Joy to the World
Jesus never promised that it would be easy to follow His commandments. In fact, a brief glance at the first reading for today highlights the challenges of being a disciple of Christ.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas are following Jesus’ directions to spread the Gospel to the people. They are traveling through various cities proclaiming the good news. The only direct quote from these apostles, however, speaks to the necessary hardships to enter the kingdom of God. To be a disciple of Christ, to live the faith, means to suffer for going against the grain of society. To be a witness to the teachings, and to live out those teachings, means that you have to stand up for your beliefs and be questioned by others. These hardships and questions are experienced by everyone, as St. Peter found out when he was questioned on his connection to Jesus before the crucifixion. To say we believe is one facet of the faith. However, the true commandment of our faith is to live the commandments and stand up in the face of the hardships and questions posed to us.
John’s words in the book of Revelation show how we are part of a new world through Christ. There has been a significant change, and the old has fallen away. The sea is no more, there is a new Jerusalem and a new covenant. The scriptures have been fulfilled and salvation has been won for us. The hardships spoken of in Acts of the Apostles have given us the gift of Heaven.
Between the old and the new, between the joy of Easter and the approaching day of Ascension, we have the psalm response to keep us sustained on the journey. I will praise your name forever, my king and my God. As God loves us, so we must live the commandments and love one another. Though we will face hardships, we are promised salvation in the new world.