May 10, 2019

Fourth Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Acts of the Apostles supplies the first reading for Mass this weekend. It gives a glimpse into the 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, which 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. He would have been comfortable among Jews, and also more likely to be heard when he spoke to them.

Even so, he obviously was not always met by universal acceptance, although it would not be accurate to say that he attracted no converts from among the Jews whom he met. He drew many of them into the ranks of Christians, and he attracted Gentiles as well.

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. It was proclaimed by an Apostle whom Jesus personally had called and by St. Barnabas, a disciple of this Apostle.

So salvation continued through the Apostles. Jesus still spoke.

The Book of Revelation furnishes the next reading. It is symbolic in its language, 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. Their sins have been washed away, precisely by the sacrificial blood shed by the Lord on Calvary.

They carry the palm branches of martyrs, as they have kept their faith despite persecution.

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. It also presents Jesus as the Good Shepherd. For an audience overwhelmingly agrarian, as was the audience to which Jesus preached, imagery built on sheepherding, sheep and shepherds was familiar and instantly understood.

This passage states that the sheep know the shepherd. In turn, the shepherd knows them. It implies a relationship of closeness, total devotion and trust. The reading says that this shepherd gives eternal life. Following the shepherd, the sheep will never perish.

No one can snatch them away from the shepherd. The shepherd will protect them from all predators, because the sheep belong to him. It is the will of the Father.

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

Reflection

This weekend, the Church calls us to celebrate the resurrection once again. It begins the fourth week of proclaiming the wondrous news that it first pronounced at Easter. Christ 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 the sublime act of resurrection gives us evidence that Jesus is divine, the Son of the eternal Father. As risen, Jesus is unique among humans. As God, Jesus is the bearer of life, truth, peace and joy. There is no substitute for the Lord.

The second point made this weekend and in past weeks is that the word of Jesus, and the salvation given by Jesus, continue. They did not cease with the ascension. Jesus lived in the preaching and the good works of the Apostles and lives in their followers and successors.

As an example, through Paul and Barnabas, Jesus touched people needing hope and salvation, needing to know God.

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

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