Acts 16:1-10; Ps 100:1-5; Jn 15:18-21
The missionary movement of the apostolic church is not just limited to the early days; it is essential to our identity as church, today. We too summon all you lands to sing joyfully to the LORD and Liberator of every human being and all human communities. In faith we recognize what the Psalmist knew that all people are God’s people, the flock he tends. Indeed, the creator of every person is summoning all generations to the LORD, who is good and his kindness endures forever. Like our ancestors in the faith we too summon all the earth to the joy of complete liberation and true freedom. This universal call we inherit from Christ and his Apostles. The fulfillment of our missionary vocation today is subject to both the struggles of Saint Paul and the hatred about which Saint John writes.
Saint Timothy was born Jewish because his mother was Jewish. This ethnic background gave him an advantage in his missionary work. He was not excluded from fellowship with the Jews, but to make his ethnic identity clear circumcision was necessary. Perhaps, Saint Luke is trying to present Saint Paul as being all things to all people. In any case, Saint Paul is operating out of a genuine sensitivity to the audience. He is willing to use whatever is necessary to summon people to union with Jesus the Christ. Such apostolic zeal is tested and refined during his prayer. Twice the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in certain towns prevents him, and once in a vision he summoned to proclaim the good news (in Macedonia). Saint Paul is both sensitive to his audience and sensitive to divine guidance in prayer. Genuine listening to the needs of the people and the direction of the Holy Spirit enabled Saint Paul to fulfill his missionary vocation. We too need the same skills to fulfill our mission. We must be sensitive to others and listening in prayerful obedience.
Even though we have such a sensitive and obedient heart, we will encounter hatred. This is the promise of Christ to those who follow him. The reason we will be hated is simple; if the world hated the Lord Jesus then the world will hate those who follow Him. “They will harry you as they harried me. They will respect your words as much as they respected mine.” This may appear to be bad news, but in fact it is good news. Indeed, persecution, rejection, hatred from the world is a sign that in our lifestyle and our witness we reveal the Lord Jesus, the faithful Son of the Father. Since the world knows nothing of the Father, they know nothing of the Son, so they will have nothing to do with those who follow the Son. Being sensitive to our audience does not necessarily mean buying into every agenda item of every group. Indeed, being sensitive may mean that we must challenge, question, and object to certain enslaving attitudes and values. Because we want our brothers and sisters in the world with us to live in true freedom and genuine liberation, then we will necessarily seem like an uncomfortable presence, at times, or share what seems to be a contradictory value, at times. However, it is the light of Christ and the warmth of the Spirit that reveals that obedience to the Father’s will is our true delight. We, who daily struggle to become more faithful, cannot live without consuming Christ’s flesh and being consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit.