonderful scripture courses in college.
As I prepared for today’s reflection, I fondly remember Sr. Marie Walter
Flood, OP, my college scripture professor, who inspired me to read ‘Acts
of the Apostles’ with a new enthusiasm for the early Church’s
story. She made the travels and teachings of Paul and Barnabas, as
well as of the many women and men who spread the word of Christ, seem alive
I can almost feel the joy that Barnabas expressed in today’s reading at the
thriving faith of the people in Antioch. His faithful encouragement
and teachings along with Paul’s, helped increase the strength and vibrancy
of the Antioch community. It is the first recorded place that the disciples
were called Christians.
In addition to this first use of the term ‘Christians’, it is also an example
of the word of Christ taught to and embraced by a Greek community, which
is a turn of events in the minds of the Jews who followed Jesus. It
is a profound example of God’s Spirit stretching the early Christians in
their understanding of how they were to be God’s living presence on earth.
"As the psalmist proclaims today: All the ends of the earth have seen the
salvation by our God." All peoples are called to God’s message in Jesus.
What might have happened if the people did not listen to God’s Spirit?
Rather, what if they trusted only themselves to ‘know’ what ‘should’ be the
make-up of the community of Jesus followers? This certainly was a leap
of faith and trust in God’s Spirit – to open and share the word of Christ
with Gentiles…thus proclaiming that Jesus came for all. All are invited
to share in and live Christ’s message!
In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, there is another jolt to reality.
Jesus teaches that the Law of Moses is to be understood not only in the outward
actions of people, but also lived in one’s heart. Adultery is not only
the physical act of unfaithfulness. Infidelity also includes breaking
trust in one’s heart by lusting after another. Divorce is not only
offering a decree of divorce to one’s wife. It also means that the
husband is guilty of adultery since he sets up his wife for adultery (if
she marries again) and/or opens the man to adultery if he marries a woman
who has been divorced by her husband. (Women could not seek or declare
divorce from their husbands at the time of Jesus.)
The Sermon on the Mount emphasizes that we are all in relationship
to one another…one’s choices not only affect the one making the choice.
Whether the outward actions are good or bad, they affect all in relationship
with us. We are connected in God’s world…in communion with one another.
Today’s scriptures call us to open ourselves to God’s Spirit – let God lead
the way, rather than act as if we ‘know’ God’s will. If we are called
to be in relation with one another, how can we ‘build’ up one another, make
God’s life-giving love real in our day-to-day’s lives? Where might
we impede God’s message for all by being exclusive of others or shunning
others through our prejudices?
I pray for openness to the Spirit’s promptings in my life to become more
aware of where I can build bridges between people rather than to create divisions
and a ‘we-they’ mentality in my relations with others.