May 17, 2019

Fifth Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionOnce again in this Easter season, the Acts of the Apostles supplies the first reading for the Mass. It reports some of the missionary activities of Paul and Barnabas. Although eventually they parted, Paul and Barnabas, Paul’s disciple, visited several prominent cities in Asia Minor, the Roman Empire of the first century.

While ancient traditions see all the Apostles as missionaries, since most of them went far and wide to proclaim the Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles concentrates on Paul’s work in proclaiming the Gospel.

The reading is more than a travelogue. It is a lesson about the faith of Paul and Barnabas and about their uncompromising determination to make Jesus known. It also reveals the conditions in which these two great figures in early Christianity lived.

As they spoke to Christians in the cities that they visited, they warned these followers of Christ that hostility and difficulties faced them. Their warnings sprang from their own experiences. Paul and Barnabas met opposition and endured difficulties. And it is not surprising that these two great champions of the Gospel faced hardships.

The culture of the Roman Empire was absolutely hostile to the Gospel. The political order and the law were becoming hostile as well.

Nevertheless, Paul and Barnabas remained undaunted. They continued to move from city to city, from Christian community to Christian community, to reassure believers in Christ and to promote Gospel values. It was a risk, but despite the risks and the rejection they at times faced, 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, is highly poetic and symbolic. Often, its symbolism is so involved or so unique to life in the first century that understanding the book is difficult without reading scholarly commentaries along with the text itself.

For example, in this reading, the vision is of heaven, but symbolizing heaven is the holy city of Jerusalem, the ancient geographical center of the chosen people. Jerusalem, however, is presented as having been transformed and glorified because within it Jesus was crucified and rose again. The reading is a statement of faith.

St. John’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. This is not a resurrection narrative, but it is strongly reminiscent of the resurrection, and of the Lord’s death on Calvary because Jesus obliquely refers to the crucifixion.

He also refers to rising from the dead. Eternal life is an option for people who follow the Lord in obedience to God in sacrifice and faith. With Jesus, the faithful will die but also rise to eternal life.

Reflection

A month ago, the Church called us with joy and confirmed faith to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus after the terrible event of the crucifixion.

Since then, the Church has unrelentingly called upon each of us to respond to Jesus, to bond ourselves with the risen Lord Jesus, the Savior.

This weekend’s readings again proclaim the sacrificial death as well as the rising of Jesus from the dead.

It also calls upon us to respond by following the Lord. As the second reading from Revelation tells, eternal life with God in heaven will be our reward.

While still in this life, we authentically become disciples by loving God, each other and all people, following Jesus’ example. In this divine love, Jesus died on Calvary as a sacrifice. In God’s plan, divine love triumphed when Jesus rose.

We are not alone in our effort to be with God, to love as Jesus loved. The Apostles are with us in their successors, because successors to early bishops such as Barnabas still guide us and strengthen us in the Church. †

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