The Lord gives us two mandates in these readings today. Mandate may seem like a dirty word in our day and age. However, when we look at the mandates of Christ, we see they give us true freedom, peace, and eternal life.
In our first reading from Acts of the Apostles, doctrinal and disciplinary questions came up in the early Church. Paul and Barnabas go to the Apostles and elders for clarification. Jesus set up His Church the way He did with her hierarchical structure to do just that. He knew questions would arise, and it would take a Church with structure and authority to clarify things. It happened then, and it happens now. When questions come up, we can go to our bishop who is a successor of the Apostles in union with the successor of St. Peter, the Holy Father.
The reading tells us the Apostles and elders chose representatives and sent them. It happened then, and it happens now. Later this month, two men will be ordained priests for the Archdiocese. The bishop will choose them, and send them to their places of ministry with full confidence that they will teach the authentic Faith they learned under his guidance at the seminary.
In the reading, the Apostles sent out a letter that read: “Some of our number, who went out without any mandate from us, have upset you.” There’s the first mandate of the Lord, that of being sent. It happened then, and it happens now. There is no shortage of people, who may have the best of intentions, who come up with their own interpretation of the teachings of Christ. Note that the reading says: Some of our number – not some crazy outsider trying to destroy us. These were baptized Christian believers. This still happens today. Baptized Christian believers, who are of our number but separated nonetheless, do this all the time. That’s why there are over 30,000 Christian denominations in our country alone. Christ started one Church, not 30,000. Next Sunday, in this diocese, we won’t hear the readings from the 7th Sunday of Easter because the Ascension of the Lord is transferred to Sunday. One of the things we won’t hear is Jesus’ prayer to the Father that we may be one as he and the Father are one.
In our reading today, we also notice the letter the apostles sent said they went out without any mandate from us. Yes, we need a mandate to teach in the name of the Church. At the ordination of every new bishop, there is a document read from the Holy Father called the mandate. However, there have been times when bishops have gone out on their own and ordained new bishops without the mandate. This creates a schism in the Church. This harms her unity.
Then in the Gospel, we get the second mandate of the Lord, He gives us the mandate to keep His commandments and love him. It is by way of this Church that we are able to hear the words of Christ that he promises us in the Gospel. He says: “Whoever loves me will keep my word.” How can we know what his word is unless someone tells us?
What is the mandate of love to which Christ calls us? We are to let go of the false center of ourselves. We are to be more self-giving. We are called to be life-giving in our relationships with God and each other. The sign of our love is obedience to Jesus’ word. Jesus talks about sending the Holy Spirit and then returning himself. We know that he returned to some of his disciples briefly after his death when he appeared to them after his resurrection. Then he would be with us in the Holy Eucharist that we celebrate today. He is made present here for us. Finally he will be made present to us at the end of time. But before that happens, it’s our job to participate with the grace that we receive from this Holy Eucharist. We respond by following the mandate of the Lord. We go out to the world and make Him present to each other through the loving acts we accomplish. Jesus offers us his peace in this Gospel reading. It is only in his name that the true peace he offered his disciples 2000 years ago can be present to us.
The world desires peace and talks about it constantly. However, without the love of Christ, we cannot achieve peace on our own. The world will continue to undermine and destroy its own efforts toward peace. It can only happen through Christ. Peace comes about through acceptance of truth. Only in truth can we acknowledge our brokenness and accept Christ into our lives. A peacemaker is one who declares the truth of God and the truth of his creation. A peacemaker announces to a fallen world that it can be remade.
The worldly way doesn’t seem to work so well. Let’s be the ones who trust in the Lord that his mandates of love and obedience will bring the true peace we seek. We are called to be like those Apostles in the first reading who dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only then will our names be inscribed in the New Heavenly Jerusalem.