Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the Fifth Sunday of Easter, which means that we have passed the mid-point of this blessed and joyful season of Easter, and we continue to progress through this time and season of Easter, we are constantly again being reminded of our calling as Christians, as those who have placed our faith and trust in Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Whom we believe to have risen from the dead and had been triumphant in the struggle and battle against evil, sin and death. All of us as Christians are called to be sharers in the Church’s mission to evangelise and to spread the Good News to more and more people.
In our first reading today, we heard of the ministry and works of St. Paul and St. Barnabas as they were sent to evangelise to the people in many places, travelling throughout the breadth and length of Asia Minor, visiting the population centres and other areas, proclaiming the truth of God and the message of His Good News and salvation to more and more people. They also encouraged the faithful there to keep their faith despite the trials and challenges that they had to endure in being the followers of Christ. The Christian faithful were then persecuted by the Jewish authorities, the Sanhedrin and the chief priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees and their supporters.
Yet, all these did not dampen the spirit of the Apostles and the other missionaries who continued to labour hard for the sake of the Lord and His faithful people, as they continued to speak up for the Lord’s truth amidst all the opposition and challenges that they encountered. They faithfully committed themselves to spread the words of God’s salvation to more people throughout the world, and while they suffered, their faith and love for God in fact inspired many more people to believe in God as well. The faith and the love that each of those Christians showed to one another, and their hope in God encouraged many to remain firmly faithful in God.
In our second reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations, we heard of the words of St. John the Apostle speaking at the end of his account of the revelations he had received from God. St. John received the visions from God of what would happen in the end of time, and he saw in the end, a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and a new Jerusalem descending from God in Heaven, in which all the faithful people of God will dwell in, free from sorrow and suffering, free from tyranny and oppression. All the faithful will live and reign forever with God, Who will be with them and dwell among them, and everyone will enjoy an everlasting peace and happiness with Him.
It is this firm assurance of the world that is to come, the love of God and all that the faithful ones of God will have in the end, which encouraged the faithful further. St. John wrote of his experiences and his visions as such, to reveal to the people of God, that while indeed there will be sufferings to come, the persecutions and oppressions against the faithful as detailed in that same Book of Revelations, but those who keep their faith in God and do not give up their obedience to Him, will enjoy the fullness of happiness and grace, the ultimate triumph that they will enjoy together as God conquers evil, sin and death for all eternity.
That was the same encouragement that St. Paul, St. Barnabas, the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord had proclaimed to the people, and the assurances that they had given to their fellow brothers and sisters in faith. God will not abandon His beloved people, and while they may have to suffer just as He has suffered, rejected and humiliated just as He has been rejected and humiliated, and even having to die a most painful death just as the Lord Himself had died a terrible death on the Cross, but they will be triumphant with God in the end, and what matters is that, God knows everything that His faithful ones had done for His sake, and they shall be rewarded for that faith.
In our Gospel passage today, the Lord gave His commandment to His disciples at the moment of the Last Supper, after Judas Iscariot the betrayer had left. The Lord told all of the disciples assembled to do as He had told them to do, to love one another just as He had loved them, and to continue doing what He had taught them to do, in obeying God’s will and commandments. And He also said that it is by their obedience and adherence to this way of life that everyone would come to know that they were the followers of God, and therefore, some among them, if not many, may be persuaded and convinced to follow the Lord as well.
It is there that we are once again reminded of our calling as Christians. Each one of us are called to practice our faith actively in our daily lives, to be exemplary in how we live our lives, in carrying out the Lord’s commandment of love faithfully in each and every moments we have. We do this by showing care and concern, love and compassion for one another, caring for our fellow brothers and sisters just as much as we care for ourselves. This is actually easier said than done, because we mankind are selfish by nature, and we tend to think of ourselves first, and the common ways of this world and the actions of many out there showed us how men were often willing even to sacrifice others for their own benefits and satisfaction.
But that is not what our Christian faith and way of life is all about, brothers and sisters in Christ. As Christians, we are called and challenged to live a way of life that is often fundamentally different from what we are often familiar with in our world. Instead of being selfish and self-serving, we are all called to think of others first, and to show love to others, much as how the Lord has shown His care for us, not minding Himself and what He had to endure, so that by loving us, and caring for us, He might open for us all the path to eternal life. That He had done so through His most loving sacrifice on the Cross.
The Apostles were clearly inspired by the Lord, His examples and unconditional love for all of us sinners. They gave themselves to their ministry and calling, enduring bitter rejection and persecution, all because they loved the Lord very much, and they also loved their fellow brothers and sisters, even those who had persecuted them, much as the Lord Himself had done the same thing earlier on. They followed the Lord’s own examples, and from there, they gave us even more concrete examples of true and genuine faith, faith that is not selfish or inward looking, but rather is life-giving and nurturing, as they ventured forth in proclaiming the Word of God to more and more people, for the salvation of all.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these words from the Scriptures and reflect on their meaning, significance and importance to us once again, we all ought to discern how we can be better and more worthy Christians in our daily living. Are we living our lives as how faithful and selfless Christians should live? And are we doing what the Lord had told us to do, to love our fellow brethren just as much as we have loved ourselves? The Lord had called us to action, and to embrace faithfully and wholeheartedly the mission of evangelisation that He has entrusted to each one of us.
The responsibility and calling to evangelise is not just the responsibility carried by some in the Church. It is not just the clergy, priests and missionaries who need to labour for the sake of the Lord and His Church, and for the people who had not yet known God. On the other hand, it is the responsibility shared by all the faithful, and which is why our roles as various parts and members of the Church are even more important, and each one of us, be it clergy or laity, whether married or single, or in whichever stage of life we are in, all of us have this calling and obligation to glorify God by our lives.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this Sunday’s readings, and through them, all of us as Christians are reminded as we have been many times throughout this season of Easter, that our rejoicing and celebration cannot just be inward looking and focused. On the contrary, we have to be an evangelising, missionary and active Church, full of vibrancy and faith, with dedication and commitment to live our lives daily with faith, fulfilling what the Lord had commanded us to do, to love one another just as He has loved us, and to love others just as much as we love ourselves.
Are we all willing and able to commit ourselves to this calling, brothers and sisters? The choice is in our hands whether we want to follow Christ our Lord wholeheartedly or not. The temptation indeed will be great for us to succumb to the temptations and allures of worldly pleasures, but we must not let those things distract us from our path towards the Lord. Let us all help one another in our journey of faith and be sources of inspiration for each other in how we live our lives with faith. Let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and devote more of our time, effort and attention to be the faithful disciples and witnesses of Our Lord in our world today, that more and more people may be saved through us. May God bless us and our every endeavours, our every good works. Amen.