First reading: Acts 14:21–27
After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” They appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
Second reading: Rev. 21:1–5a
Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”
The One who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Gospel: Jn. 13:31–35
When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In other words Fr. Roger Solis, SVD (University of San Carlos, Cebu City)
The first reading gives is a picture of how successful Paul and Barnabas were on their missionary journey. Although they encountered several challenges along the way, their enthusiasm for missionary work led them to the foundation of a faithful and robust community. It only shows that whenever we entrust everything to God, we will never be forsaken. God will always be there to strengthen us amidst the difficulties and challenges we encounter along the way.
This reminds me of an experience during the height of the pandemic. It was very tough but, at the same time, very enriching. During the lockdown, people were not allowed to roam around because of the dreaded virus. Transportation was limited, and only those who have quarantine passes were allowed to go out for basic necessities. Workers were not allowed to report, and economic activity has stopped abruptly. The pandemic brought considerable changes all over the world.
Since all workers were advised to stay home, we, the SVD community in the University of San Carlos in Cebu City’s downtown campus, had to do everything ourselves. We did everything from laundry to house cleaning, washing dishes to cooking, and even marketing. Since I was gifted with the skills to cook, I volunteered to help out in the kitchen and do the marketing. However, my constant exposure to different people in the market brought terrible consequences. After several weeks I was tested positive and was asked to undergo quarantine as a preventive measure because some community members were also vulnerable due to age. The experience was agonizing, but I never doubted God because things do sometimes happen for unknown reasons. All that matters is our faith in God.
My faith and cheerful disposition helped me go through the healing process without fear or resentment. I know I should have been extra careful because of my diabetic condition. However, it did not stop me from doing things I knew were necessary during the lockdown. I never felt abandoned, rejected, or taken for granted. Food and drink were brought to me regularly with the encouragement that everything will come to pass. Such gesture is a concrete manifestation of brotherly love and concern, which the Gospel today reminds us of.
Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another. It is tantamount to saying that we take good care of each other. For love can be expressed in various ways. Indeed, amidst the challenges I faced during the pandemic, it was the concern and encouragement of community members, of confreres who showed brotherly love that helped me realize that God’s love is alive. Truly, we can only become true disciples of Jesus when we learn to love without counting the cost and expecting nothing in return.