There are two points Pope Francis mentioned in a couple of his recent daily homilies which I want to emphasise and link with TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 15: 1 - 3....
Even if we are born Catholics or Christians of other denominations and have faithfully (sometimes slavishly) followed the prescribed routines and rituals it is possible for us to have lost the essential plot.
Cry out with joy to the Lord ….
we are his people ….
know that he, the Lord, is God …
we belong to him …
eternal his merciful love …
He is faithful from age to age.
Thus proclaims THIS SUNDAY’S PSALM [100 or 99].
It is important for us to note that TODAY’S FIRST SCRIPTURE [ACTS 13: 14. 43 – 52] does not
tell us that Paul and Barnabas were, at first, attempting to ‘convert’ (what a dreadful expression – it always reminds me of attempts to convert a Volkswagen Beetle into a beach buggy!?) people from Judaism but, rather “on the sabbath day went into the synagogue.” There “they urged … many Jews and converts to Judaism to continue in the grace of God.”
By the way, many of us will remember the days of old when we had to seek special permission (seldom, if ever, granted) to attend a wedding or funeral in an Anglican or Protestant church – let alone a synagogue! I wonder whom Paul and Barnabas got permission from?! My good father could never understand why this was necessary as he could freely go to the wedding reception or the cemetery burial?! In other words, we were free to drink their alcohol, eat their food, and dump a handful of soil on their coffins but could not pray with them?! The plot had been lost!
What precisely were we afraid of – contamination or, God forbid, a spark of interest in another ‘way’? We had lost the plot! Have a good look at the reading from ACTS. There was something very specific and particular about Paul and Barnabas’ manner and approach, while they urged continuation in the grace of God. There was something special about them. That was all – and it was this that arrested the attention of others while upsetting the establishment. This establishment had lost the plot by limiting the Lord God to their own boundaries and experience. It was a case of faith-religious insecurity.
“Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth.”
Yet, if we take the time, we will note that we are told something very important in THIS SUNDAY’S SECOND SCRIPTURE EXTRACT [REVELATION 7: 9. 14b – 17]. There was “a great multitude … from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and tongues standing before the throne.” Was all this multitude Catholic or even Christian? What about the faithful Jews, Muslims or Hindus who have faithfully “continued in the grace of God?”
Each one of us is called to continue in the grace of God as we know and experience it. The Christian God is faithful from age to age – and he “does not have favourites.” (ACTS 10:34) In our turn, Christians have to be faithful, not fearful or insecure.
TODAY’S GOSPEL VERSES [JOHN 10:27 – 30] continue the theme of our Psalm and tell us that an essential requirement of being faithful is the hearing of his voice and following him. The result of this sort of faithfulness is the fact that we will never be snatched from his hand. “We are his people, the sheep of his flock.” In some strange but very real way it is better to be a good Methodist (only an example!) than a bad Catholic!
All our Scriptures this Sunday point to one central fact – that Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, stands in our midst. He does so not only as an anchor for our living, and a powerful guardian, but as a pointer on a compass. He is the North, South, East, and West (with all the variable angles in between) of each and every aspect of our lives.
The Risen Lord is able to meet, hold, sustain, encourage, and challenge each and every single situation which faces us as we make our journey. He is alive, well, and active – IN PERSON! He has come back from the dead! It is not a matter of him being some sort of friendly, living, ghost or spirit. The Risen Lord is Jesus of Nazareth who has become THE CHRIST!
Our celebration of Easter must be lived out within the framework of the fact that WE BELONG TO HIM! He has made us his own.
These Easter weeks provide us with yet another opportunity to make him our own.