Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
(Acts 11:19-26; John 10:22-30)
Calling citizens of the United States “Americans” did not happen on the first day of the revolution. It took time for the people to understand themselves in this way. Perhaps the name was secured when George Washington in his farewell address to the republic wrote, "The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation." What does the term convey? The true answer to this question can only be “different things to different people.” Still Americans are generally recognized for their freedom to express themselves in the way that each individual thinks best. In today’s reading from Acts we hear the story of how Christians attained their identity.
In the Acts of the Apostles the followers of Christ in Jerusalem retained their Jewish customs. They went to the Temple to pray and adhered to Jewish dietary laws. As the movement spread, however, Jewish customs were gradually left behind. When the disciples of Jesus came to Antioch, they evangelized among pagans as well as Jews. It was impossible to see them any longer as Jewish so they were called Christians. Later on it was said of Christians, “See how they love one another.” Love for others beyond family and close friends became the characteristic mark of Jesus’ followers.
We know that it is often difficult to have patience with those who frustrate us and to pray for those who persecute the oppressed. We struggle to tolerate, much less love, everyone. Yet this is the Christian heritage into which we have been immersed with Baptism.