Today’s excerpt from the Book of Acts presents the results of the preaching by the apostle Paul and his fellow missionary Barnabas.
Their lives have been changed for the better by God in Christ and they want to invite others to share the gift of faith in Christ that they have been privileged to receive. Paul and Barnabas introduced people to Christ and invited them to share a relationship with Christ in his Church.
Some were delighted at the good news about the Lord Jesus that Paul and Barnabas shared, but others- not so much. Paul and Barnabas were opposed and forced to leave the city, but none of this deterred them from their mission.
The disciple trusts that their efforts on behalf of the Gospel are not contingent on worldly standards of success or failure. Instead of success or failure, the category that measures our efforts is fidelity- are we doing what Christ asked us to do? Are we willing to do what Christ asks even when it is difficult, even when we face opposition, or rejection, or apparent failure?
Too many Christians take an actuarial approach to the discipleship, carefully measuring every possible outcome and adjusting their commitment to minimize risk. The radicality of the Christian life is mitigated by a strict regard for cost and benefit. All this is justified in the name of prudence, when what is really operative is fear. If as Christians we approach our mission with fear filled hearts, holiness is stymied and the Church not only falters, it fails. Fidelity manifests itself in a willingness to take risks.
Paul and Barnabas were willing to risk much, if not everything for the sake of the Church’s mission. What will we risk?
Christ the Lord’s words about his relationship with his Heavenly Father might seem cryptic. They are indeed very mysterious!
His point is that in our encounter with Christ we encounter God. The revelation of Christ is precisely this- God is Christ and Christ is God.
As disciples we believe that God in Christ makes himself present and available to us in the Church, particularly in the Sacraments, and most particularly in the Blessed Sacrament, which is the life and presence of the Lord Jesus himself.
The Church is not merely a social club but a privileged route of access to God in Christ.
This is why there is an urgency to introducing people to Christ and inviting them to share a relationship with him in the Church. It is through the Church that God in Christ continues to reveal himself and it is in relation to the Church that God in Christ wants us to know and serve him.
The Church is not merely a nice “add on” to our relationship with the Lord Jesus. The Church is the means that Christ uses to make himself present to people and it is the way that Christ wants all people to have so that they can share the gifts he wants them to enjoy.
In terms of Christ and the Church, the Lord Jesus does not give us a choice between one or the other. The Church is his Body! Once, Christ made himself known in the Body of his Incarnation and now he makes himself known in his Body, the Church. To truly know and love Christ, to truly serve him, means that we know him, love him and serve him in his Church.