Acts 14:21-27; Rev. 21:1-5a; John 13:31-33a,34-35
The first reading tells us that Paul and Barnabas went throughout the Mediterranean World proclaiming the Good News of Jesus rising from the dead. The Good News that Paul and Barnabas spoke of was expressed by John in the second reading, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. God will dwell with them (us) and they (we) will be his people and God himself will always be with them (us) as their (our) God.” (21:3). The Parentheses are my interpretation.
As a quick disclaimer in verse 4, John says, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” Now obviously the second has not come to pass on earth, but the first part, I believe, is true.
If Jesus brought us good news that he has power over even death and if God is in the midst of the human race, why do Christians have so many problems? I think it is because we ignore the commandment Jesus gives us today, “…I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn13:34). Instead of loving others we focus on faith and over-coming sin. Many of us worry about how we can get closer to God, try to prevent sin from affecting our lives, and we can become neurotic.
The problem with focusing on faith is that faith and faith experiences are not linear. We do not grow in faith by following prescribed steps to holiness even if some Christians say we can. We cannot earn holiness, because holiness is a gift we grow into through wisdom (finding God in our life experiences) and by loving as Jesus commands.
A friend of mine recently shared that he and his brother were like the prodigal sons. He felt that God loved his brother whose life consisted of high highs and low lows. He on the other hand had remained faithful for decades, but felt his faith was weak and desired to grow as a man of God..
I told him that I too believed his brother was blessed, but that his brother had woken with the pigs on numerous occasions. That is what sins does to us. We end up living with the pigs or sin forces others to live with the pigs. The point of the story is that the father loved both of his sons and had seen from a distance how much the younger son had suffered. When people have slept with the pigs, they carry those scars always.
My experience of being a follower of Jesus Christ is following the commandment that he gives us today- Loving one another. By following Jesus’ example and the example of the father of the Prodigal son, I find the “Kingdom of God” enters into my life.
–Brother Jim Fogarty, Brothers and Sisters of Love
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