HOMILY – APRIL 24
The missionary work of Paul and Barnabas was no easy task. Neither is ours, if we’re intent on it. Paul and Barnabas had the dual task of convincing the Jews of the truth of the Good News that had been revealed in Jesus Christ, AND convincing the Gentiles about the truth of who Jesus was. The Jews were God’s people waiting for the Messiah, but did not yet accept Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, the fulfillment of their longing. The Gentiles, or everybody else, were for the most part pagans who knew little or nothing about the one God who reveals himself in Jesus his Son. And then you had Jewish Christians who believed that the pagans could become Christians all right, but they had to become Jews first. So, you see, it was no easy task sorting it all out.
Part of the Good News is, in Jesus there is a New Jerusalem! This new holy city, which John describes in Revelation as “coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a Bride prepared to meet her husband,” this New Jerusalem has no boundaries. The old Jerusalem, the “city set on the hill” of Mount Zion, was theologically built by God on the twelve foundation stones of the twelve sons of Jacob, the Old Testament patriarchs. Now Christ builds his NEW Jerusalem on the additional twelve foundation stones of the twelve Apostles of the NEW Testament. The new city of God is expanded to include everybody. No one is excluded from being at least potentially a member of the family of God through friendship with Jesus Christ. “God’s dwelling is with the human race,” John tells us in Revelation, not just with one particular chosen people. Membership no longer depends on ancestry. Membership in the New Jerusalem has different criteria. God has already made the decision to redeem us in Christ. Now, if we want to be part of this chosen people, it’s up to us to do what Christ tells us.
And what is that? “THIS is how all will know that YOU are my disciples,” says the Lord Jesus, “if you have love for one another.” And that doesn’t mean just among the disciples who are already part of that New Jerusalem. We are not part of a mutual self-admiration society. Our no-boundaries love for one another must include ALL those “others,” with a very special mission to those who have not yet heard of God’s love for them in an effective way. When we are tempted to maintain the status quo and in our hearts and behavior exclude others, ANYONE else, from citizenship in the New Jerusalem, we must hear the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd: “Wait, remember how I love them. Remember that I shed my precious Blood for them. You don’t have to love them because they’re good, or love them because they’re bad. Just love them because I love them, and that’s enough. And I’ll feed you with my own Body and Blood to keep you faithful to that mission.”