April 30, 2010

Fifth Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionAs throughout this Easter season, the Acts of the Apostles supplies the first reading for this weekend’s liturgy.

This reading tells the story of some of the missionary activities of Paul and Barnabas. Although eventually they parted, Paul and Barnabas, Paul’s disciple, visited several places in Asia Minor that were prominent cities in the Roman Empire of the first century A.D.

Ancient traditions see all the Apostles as missionaries. Most of them indeed went far and wide to proclaim the Gospel, although for most of the Apostles the details have been lost or are kept only in pious traditions.

However, Acts reports many of Paul’s efforts in evangelizing. It is more than a travelogue. It reveals the conditions in which these two great figures in early Christianity lived out their mission as Apostles. It is a lesson about the faith of Paul and Barnabas.

Speaking to Christians in the cities that they visited, Paul and Barnabas realistically warned these followers of Christ that hostility and difficulties were ahead.

Their warnings hardly came from paranoia or as a strategy to build regard for themselves by fabrication. The culture of the Roman Empire was absolutely hostile to the values of the Gospel. Moreover, the political order was becoming hostile.

Paul and Barnabas faced hostility and endured difficulties. Nevertheless, they were undaunted. Ignoring risks, rejection or setbacks, they continued to move from city to city, from Christian community to Christian community, proclaiming Christ. Their faith inspired and impelled them.

For the second reading, the Church this weekend offers a passage from the Book of Revelation.

This book, the last book of the New Testament in the translations and versions that have been used for centuries, is highly poetic and symbolic, moving and strikingly beautiful in its imagery. Often, its symbolism is very involved or unique to the first century. As a result, understanding the book is not always easy without reading scholarly commentaries along with the text itself.

However, the meaning of Revelation is not beyond human intelligence. The book looks to the spiritual life, to life in a world transformed by Christ.

This reading gives a vision of heaven symbolized by the holy city of Jerusalem, but a transformed Jerusalem, and a vision of God. It looks into eternity and to the place there for all who love God.

St. John’s Gospel is the source of the last reading.

This is not a Resurrection Narrative, but is strongly reminiscent of the Resurrection and of the Lord’s death on Calvary.

Jesus obliquely refers to the Crucifixion and to rising from the dead. Eternal life is open to humans who follow the Lord in obedience to God, in sacrifice and in faith.


Last month, the Church called us, with joy and the deepest faith, to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus after the terrible event of the Crucifixion.

Gradually, gently but unrelentingly, the Church has called upon us personally to respond to Jesus, to bond ourselves with the salvation that Jesus offers us.

This weekend’s readings proclaim the sacrificial death of Jesus as well as the rising of Christ from the dead, and also calls upon us to respond by following the Lord.

As the second reading from Revelation, eternal life with God in heaven will be our reward.

But we still are in this life. We become authentic disciples by loving God, each other and all people as Jesus loved everyone. In this love, Jesus died on Calvary as a sacrifice.

In the Resurrection, Jesus triumphed. We can walk the same path. We must walk the same path.

Empowering us spiritually, guiding us, are the Apostles, still with us in their successors to early bishops, such as Barnabas. Through them and with them, we find strength and access to the Lord. †

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