Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters,especially for strangers; they have testified to your love before the Church. Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey.
People unfamiliar with the scriptures like to speak of the Bible as a handbook or rule book. Was it W.C. Fields who, being discovered examining a bible explained that he was. "Looking for loopholes?"
Today's first reading is from the Third Letter of Saint John. It was apparently written as an introductory letter to a church of his acquaintance. The bearers were friends of his, disciples, who might speak an encouraging word to the church if they were welcomed. This letter is their credential from the Evangelist. It's not exactly a handbook or rule book; it's only an ancient document, not greatly important at the time of its writing; but, because of its author, treasured to this day.
It gives us a snapshot, a hint, as to how Christians communicated with each other and what they expected of each other. First of all, in a world teeming with strangers, crooks and charlatans, they had to greet fellow believers like long lost loved ones.
It doesn't take long for swindlers to discover and cash in on opportunities. Every time there's any kind of catastrophe, natural or human-generated, there's a whole new crop of thieves ready to grab the goodies. Whether we're thinking of "nine-eleven" or the Haitian earthquake, we're aware of these con artists. The New Testament gives us enough evidence to tell us the early church was plagued as we are today with common criminals. (Few of them will face justice before their death, but I would hate to be in their shoes on That Day.)
To protect the faith and their communities, the leaders of the Church wrote letters to one another. Saint Paul made a point of signing his own letters when an amanuensis had written it for him, just to assure his friends of its authenticity. Bishops today have elaborate systems to assure one another that priests who turn up far from their home dioceses are legitimate representatives of their bishops. Since the Scandal they go to unprecedented lengths to protect the faithful.
Today's first reading may not seem terribly important but it does give us a sense of the early Church and its troubles, and some reassurance that little has changed in the intervening centuries. We are still God's people, holy, blessed, ovine and vulnerable.