Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said: "Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved."(P) The word of the Lord.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (R)
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my saviour. The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. (R)
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my saviour. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his kindness endures forever. (R)
Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
The New Testament of the Bible consists of four Gospel narratives, the Acts of the Apostles and twenty-one epistles or letters, and the Book of Revelation. The gospels tell us the life of Jesus and his teachings. The Acts of the Apostles detail the work of Jesus' followers in propagating the new faith while the epistles teach the meaning and implications of the faith. The Book of Revelation foretells the future events.
Today's second reading is taken from the first letter of John, presumably written by John, the Apostle and evangelist, and addresses a group of believers who were apparently influenced by the teaching and work of "false prophets" who were denying or rejecting the incarnation of Jesus Christ and causing much division among Christians, 1 John (3:1-2). To encourage them in their faith and to repudiate heretical teachings, John recalled the privileges and status they enjoyed as believers in Christ. Just as members of Clubs have access to a range of elite benefits, so also can Christians enjoy precious spiritual privileges, according to John.
He writes, "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are", 1 John (3:1a). In order for the believers to recognize the privileges, John first demands that they should "see" or "behold". When we want people to pay attention to something important, we tell them to look so that they can see it. In like manner, John urges Christians to direct their minds and hearts toward something unique, special, and extraordinary, and that is, God the Father's love for them. In the Bible, the Greek word used for love is agape. It is the highest form of love; it is selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional. This love leads a person to voluntarily suffer inconvenience, discomfort, and even death for the benefit of another without expecting anything in return.
It is the love that someone gives not because the other person is lovable or worthy of love, but because the giver is a loving person. "God so love the world that He gave His only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life", John (15:13). "Christ died, once, and for all, for our sins. He, the just one, died for the unjust, in order to lead us to God", 1 Peter (3:18). "The wages of sin is death", Romans (6:23). Although we deserve to die because of our sins, God sent His Son to die in our place so we can be saved. Thus, John reminds the Christians that this is the kind of love that God has for humankind.
And then, John says that God has "bestowed" this love on us. "To bestow" is to present a gift or to honor. God has presented or honored the humankind with the gift of His love, that is, His Son Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross, "so that we may be called the children of God". It means that it is only by the gift of God that we become children of God. By nature, we are just creatures of God, but it is by His grace that we become His children. While all the human beings are children of God in the sense that they owe their lives to Him, John believes that we become God's children by an act of God's initiating grace and our response to it. Thus, it is a privilege to become the children of God. But then, the question arises: if being a Christian is a great honor, why are Christians rejected and despised by others?
John answers that "The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him", 1 John (3:1b). In other words, true Christians do not have to be surprised that others in the world - non-believers, non-Christians, non-practicing Christians and even members of their own families - do not pay attention to what they see, believe in and act on. This is because they are experiencing only what Jesus Christ has already experienced. He came into the world as the Son of God. But the the world did not love or approve Him, but rejected Him and put Him to death. The world preferred its own ideas and refused to accept His divine message. The same is bound to happen to anyone who chooses to embark on the way of Jesus Christ.
John further pointed out the privileges that are still awaiting us. He said, "We are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is", 1 John (3:2). What he means is that in many ways, this life is only a beginning. Here and now, our status is "children of God" but what we shall be is still beyond human comprehension and imagination and, it has not been revealed until now. Yet, he believes, "when Christ appears in his glory, we shall be like him." This just goes to show that our future and our glory will be much greater. Here, John's belief is based on the old creation story which says that man was made in God's image and likeness, Genesis (1:26).
But, our sins have made us lose the full image or likeness of God. As Saint Paul says, "We have fallen short of the glory of God", Romans (3:23). However, the Apostle John wants us to rest assured that, through our belief in the work of Christ, we would bear the image and the likeness of God once again. Moreover, he says that we would not only be like Him, but we shall also "see Him as He is". In other words, the end result of all our devotion and worship of God here on earth is to see the face of God and be like Him in holiness.
What is the message for us?
We must be careful not to drift away from our faith. Just like the first century Christians, we too can easily drift away from our belief in Christ as God and from the truth of Christ. Spiritual drift occurs when we stop paying attention to what we hear and see; when we neglect to keep Christ as our anchor; when we keep company with people who seek to distort the Scriptures and twist Church's teachings to appeal to the secular world; when we face opposition, ridicule and persecution as a result of our commitment to Christ. However, no matter how far our lives have drifted away from God, we must never be discouraged and think we are beyond redemption. Because God loves us. And no matter how far we have gone away from His Laws and instructions and worship, He patiently awaits our return.
Our time here on earth is a preparation for the great glory we shall see. In fact, it is already being fulfilled, as we behold the glory of the Lord in His Word, in the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ, in the Church i.e., the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, popes, priests, nuns and missionaries, in the faithful, in the Sacraments and Sacramentals, such as, holy water, candles, ashes, palms, crucifixes, medals, rosaries, scapulars, and images of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints. These are signs of God's love and care for us.
The fact is, we become what we behold. Once our eyes are opened through faith, we are able to see Him for who He really is. Meditating on and looking intently at the person and work of Christ will result in transformation. Paul says, "We are being transformed into His likeness," which means that it is something that happens to us when we behold Him, 2 Corinthians (4:3).
None of us has loved or trusted or thanked or obeyed or treasured God as we ought. Therefore, we all deserve eternal punishment in hell. Even though we are guilty, He still loves us and has bestowed upon us many spiritual privileges and blessings. Most of all, He has given us the right to be His children because of His Son Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.
Even if others do not recognize what we do in our love for them, let us remember that Christ Himself has already experienced rejection, and that those who share in Christ's sufferings will also share in His glory, that is, "we shall be like Him and we shall see Him face to face."
God Bless You!