4th Sunday of Easter-Cycle C-2016

FIRST READING            Acts of the Apostles 13:14, 43-52

Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia.  On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats.  Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.  On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.  When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said.  Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.  For so the Lord has commanded us, I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.”  The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord.  All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region.  The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory.  So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium.  The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

SECOND READING        Revelation 7:9, 14b-17

I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  Then one of the elders said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  “For this reason they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple.  The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.  They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them.  For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

GOSPEL                          John 10:27-30

Jesus said:  “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.”

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Part of the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus is to consider Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  It is not enough that Jesus rises from the dead.  No, this death and resurrection and part of His live that He always gives for us.  Just as at Christmas we hear that Christ is born for us, so also today we should hear that Christ dies for us and is raised for us.

The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, shows the early followers of Jesus willing to sacrifice and even suffer for the Lord.  These followers feel the need to proclaim the presence of Jesus and His Resurrection.  They feel a need to give witness to the power of Jesus at work in their lives.  We modern Christian rarely feel that need and urge to give witness.  We are a little uneasy about proclaiming that Jesus has risen and we are even more uneasy about giving personal testimony.

The second reading, from the Book of Revelation, is on the same theme as the first reading:  those who have offered their lives in witness to Jesus, to the Lamb of God.  This reading gives witness to the multitude of martyrs in the early Church.  These are women and men of every race, nation and people who were willing to give witness to the Resurrection and who paid for that witness with their lives.  This reading also bears witness to the theme of the Good Shepherd when it tells us that the Lamb will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water.

The Gospel of John today also focuses on Jesus as Shepherd but also on Jesus being one with the Father.  This is a powerful statement of Jesus.  We must not water it down in any way.  The Father and the Son are one.  We must never take the road that so many take today of beginning to think that Jesus is just a good man, who had a special relationship with God and nothing more.  No, with the early followers of Jesus we must proclaim:  Jesus is Lord, Jesus is God, Jesus is Savior.  This witness, even in our modern, accepting age, can bring us to martyrdom.

The promise of the Gospel today is that Jesus is with us and will be with us.  We are not speaking about Jesus as an historical figure, who did nice things and spoke nice words!  No, we are speaking about Jesus, who is God, who is Savior and who is Lord of all.  Jesus promises to be with us and so His promise in the Gospel today is true for us as it was true for His early followers:  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.

Let us rejoice as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord.  He is our Lord and draws us to Himself.  May we respond!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip