Psalm 145:10-11, 12-13ab, 21
In the Acts of the Apostles, we read the conclusion of the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas. They started their journey in Antioch in Syria, having been chosen by the Holy Spirit for this mission (Acts 13:2). They sailed first to Barnabas’ homeland, Cyprus, and then spread the Gospel in Asia Minor. They preached in the cities of Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. During their ministry in Lystra, Jews from Antioch in Pisidia and Iconium incited the people to stone Paul (possibly for blasphemy). They left him for dead outside the city.
Paul, though, was undaunted by the stoning and, on the very next day, went with Barnabas to the city of Derbe. After making disciples for Christ there, Paul and Barnabas fearlessly retraced their steps and appointed presbyters (elders or priests) in cities they had evangelized. They eventually returned by boat to where they started and were commissioned: the Church of Antioch in Syria.
Paul and Barnabas learned two important lessons from their journey. First, we enter the kingdom of God through tribulations (Matthew 11:12; Luke 16:16). Preaching the Gospel means sharing in Christ’s suffering and rejection. Earlier in the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples rejoiced that they had been found worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:41). Today’s Psalm proclaims the glory of God’s kingdom, a kingdom that is established through redemptive suffering and death. Second, Paul and Barnabas see clearly that God has opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. When the Jews rejected the Gospel message (Acts 13:45-48), they turned to the Gentiles, following the Lord’s command in Isaiah 49:6. The Gentiles came to believe in Jesus Christ and received his salvation.
Through their acceptance of and belief in the Gospel, the Gentiles entered into the New Covenant, established by Jesus at the Last Supper and on the Cross. Today, during the Last Supper, Jesus speaks about one of the fruits of the New Covenant: the fruit of peace. Jesus warns his apostles about the false peace of the world. Peace is not the mere absence of war or a false tolerance of others. True peace is a heavenly, messianic gift (a divine grace) and a task for man, a fruit of human effort.
The peace that Jesus gives is inseparable from his person. It represents his life, his love and his joy. Sharing in Christ’s peace occurs by entering into communion with Jesus and being ‘in’ him. It is a share in the peace that exists between the Father and the Son. It is a divine peace that enables us to dwell in the Father’s house as children of God. By receiving the Spirit, we live in spiritual tranquility and peace with the Father (see V. DeMeo, Covenantal Kinship in John 13-17, 390-391).
On the outside, it looks like Paul and Barnabas were not granted peace. There were heated discussions between the Jews and themselves, the crowds were incited against them, Paul was stoned. However, some from God’s perspective, the two Apostles enjoyed true, divine peace and they were eager to share that peace with the Jews and the Gentiles. This peace is a fruit of reconciliation with God, a fruit of the undoing of the ancient curse of Adam, a fruit of new life in the Spirit of God.
In today’s mass, we hear the words of Christ: “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you”. This is the peace that flows from the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the New Covenant. This is the peace that we share in and are called to share with others.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.