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Harsh Words

By Jonathan Camiolo –

In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we read:

“Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Don’t these seem like harsh words to you? They sound harsh to me.  They sound condemning and even judgmental.  Paul and Barnabas were speaking to the Jewish people, sharing the words and message of Jesus but were met with resistance.  There words sounded much better to the Gentiles (non-Jews), but it made the Jews very upset.  The Jews ended up kicking Paul and Barnabas out of the territory with the help of the local leaders.  It might seem a bit odd that Paul and Barnabas sounded that way, especially since we think of Jesus as loving, merciful and compassionate.  Their words at first glance do not seem true to God’s message and Christ’s mission.  But are they?  Let’s take a deeper glance.

When we look closer, we read that Paul and Barnabas said Jesus first came and shared His message of truth and salvation with the Jewish people.  They were the chosen people and He was the promised One for generations and centuries.  Some of the Jews received Him and believed in Him, recognizing Him as the Savior and the Lord.  But He did not only come for them.  He came for all men and women – Jew and Gentile – ALL PEOPLE.  When we read the end of the scripture quote, we read that Jesus came to be a source of salvation to the ends of the earth.

Now let’s look at the words, “since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life”.  They are not easy to take and read even today.  We would like to believe that “all people go to Heaven”. We would like to think that God’s mercy comes even to those that reject Jesus and deny the truth.  I am not the judge, nor are you, thank God.  There is but one judge – Our Father in Heaven.  His mercy is more than we know and understand.  His love is beyond our comprehension.  But we also must believe that God gives us the free will to choose Him, to love Him, to call Him our Lord and Savior.  And if He loves us so much, and is so wonderful, we like Paul and Barnabas should take Jesus’ news of salvation, mercy, love and truth to all people.  It would be an act of love if we teach others the truth of our faith, challenge them with Christ’s message, and sharing the joy of God’s saving love.

Jesus message is wonderful and full of hope, but it not necessarily easy.  He loves us too much to sugar coat what we need to hear.  When we read His words, sometimes they seem harsh because the truth can be hard.  Correction and conviction can be uncomfortable to hear.  Doing what is right, standing up for the good, and being a Catholic Christian today is not simple and sweet; but following Christ is the best thing we can do, and anyone is welcome to do so by Him.  He has invited all of us.  He wants to share His love with all of us.

Let’s respond by following Him and bringing others to Him too.  Jesus wasn’t crucified because everyone liked Him.  The apostles weren’t martyred because the message of Jesus was so popular and easy.  Let’s share the truth that might, at times, seem harsh with incredible enthusiasm and sincere love.   Let’s bring it to everyone.

Happy Easter!!!  Remember, there are a few weeks left!  Let’s keep celebrating.

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