Memory of the Mother of the Lord

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 11,19-26

Those who had scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, but they proclaimed the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, who came from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch where they started preaching also to the Greeks, proclaiming the good news of the Lord Jesus to them. The Lord helped them, and a great number believed and were converted to the Lord. The news of them came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas out to Antioch. There he was glad to see for himself that God had given grace, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord. Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. And it happened that they stayed together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called 'Christians'.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke reports a brief account of the diffusion of the Gospel in Antioch, the third great city of the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria. It was a cosmopolitan harbour city that was universally known for its importance not only in commerce, but also in religion and culture. The text reminds that after the first persecution of the community in Jerusalem, many went in the cities of that region till Antioch. However there had been no mission to the Gentiles. Luke wants to underline the importance of Christian proclamation beyond the Jewish believers. Cities were a privileged place for the communication of the Gospel. Even at that time, cities were highly plural environments because of the presence of citizens from so many other places. Upon entering Antioch, those first disciples addressed their preaching not only to the Jews but also to the pagans who made up the greater part of the city. The success of their preaching was extraordinary. It was a novelty that brought not a little turmoil. So much so that it caused perplexity even in Jerusalem. Those in charge of the community sent Barnabas, a disciple originally from Cyprus, to Antioch to check on the situation and help the community get organized. Barnabas was convinced that the mission to the pagans was due to "the grace of God." Luke notes that it was in Antioch - we are in years 38-40 - that the disciples of were first called "Christians." Until then those who had faith in Jesus were called by different names, such as "brothers" or "believers" or "those who belonged to the Way" (Acts 9:2). Now they were given this name, which specified more clearly whose disciples they were. In a few lines, Luke describes the birth of a new experience in the third great city of the empire, an experience so new that it had to be called by a new name, "Christian." Its newness did not come from a project or ideology, but from the fact that they followed Jesus, the Christ.