April 15, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Acts of the Apostles supplies the first reading for the Masses on this weekend. It gives a glimpse into St. Paul’s way of life as he moved across Asia Minor in his proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus.

Paul evidently first went to synagogues. It is not surprising. After all, he was of Jewish descent and background, and he was well educated in the Jewish culture and religion of the time.

Quite likely, he would have been more comfortable, but also more likely to be heard in such surroundings as synagogues.

It also is clear that he was not always met by universal acceptance. At the same time, he did persuade some of his Jewish listeners to embrace faith in Christ. Indeed, he drew many of them into the ranks of Christians. He also attracted Gentiles.

However, these details are only secondary to the story. The point of this reading is that the word of God, pronounced by Jesus, continued to be spoken and received long after the Ascension.

Moreover, it was proclaimed by an Apostle, and by Barnabas, a disciple of an Apostle.

Salvation goes on. Jesus still speaks through the Apostles.

The Book of Revelation furnishes the next reading. It is very symbolic in its terms, but its meaning is clear. Among those saved by Jesus are people from every nation. Their number is great. They are baptized, wearing the white robes of baptism. They carry the palm branches of martyrs. They have kept their faith despite persecution. Their sins have been washed away by the Lord, precisely by the blood he shed in his self-sacrifice on Calvary.

The Good Shepherd leads them. He rescues them from the heat of the day, and the dryness of earthly life.

St. John’s Gospel provides the last reading. This Gospel, read after the passage from Acts, also presents Jesus as the Good Shepherd. For an audience overwhelmingly agrarian, as was the audience to which Jesus preached, imagery built on sheepherding and shepherds was very familiar and well understood.

This reading states that the sheep know the shepherd. In turn, the shepherd knows them. It implies a relationship of closeness and of trust. Moving beyond symbolism, the readings say that this shepherd gives eternal life. Possessing this life, the sheep will never perish.

Furthermore, no one can snatch them away from the shepherd. The reason is that they belong to the shepherd because of the will of the Father.

Then, in a great testament of self-identity, Jesus proclaims oneness with the Father.

Reflection

This weekend, the Church calls us to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection once again. It begins the fourth week of proclaiming this Good News that it first pronounced at Easter. He lives!

With the readings this weekend, and with those of the preceding weeks of Easter, the Church essentially makes two points.

The first point is that Jesus lives, literally, and that in the sublime act of resurrection is evidence that Jesus is God, the Son of the eternal Father. Risen, Jesus is totally unique among humans. As God, Jesus is the bearer of life, truth, peace and joy. The Lord has no substitute.

He has no substitute in being the only rescue for humans from whatever endangers them.

The second point is that the word of Jesus and the salvation he gives continue, living in the preaching, sacraments and works of charity of the Apostles and of their followers and successors.

Through Paul and then through Barnabas, Jesus touched people needing hope and salvation, needing to know God.

By emphasizing these points, the Church presents us with its basic belief: Jesus is God. In Jesus is truth and life. It also reassures us. Jesus is with us still. †

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