Scripture: Lectionary 280. April 23. Acts 11:29-36. Psalm 87:1-3.4-5.6-7. John 10:27-30:
“It was at Antioch that the disciples were called Christians for the first time.” (Acts 11:36). This was not a nickname for the followers of Jesus. These disciples came from among the Gentiles who were preached to by the Apostles. We will learn that Barnabas and Paul will continue to bring in many more who will be known as Christians. I really like that verse that tells us this was the first time the term was used. Luke is such an interesting writer. The name could have come from those who were converted or from the center in Antioch where Barnabas and other servants of the word resided. It now became a way of identifying the new communities from those that were Jewish.
Antioch is the city that is not far from the coastal city Seleucia and not too distant from where Saul was staying at Tarsus. Barnabas would go to Tarsus and bring back Saul to help with the instruction of the many Gentiles who were coming into the faith of the followers of Jesus. Saul will become known as Paul and he and Barnabas will spend a year together at Antioch teaching and catechizing the new converts.
The name Christian means a follower of Christ (Jesus). Paul will soon being using Christ as the way of introducing Jesus to the nations. Christ means the Anointed One, the Messiah. Christ becomes a proper name through the Pauline writings. You may have heard from academic circles the difference between Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. It is similar to the nomenclature of the mid twentieth century when there was a defining the priests who worked as well as were pastors as the hyphenated-priest. I personally think that is not a good identity for priests who are to be wholesome and integrated in both their work and ministry and prayer; in now way should they divide these responsibilities and be hyphenated. Moreover, for our faith experience of Jesus, it is good to unite the Jesus of history with the Christ of faith. Scientific historical scholars are the ones who can tell us more about the historical life of Jesus, but do not touch upon the Christ with as much enthusiasm. For the believer, keeping the two names together is not a bad idea. Our faith is where we experience the Christ who is Jesus and Jesus who is the Christ. Perhaps, the now old cliché of “both…and” applies to what I am advocating here.
The call of the Christian is to have a wholesome image of Jesus Christ; not one that is analytical just for the sake of factual knowledge. There are enough books on the historical Jesus to pursue the analysis of historical criticism. Reflection and liturgical theology keep the union of Jesus Christ in a spiritual way that helps us on our own journey as servants and disciples of the word. “Let Jesus Christ be praised!” Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.