The Bishops Homily – 5th Sunday Of Easter 2018

5th Sunday Of Easter
Cycle B | 29/04/18
Acts 9: 26-31
1 John 3: 18-24
John 15: 1-8

 

INTRODUCTION: This Sunday let us focus on our 1st reading from Acts 9 which recounts St. Paul’s conversion. Saul/Paul is the most important figure after Christ in the formation of the early Church. To this day, we still read so regularly from the writings of this great figure. Hans Urs von Baltazar refers to Paul one of the great archetypes in the life of the Church. This is the Paulead that draws us into a careful study of his life and writings:

(1) Saul, breathing murderous threats, set off on a journey just to put all Christians in Damascus in prison. He was viciously, actively persecuting the Church. Then he was utterly changed. First lesson, never ever give up; never even think you can’t be forgiven and sent in mission. I forbid you from despairing. Never ever think that you are beyond repair. Christ can change you!.

(2) Then we see this figure called Barnabas, a nickname meaning son of encourage ment “took charge of him.” Admittedly, there were many in the Jerusalem Community, who were skeptical and thought that this man who is preaching on Christianity is an infiltrator, someone who seeks to destroy his enemies by joining them from the inside. Things were not going well for Paul. Here is Barnabas who tells Paul to come with him and he will do his very best to convince the Apostles on what is going on with him. Second lesson, we are never in this thing alone.

Paul’s knowledge of Christ was intensely personal but his living of the Christian life was always in community. He is a great mystic ingenuous but without Barnabas his mission would never have gone off the ground. Suppose Paul just continued preaching in Jerusalem while everyone was suspicious of him, he might just have burnt himself out or might have been just put to death.

Barnabas was a minor figure in the Jerusalem Community but Paul needed Barnabas to help him out and get him integrated into the community of the Apostles. In fact, we hear from the same Acts about the same Barnabas who fetched Paul in Tarsus many many years later and encouraged him again to get on the move. Much more minor figure sure but without Barnabas, no Paul!

So everybody watch out in the mystery of Divine Providence for the people sent to help you, to guide you, and to give you direction. This is true in the lives of all the great saints. I always kind of rejoice in discovering in the lives of the saints those great figure like Paul.

None of the saints would have got their sainthood off the ground were it not for those Barnabases hanging around. Their great mission was made possible by hosts of people sent by the Lord to help them. Who are the Barnabas in your life? We are never in this thing alone is the second spiritual lesson.

(3) Paul “spoke out boldly with the name of the Lord and debated with the Hellenists (Jews who spoke Greek) but they tried to kill him.” If Paul were alive today, he’d be in the internet and he would specially like to be in the chat room. He was a natural argues and debater which you can see practically in every page of his letters.

He is not the gentle, passive figure. Paul has always taken an opponent’s side, real or imagined. The third lesson from him is we are not meant to keep the faith to ourselves. I know this goes contrary to the spirit of the times. Don’t wear your religion as a badge on your sleeves.

(4) To me the most important lesson in the life of St. Paul was once the leaders of the Church knew that Paul was in serious danger, they met in Jerusalem and took him away and sent him to Caesaria (the seacoast) and got him on a boat and sent him back to Tarsus. They took the Apostle to the Gentiles, the most significant figure in the history of the Church, on a dodge and took him out of circulation.

Do you know how long that sabbatical lasted? Ten years! For ten years, St. Paul the Apostle was out of commission, unsummoned by the Church. This is the fourth lesson: our mission takes place within the context and under the discipline of the Church. That’s a hard lesson! No matter how gifted you are, no matter how important our contribution be, we are servants ready to take instructions from our superiors for the good of the Church. St. Paul, in fact, benefitted enormously for this time. For one it must have saved his life. Had he not been spirited away, he might have been killed. W

e might remember him today as one of the early martyrs of the Church but we would not have the Churches he established or any of the letters he wrote or none of his rich theology. Moreover, those ten years were exactly what he needed to think through what happened to him. Remember he is the sworn enemy of the Lord; then he had this vision that changed his life. Let us be honest!

At that point, he had not the least idea what it all meant, how all this fits into the history of Israel, how all his rich theology gestated in his mind when he was compelled off the stage by the Church. Remember this fourth lesson: our mission takes place within the structure and the discipline of the Church.

CONCLUSION: These are the four lessons we learn from the life of St. Paul. Does any of those ring a bell in your experience?

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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