Scripture: 1st Reading: Acts 13,44-52; Resp. Psalm: Ps98,1-4; Gosp. Accl.: Jn8, 31-31; Gospel: Jn14,7-14
We could say that the gospel was taken to the gentiles by default by the Apostles! The attention of the Apostles after the resurrection was directed to the house of Israel. Their preaching and mission was almost exclusive to the children of Israel. The Apostles themselves forgot the mandate of our Lord to go out into the whole world and make disciples of all nations.
The entire creation, all the nations of the earth, were to be their points of call. They were to preach in season and out of season. They were to bring souls into subjection under the lordship of Jesus, the Risen Lord. At first, they paid little attention to this. But an event in today's first reading changed all that. It happened in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia. That event marked the turning point. From that day, there was no going back again.
In the synagogue of Antioch, the apostles Paul and Barnabas went on the Sabbath for the service of the word. Paul spoke but met with so much jealousy, opposition and his words were contradicted. Because of the negative reaction of rejection of the word, Paul and Barnabas told them that since they thrust the word away from them and judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, they would turn to the pagans and the pagans.
When the gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified God. They turned from their evil ways and embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ. The persecution mounted against Paul and Barnabas did not deter them. The fact that they were driven out of the district did not discourage them. They were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit and glorified God for giving them the opportunity to witness.
These were great men who had come to know Jesus. These were men who had come to a thorough love of the mission of Jesus, despite the hardships and opposition mounted against them. These were men who despite their rejection by their own people were not deterred from testifying to the hope which filled their hearts. They knew Jesus.
Our Lord had told Philip during His earthly life that to have seen Him was to have seen the Father. He told Philip that the Father was in Him and He was in the Father. He did not speak on His own authority but the Father who dwelt in Him did His works. The works He did demonstrated that the Father was in Him and He was in the Father.
Our Lord declared it in this instance that he who believed in Him would also do works that He did, and even greater works than He did because He was going to the Father. He declared unequivocally: "Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it."
The Apostles Paul and Barnabas held on to these assuring words of our Lord. They did great deeds in the name of the Lord. They preached repentance and turning away from sin and turning to God. They brought countless souls to believe in the gospel. Their words bore great fruits for the kingdom.
This message of repentance was the same echoed by the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her apparitions to the three shepherd children at Cova di Iria in Fatima on this day, May 13 in 1917, the first of her six apparitions to the children Blessed Franscesco and Jacinta and Sr. Lucia. As a disciple of her Son, she called our entire humanity to intense prayer, to pray as if our entire lives depended on it, so that the catastrophe that looked over our race could be averted.
She asked especially for penance so that Russia might be converted and her errors might not continue to pollute our race. That message is still very apt today, even more apt. There are terrible waves of errors, wolves clothing themselves as preachers of the gospel, the evil of extreme fundamentalism, hatred of the Christian religion, wars, pestilence, natural disasters, terrible, unheard of sins!
Our world needs prayers, repentance and conversion today even more than in 1917. The call of the Mother of God is still very germane and in order. Let us heed her call. Let us today go on our knees for ourselves and the entire world that God may give us true repentance from our sins and grant us true conversion of hearts and change of ways.
Let us ask that He brings about the conversion of the enemies of Christianity and the sworn haters of His word, just the way He did in the life of Saul of Tarsus, whom He changed to St. Paul! Let us ask earnestly ask Him who chose the Mother of His Son to be our Mother also to "grant us that, persevering in penance and prayer for the salvation of the world, we may further more effectively each day the reign of Christ."
Let us pray: "O God, who in the celebration of Easter graciously give to the world the healing of heavenly remedies; show benevolence to your Church, that our present observance may benefit us for eternal life." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always. Happy celebration and blessed weekend.