Daily Homily: All Who Were Destined For Eternal Life Came to Believe

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

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Acts 13:44-52
Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
John 14:7-14

During their ministry in Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas are invited to preach again in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Paul concluded his first speech by affirming that through Jesus’ death and resurrection the forgiveness of sins is now possible. What the observance of the law of Moses could not accomplish for us – justification and forgiveness – Jesus Christ has accomplished. As believers, we are justified in Christ. Paul reminds his listeners that they have received the offer of salvation in Christ and that they are to remain faithful to this grace of God.

The success of Paul’s first speech is evident. Almost the entire city goes out to hear the word of the Lord. The Jews become envious of this success and begin to argue with Paul and try to contradict his message. This rejection of the Gospel by some of the Jews leads Paul and Barnabas to turn to the Gentiles; in this way, they bring to fulfillment the prophesy of Isaiah: «I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth» (49:6). The prophesy referred first to Israel, which had the mission to spread knowledge and worship of the one true God. The prophesy was then applied by Simeon to Jesus at the presentation in the temple (Luke 2:30-32). Now, Paul and Barnabas discern that God is commanding them to continue Jesus’ misison. «The Gospel itself did not show how Simeon’s prophecy was fulfilled or how Jesus’ mission actually affected Gentiles beyond Israel. It is in Acts that Jesus’ mission to the Gentiles is accomplished in what he does and teaches through his Spirit-filled disciples» (Kurz, Acts of the Apostles, Baker Academic, 219).

The Gentiles enthusiastically welcome the Word of God. They believe and receive the gift of eternal life. Luke says that those who believed «were destined for eternal life». This does not mean that God arbitrarily chose to predestine some people to salvation and others to condemnation. All men and women are ordered and directed to eternal life. We are destined to be God’s children through Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 1:3-6).

Predestination, then, is the eternal knowledge that God has of the ordering and directing of men and angels to salvation and eternal life. Predestination is part of God’s providential knowledge of the order of all creation to himself as the end of all things. When God governs creation, he executes his providential plan; when he calls and justifies man, he brings to fulfillment his plan of predestination (Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I, q. 23, a. 2).

Paul teaches in the Letter to the Romans that God foreknew us and predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son. Those he predestined in Christ he called, and those he called he justified, and those he justified he glorified (8:28-30). Predestination does not take away our freedom: «When God establishes his eternal plan of predestination he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace» (CCC, 600). Man can choose to reject God’s call and grace; he can reject God’s love and mercy. In doing so, man abuse the gift of his freedom and brings condemnation upon himself.

Today’s Gospel brings out the fact that the truth of our salvation in Christ is inseparable from the truth of his divine sonship. Jesus, the Son of God, was sent by the Father to save us and to bring us into communion with the Father. We are called to believe that the Son is in the Father and that the Father is in the Son. This communion between the Father and the Son is manifested in the divine works that the Son accomplishes. They are the works of his Father. When we enter into that communion through faith, we too will accomplish the works of God.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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