Tuesday, May 5, 2009

They Began Proclaiming the Good News of Christ To The Greeks

In the reading from Acts, the disciples in Jerusalem scattered after the execution of Stephen, going as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. They preached the word of the Lord only to Jews, whether they spoke Aramaic or Greek. But in Antioch, they began to speak about Jesus “to the Greeks”, that is, to pagans. Guided by the Holy Spirit, they sent Barnabas, to Antioch, and when he saw the grace of God at work there, he rejoiced with them, and encouraged them. (This is one of the rare plays on words in the New Testament: Barnabas means Son of Encouragement). Eventually, Barnabas sent for Saul, who spent an entire year with the Church at Antioch. It was at Antioch that the disciples of Jesus were first called “Christians”.

The Feast of Dedication, also called the Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah, is a week-long celebration commemorating the consecration of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes about two hundred years before Christ. The festivities culminate, then and now, on the 25th day of Chislev.

“It was winter”, John writes. Some commentators wonder why, since he has already told us the name of the festival, and Hanukkah always occurs some time between the last week of November, and the last week of December on our civil calendar. Others suggest that this is a reflection the conflict between darkness and light which permeates John’s gospel. “Winter” is a word that evokes darkness and cold.

On the other hand, Jesus is presented as the Light of the World. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (1:5), “I am the light of the world” (8:12), “I have come into the world as light” (12:44)

Jesus is the light that shows us the way to the Father, who sent him into the world. His life and death is an ideal model of service, both to the needs of his brothers and sisters, the Father’s “other children”, and to the Father’s will. Jesus had his mission, you and I have ours. Paul, in I Corinthians, reminds us that there are some who sow the seed, some who water the plant, some who reap the harvest. It takes some of us longer than others to discover our mission, but once we find it we know what God is asking of us today, and we are prepared when a new directive is given, and a new direction taken, according to God’s plan. We need to be attentive to the message of Jesus, and to follow our Good Shepherd, wherever he leads.

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