Readings: Acts 12:24-13:5 Ps. 67:2-3,5-6,8, John 12:44-50

“I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)

Antioch represents an important turning point in the history of Christianity. Yesterday, we read that: “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number that believed turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21). This news prompted the church at Jerusalem to send Barnabas to them, who, in turn, brought Saul from Tarsus to Antioch. Not only did the church in Antioch experience exponential growth in number, but it was also a place where believers behaved like Christ such that it was at Antioch that people were addressed as Christians for the first time.

In today’s First Reading, we learn that under the guidance of Barnabas and Saul, Antioch was a vibrant church, a community of prophets, teachers, and prayer warriors. “While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”(Acts 13:2). This is the first recorded instance of the Holy Spirit speaking directly, not just to one person, but to an entire congregation; everyone heard and understood the Holy Spirit’s message. There was no confusion – a shining example of the light that Jesus Christ spoke about in today’s Gospel passage. How do we position ourselves to hear from the Holy Spirit today? In other words, how do we take advantage of the light that Jesus brings? This brings us to our lessons today:

1. Never Neglect Prayer: The Church in Antioch was a prayerful community. If we desire to hear from the Holy Spirit, we must devote time to prayer and fasting. Without prayer, we are powerless against our enemies. Without prayer, we cannot hear from God (spiritually deaf). Without prayer, we cannot see the hand of God in our lives (spiritually blind). Without prayer, we cannot speak blessings over our lives (spiritually dumb). Prayer is the only real master key; it opens both physical and spiritual doors. It also gives us insight into spiritual realities. Jesus is God, yet during His life, Jesus devoted so many hours to prayer to teach us that prayer is the source and summit of spiritual refreshment. Jesus asked the disciples: “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). Do you think giving God an hour daily is too much?  

2. Accompany Prayer With Fasting: The Church in Antioch prayed and also fasted. When we fast, we involve our whole body in prayer. Fasting deepens our hunger and thirst for God. Fasting helps us control the desires of the flesh. St. Paul says: “I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27). In other words, fasting enables us to develop self-control. Fasting also helps to quieten the noises about us so that we can hear more clearly from God. In Luke Chapter 2, we read that Anna, the prophetess, worshipped God with fasting and prayer and never left the temple. Like Simeon, Anna immediately recognised Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus also began his ministry with forty days of prayer and fasting. If you want to hear from God, pray and fast.

3. Obey God’s Commandments, Let Your Light Shine: The church in Antioch was a beacon of light because they were true Christians; they lived as Christ did. If you want to hear from the Holy Spirit, there should be no contradiction between what you externally profess and what you do. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus says: “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them… the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.” (John 12:46-48). When we keep God’s word, we become lights to the world and more importantly, God opens our eyes to see beyond the ordinary.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, teach me to discipline myself to hear more and more from you daily. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Remember, amid all challenges, choose to be happy. Live with a positive mindset and believe in God’s plan for you. God bless you abundantly. (Wednesday of the 4th week of Eastertide. Bible Study: Acts 12:24-13:5 Ps. 67:2-3,5-6,8, John 12:44-50).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu