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In one of his first sermons (and how refreshing it is to hear a pope actually preaching in simple, uncomplicated, challenging language!) Pope Francis warned about the danger of a focus concerned with the preservation of antiquities or the promotion of novelties!
So, this Sunday’s ENTRANCE ANTIPHON caught my attention. Proclaim a joyful sound and let it be heard; proclaim to the ends of the earth: the Lord has freed his people.
The Resurrection reminds us that we are a liberated people – a people who are supposed to respond to a freedom which both challenges and makes us joyful.
It is in this way that the Lord’s ‘face’ sheds its light on us, his ways become truly known, and we learn what it really means to be SAVED! None of this is achieved by either an undue attachment to antiquities or an escape from realities via ‘toys for boys’!
Now, the opening stanza of THIS SUNDAY’S EXTRACT FROM THE PSALMS [67 or 66] begins
to provide a strong foundation for reflection on the other three scripture proclamations. The Psalm proclaims:
God, be gracious and bless us and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earthand all nations learn
In the same sermon referred to at the outset, Pope Francis refers to the need to live with the smell of the sheep. WOW! This is the Bishop of Rome talking! No wonder the traditionalists are throwing toys out of their cots?
The Resurrection does not wave a magic wand. It is not something which takes us out of life. Jesus Christ came back from the dead, returned to life and living. We learn nothing apart from our own personal living which is the forum of our salvation – and that forum includes the reality of the smell of living. It is right there that we should seek, not only require, the Lord’s graciousness, blessing, and light. It must be in the reality of our lives and daily living that we LEARN his ways and EXPERIENCE salvation.
So, we turn our attention to the three readings -. ACTS15: 1 – 2. 22 – 29REVELATION 21: 10 –
14. 22 – 23, and JOHN 14: 23 – 29.
In the first extract we read that “some men came down from Jerusalem and were teaching the brethren, Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Does this sort of thing sound familiar? How often have we heard and/or been told by well-meaning, often misguided, zealots that unless we become adherents to some sort of devotion or practice we are not really kosher Christians or Catholics?
We must be constantly careful of attempting to ‘impose’ any particular faith/religious practice, routine or ritual upon our brothers and sisters. All too often the only result is confusion, doubt, and questions. There are far too many ‘infallible’ statements being made by countless people who do not enjoy the gift! After all, the popes themselves have only made TWO infallible statements in the last two hundred years!
In addition, it needs to be emphasised that even if some specific devotion or practice is ‘liked’ or preferred by a particular pope, this fact does not, in any way, make the matter obligatory.
There are two other important matters highlighted in the reading from ACTS. Firstly, that some men came from Judea to Antioch. Strangers were attempting to interfere in a particular Church community about which they were ignorant. Secondly, the Church in Judea admitted this was inappropriate. They said as much in the Letter that was sent afterwards. “Some persons from us have troubled you with words, ….. unsettling your minds.” We all need to learn a basic lesson from this. The higher authority listened to the local leaders (Paul and Barnabas). This is a lesson which has all too often been forgotten by our contemporary Church – even though given clear formulation by Pope Pius X1 in an important encyclical Letter. The Pope wrote: “it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organisations can do.”
With all this in mind there is a valuable image presented, and lessons to be learnt, from the Revelation reading. There are twelve tribes and twelve gates (three on each side). Each gate has the name of an apostle of the Lord. Different people enter through different gates, and all live happily united inside (the Church). The light of THE ONE LAMB comes to all.
The Gospel reading confirms that “the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit” teaches all the different people the same basic things but each one has arrived by a slightly different route. This is the truth of the matter, and is the pattern given for one purpose only: that “you may believe.”
It needs to be repeated what was said a few weeks ago – UNITY MUST NEVER BE EQUATED