The theme from today’s readings focuses on hardships and trials embracing the crosses that God allows into our lives.
In our human nature, we find ourselves resistant to this kind of suffering. We avoid it and anxiously try to change situations that are unpleasant. But God is inviting us to trust him in our day-to-day lives, even when our circumstances are unpleasant or involve difficulty. God is inviting us to share in his passion. This theme comes through clearly in the Gospel reading when Jesus says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified,” just as Judas is leaving to betray him.
It is precisely through the suffering Christ will face in his betrayal, passion, and death that he is glorified. This is at the heart of our Catholic faith. One of the great mysteries of our faith is that we are all called to share in Christ’s glory, by sharing in his suffering.
Just as Jesus offers up the poverty of his battered condition on the cross, and God uses it to transform the world, so too we are called to offer up the sufferings and poverty of our lives. When we are willing to embrace the poverties of our day-to-day lives and offer those up in trustful surrender and in union with Christ’s sacrifice to the Father, God will transform them into amazing riches.
Unpack the First Reading
Commissioned by inspiration of the Holy Spirit while in Syrian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas are sent by the church there to preach the Gospel to the peoples on the northeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. We see in their travels that “God…opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” Even at this early stage in the life of the Church we can see a clear split developing between church and synagogue. In any group there are likely to be those who’ll accept the Gospel and those who won’t.
This reading shows us something else about the infant Church: Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church. The Greek term for “elder” is “presbyteros,” which is the root word for the presbyteral office, that of priest. So we see that at least as early as seventeen years after the death of Jesus, priests were considered an ordinary part of church life.
The character of the early Church as the Church of martyrs is drawn out here too. It’s clear Paul recognized that in Christ we’re given the perfect model of discipleship and he certainly suffered. No life is, in fact, without suffering, but Christian discipleship requires that one oppose the prevailing values of the world. That brings with it some special burdens for us to bear.
Unpack the Second Reading
In reference to the heavenly city, we’re told that there will be no more death, mourning, or crying out in pain. Of course, such a state could only exist in a new heaven and new earth. This idea of a new heaven and earth is rooted in Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 65:17-19). John witnesses the fulfillment of this prophecy in the vision we read about this week. It’s unclear as to whether the text requires that it be interpreted as purely a vision of heaven or as symbolic of the accomplishment of a messianic reign on earth.
What is clear is that in either case, the source of the newness of things— whether heavenly, earthly, or both—is God. As John says in his Gospel’s prologue, by making his “dwelling among us,” he institutes the messianic kingdom. In sharing our human sorrows, he makes ours a joy. In shedding human tears, he wipes all ours away. He does this first in the Incarnation and will do it definitively, finally, when he greets us in heaven. In any case, we labor in vain if we hope to build the City of God ourselves, for it’s his gift. It descends “down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Unpack the Gospel
Because we’re less familiar with the Old Testament than would have been Jesus’ apostles, we often miss the announcement. Jesus confides, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” Jesus is apparently making reference to Daniel 7, where Daniel received a vision in which he saw four beasts representing worldly kingdoms, which are all finally displaced by a heavenly ruler, referred to as “One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven,” who receives eternal glory and kingship from the “Ancient One.” “Son of Man,” was Jesus’ preferred title for himself.
It’s also interesting to note that after Jesus mentions his glorification as Son of Man, he gives a commandment—his most important command —to his apostles: “Love one another.” We’re to love as he loves. Jesus tells them, and us, that his followers will be recognizable for the love they bear for one another. In so commanding, Jesus is exercising the dominion that he receives from the “Ancient One” and passing the source of his glory, which is his self- offering of love, to his followers, “the holy ones of the Most High” who will possess the kingdom. All of this corresponds to the scene in Daniel 7.
Reflect & Discuss
Our theme today is “Embracing the Cross.” After you watch the short reflection video, discuss the questions with friends or write down your thoughts in a journal.
The presenter, Jim Beckman, talks about what he calls “dandelion theology” to express a mystery of the spiritual life. First, let’s simply review: What is the purpose of the dandelion story he tells?
What character in the image did you first identify with? Was it the little boy? Was it a surprise to turn the image around and picture yourself as the mother?
In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus knows Judas is going to betray him and he will suffer and die very soon, and yet he says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” He knows that it is only through acceptance of his suffering that he will come into his fullness at the right hand of the Father. How is this a lesson for us when we face trials and suffering?
As we think about the lessons of today’s Gospel reading, what are some of the areas in your life where you are not being receptive to the cross? Is there some trial or inconvenience in your life that you keep avoiding? Or some difficulty or suffering that you keep trying to steer clear of?
Reprinted from Opening the Word Leader Guide with permission from Augustine Institute.