‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’ (Lk. 12:32). ⧾
These are perhaps among the most consoling words recorded in Sacred Scripture. And in every age, including ours, they are addressed to a little flock. What is this little flock, if not those who have both the courage and the trust to take Our Lord at His word? And what is the kingdom, if not Our Lord Himself? Jesus, Way, Truth and life (Jn. 14:6) is the Kingdom. He is the path of devout humility that we follow, the way that guides our life here on earth and into eternity and the life that gives meaning and purpose to our own life.
The Apostles who were sent out by Our Lord to preach the Kingdom of God established a pattern of mission that the Church is bound to for all time, by virtue of her apostolicity. In the Creed we profess the Church to be apostolic. She is apostolic in her origin, in her doctrine, and in her witness. In our own nation as elsewhere, the first to bring the Good News of Salvation witnessed to the truth of Our Lord’s words by the shedding of their blood because as St. John reminds, the light came into the world but men preferred darkness to the light because their deeds were evil (Jn. 3:19). But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God (Jn. 1:12).
Ancient Christian writings bear witness to this gospel pattern of proclamation, reception and transformation or in light of yesterday’s glorious Feast, the transfiguration of individuals and peoples into a new creation, into citizens of the City of God, formed by divine teaching into a people who are seeking a new homeland, the fulfillment of the promise of the Kingdom. What follows is from an ancient Christian work called a Letter attributed to Barnabas. It is but a short excerpt, but enough to illustrate what the Church has always taught, especially as it concerns Christian morality. These are immutable truths.
Consider now the way of light; any man who is bent on reaching his appointed goal must be careful in all he does. Noe these are the directions that have been given to us for this journey: love your Creator; reverence your Maker; give glory to him who redeemed you when you were dead; be single-minded but rich in spiritual treasure; avoid those who travel down death’s highway, hate whatever is displeasing to God, detest all hypocritical pretense; do not abandon God’s commandments. Do not put on airs, but be modest in whatever you do, claim no credit for yourself. Plot no evil against your neighbor, and do not give pride an entrance into your heart.
Love your neighbor more than your own life. Do not kill an unborn child through abortion, nor destroy it after birth. Do not refrain from chastening son or daughter, but bring them up from childhood in the fear of the Lord…Do not associate with the arrogant but cultivate those who are humble and virtuous…Cherish as the apple of your eye anyone who speaks to you of the word of the Lord…Preserve the traditions you have received, adding nothing and taking nothing away…Such is the way of light.
These are but a few words from this ancient Christian text attributed to St Barnabas. This text is part of the living transmission of the apostolic preaching accomplished in the Holy Spirit; and we who cherish this tradition, this living faith that we have received and are handing on to our children and to others, well understand and appreciate that we can in no way add anything or take anything away from the deposit of the Faith for it is the treasure that we cherish in the vessels of our very hearts, however frail they may be. Therefore, as St. Paul exhorted the first Christians, we also thank God continually because when we received the word of God, we accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God which is at work in us who believe (Cf. 1 Thes. 2:13).
We can only imagine how liberating the gospel was to our ancestors who first received it, to those who have come to faith even now as adults and to all disciples of Christ when we come to the obedience of faith. So as we do at every Mass, we will recall the memory of the Saints, all who have gone before us with the sign of faith; and in so doing we therefore sing the praises of our ancestors (Wis. 18:9).
As we thank God for the gift of the true faith, the way of light, let us pray for ourselves and for one another; that we may remain steadfast and persevere in the way and work of salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:2) because we will have to give an account of our stewardship; and so Our Lord wisely admonishes us: ‘everyone to whom much is given, of him much will be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more’ (Lk. 12:48). ⧾