May 12, 2019 — Fourth Sunday of Easter
Throughout the Easter season, our readings have given us glimpses into the life of the newborn Church and the bold witness of the early disciples in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to all who would listen. These disciples were the first to live a stewardship way of life. Their example is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago to inspire and guide us modern-day disciples.
In the First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, we catch up with Paul and Barnabas in Antioch. While they certainly have some success in reaching many people there with the message of salvation, others are downright infuriated by their words and send them packing. Yet, we read the following verse to describe their reaction to this turn of events: “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” Overall, it seems as if Paul and Barnabas had failed in Antioch. But this seeing failure has not robbed them of their joy. What’s more, they are filled to the brim with the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit. How is this possible?
It is only possible because Paul and Barnabas saw themselves as nothing more and nothing less than stewards of Christ and His Good News. This realization brought them freedom — to offer themselves and their lives to others for the sake of the Gospel. The “results” of their efforts were up to God. They knew the Holy Spirit would never abandon them when their lives were focused on serving God and others and as a result they experienced a profound sense of joy that does not depend on external circumstances, a joy the world cannot give.
This Spirit-filled, joy-filled life is available to all of us, all these years later. It can be achieved when we recognize, like Paul and Barnabas, that all we have and all we are is a gift from God, meant to be shared with others for His glory. Of course, living as God’s stewards does not mean a life of ease or a life free of sacrifice. Sometimes the steward’s life involves great challenges, requiring all the strength and love one has to give. But in the end there is simply no more satisfying way to live.
How can we grow in our identity as Christian stewards so that we, too, can be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit? The Gospel reading today tells us: we must live in trust and dependence on Jesus, our Shepherd. When we cling tightly to Him by freeing ourselves from holding on too tightly to our “stuff,” our time, and our achievements, we can hear His voice. He says so Himself: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” He knows us! He laid down His life for us to give us eternal life with Him. He will never ask anything of us that will harm us. A stewardship way of life is meant only to enrich us.
So this week let us resolve to take a step towards less concern about ourselves and greater trust in Him. We will become joy-filled, Spirit-filled stewards of His good news everywhere we go.