First Reading: Acts 14:19-28
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 144(145):10-13a,21
Gospel Reading: John14:27-31
One of the inspiring late-twentieth-century music I’d ever listen to, is the Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me”, released in 1972 (may his soul rest in peace). In that song, the Gospel was preached. It first attests that sometimes in our lives we all have pain and sorrow, but if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow; after this, he goes on to encourage the strong to be a support for the weak, for we all need somebody to lean on. Encouraging others is one of the profound ways of availing oneself for others to lean on. This is true because people generally tend to be much better when they feel encouraged. In fact, one of the greatest ways for us to model Christ’s love is for us to encourage and support one another in charity. Undoubtedly, all of us face times of discouragement, times of self-doubting, and/or anxious fear about the evil of a pandemic, hunger, diseases/illness, and what the future might bring. This need for encouragement was true for the first-century Christians as well. During the first century, the Christians faced persecutions and crises of faith. In the midst of growing persecution, they were tempted to renounce Christianity and remain or turn back to Judaism. Nevertheless, through the words of encouragement from Christ and the Apostles, they remained firmed and persevered in the faith. This is what we see in the readings of today
In today’s Gospel, we hear Christ (before his death and resurrection) bequeathing his gift of peace on his disciples and encouraging them not to be afraid in the persecutions that lie ahead of them in the future: ‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. Here, it can be said that Christ offered his ‘shoulder’ for his disciples to lean on. The same act of encouragement is what we see in the first reading by the Apostles. We are told that after facing hardships and persecutions themselves, they didn’t give up but continued to persevere in the faith, and encouraged the members of the Church. According to Luke, after gathering a number of disciples, Paul and Barnabas “put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’”
Similarly, in the difficulties we face today in our world, especially the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, in which many have been discouraged already because of the spread of the disease, hunger, deprivation of the necessities of life, loss of jobs, etc., we are called to be the ‘shoulders of support’ on which many of our brothers and sisters in need can lean on. I want to challenge each and every one of us today to pay close attention to one another, understand their struggles and pain, and consequently avail our ‘shoulders’ for them to lean on by encouraging and helping them. The truth is, we all need somebody to lean on; as such, that brother who is in need today might be the same brother that might offer his ‘shoulder’ for me to lean on tomorrow.
Above all, the greatest ‘shoulder’ we can ever lean on is that of Christ. This can be achieved daily by building confidence in God’s Word, the Sacraments and also deepening our prayer life. In the present difficulties and challenges we face, let his consoling words in today’s gospel reading continually strengthen and support us: “Let not your hearts be troubled…” Indeed, what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Therefore, Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer. Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
May the good Lord continually grant us the grace to continually live out the gospel values, encouraging and supporting one another as Christ modelled out for us in the gospels. Amen.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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