Saul, convinced he was doing God’s will, zealously persecuted the early Christian community, dragging women and men from their homes and throwing them into prison. He had the endorsement of both civic and religious leaders. And that vote of confidence on their part fueled his sense of urgency and mission. Knowing he was a disciple of the pharisee Gamaliel, who famously said, “If they are from God you will not be able to destroy them; you will even find yourself fighting against God,” we see how God would intervene and redirect Saul’s zeal and fervor to advance the proclamation of the Gospel to all the nations.
The Christian community, particularly those of Greek persuasion, were the easy target of this persecution. All the deacons, including Stephen and Philip, were called to minister to the Greek-speaking widows and members in need among them. And this persecution scattered them to the winds. Philip found himself in the city of Samaria where he continued to proclaim the Risen Jesus, and many were moved by his words and the signs he was doing. He too, like Saul, was convinced he was doing God’s will. And through his work, the church continued to grow in number.
Persecution and other challenges push us to explore creative ways to fulfill Jesus’ mission to “not lose anything of what the Father gave him.” It is the Father’s will that he give them eternal life. It is the mission Jesus has entrusted to his church as well. Perhaps we shouldn’t just prepare for when things go back to what they were before this pandemic. Perhaps we should be exploring new ways to proclaim Jesus risen from the dead when we emerge from this crisis. Just because it worked before doesn’t mean it will work again or keep working. If we must speak to the present culture, we must face the present reality with its present challenges, and find relevant and creative ways to bring Good News to God’s people and draw them to encounter the Risen Jesus anew.
This mass was offered for the repose of +Anthony Viscomi.
Rolo B Castillo © 2020