FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – C – May 12, 2019

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 13:14, 43-52
A reading from the Book of Revelation 7:9, 14b-17
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 10:27-30

 

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

I see them clad in white like those standing near the Throne of the Lamb in this Sunday’s reading from the Book of Revelation.  That throng armed with palm branches are the ones who have fought to good fight and persevered, faithful to the end.  Now they share in the glory of the Risen One.  The ones I see are those who emerged from the waters of the Font in the night of the Easter Vigil.  In the waters they had died to all that was.  By the side where they had entered were piled the vestiges of the past.  On the other side, they stood in their white garments, the sign of their having been clothed in Christ, and started on their way to the Table where they would be welcomed and invited to share for the first time in the One Bread and the One Cup.  The oil gleamed on their foreheads as they experienced the unity that is theirs with those who had supported them on their journey as the Elect and with them now gather for the meal.

Revelation’s white robed throng look on these Neophytes and rejoice in the hope for the next generation embodied in them.  Those in heaven became a cheering  section in the midst of the Easter event and urged the newly baptized on to victory, to share in their victory in Christ.  The Assembly applauded their entry and pray for their strength to witness to Christ and the power of his dying and rising as for the first time they would be sent to be bread broken and cup poured out for those starving to know the love that comes from God through Christ.  Radiant smiles wreathed the faces of the newly baptized.  .  They exuded confidence as the Easter sun rose.  They exited to imitate Jesus Christ in their pouring out of self in service of the little ones.

We have been in Easter now to this Fourth Sunday.  Notice that the flowers that adorned the worship space have begun to look a little tired.  The once fresh candles are shorter than they were that night, their wax being consumed in the sacrifice of self necessary to give light.  The white robes show smudges picked up along the way.  The faces still give off the joyous glow seen during the Vigil, but there also can be signs of the realization that it is easy to begin this journey, but the successful completion of it cannot be done alone.  They realize that they need the strength and support of the body that is the Church.  They know they need the strength and support that is Christ’s life within them.

By now they know that Easter is bittersweet.  How could they have been warned that some who were their friends might choose not to talk with them or be their friends anymore because of the change perceived in them.  They can not be prepared for the experience of discomfort in once familiar places that now seem inimical because of the stark contrast caused by Christ’s presence in their lives.  The glitter and glitz, the glamor and gold scream of a materialism and egocentricity that they rejected in the Bath.  Like toddlers taking first steps, there is a fear of slippery slopes and steep inclines, unless they have a hand to hold for security’s sake.  They strain to hear the voice of the Lord proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word and to remember.

Their ongoing formation is about familiarity with Jesus and learning his ways, or as we say, accompanying him on The Way.  The implications can be shocking.  It is about love.  By now, four weeks into the journey, they can experience the demand of the love Christ expects to be lived by those who follow him.  Perhaps they are feeling the weight of the cross Jesus said should be taken up every day as they walk in his footsteps.  Are they beginning to understand that the cross is to love inspire of betrayal?  Are they coming to recognize that the cross is the vulnerability that comes with the unconditional love that is the pouring out of self in service? Jesus experienced this in his ministry.  If they minister in imitation of Christ, they will experience the emptiness too.  The ultimate cross is the kiss of the friend who betrays.

Does one have to experience emptiness, to taste the bitter wine of betrayal, to enter into desolation and even face persecution, as Paul and Barnabas do in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in order to know the all consuming love of God that comes to those who walk with Jesus and persevere in and with him.  My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.  

May the Spirit help us all to experience silence and not be afraid, to experience rejection and not be afraid, to listen in the emptiness and recognize the voice of the Lord reminding all of us, caught up in the unity that is Christ’s with the Father: No one can take them out of my hand.  My Father has given them to me.

We are in Easter, a time of rejoicing, but it would be a mistake for us to ignore the fact that these are troubled days for the church.  Pope Francis is urging reform and renewal on the faithful.  Clericalism and an elite hierarchy he sees as being contrary to the Gospel.  The sexual abuse of minors and others by priests and religious men and women, is a horror.  The victims must be lifted up and supported in their recovery.  Many scandalized have left the church.  All the clearer is the demand for us to serve and to live the Gospel’s call to love.  As church we must shepherd in the midst of the sheep, and seek the lost and bring them home again. 

If we listen, if we trust, then one day the neophytes and we who have been on The Way years longer, will stand in the company of those around the heavenly throne and with them sing Alleluia.  Amen.  Amen.

Sincerely yours in the Risen Christ,

Didymus

 

 

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