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For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 19 April 2013

4th Sunday of Easter Year C 2013

4th Sunday of Eastertide (C) 

(Acts 13:14, 43-52; Rev. 7:9, 14-17; John 10:27-30)

After Jesus rose from the dead and had poured out His Most Holy Spirit upon His disciples, there were men and women to be found already living, here on earth, the eternal life of heaven; and today’s readings lead us to celebrate that heavenly gift of eternal life which, even now, begins to take hold of, and shape, the lives of Jesus' true disciples here on earth.  From the book of Revelation we heard:

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.

That puzzled John the seer, and he was told:

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.  

Multiform cleansing is one of the main purposes to which we dedicate our use of water.  Those, however, who come out of the great tribulation of which the seer speaks, have washed their robes with the only cleansing agent able to wash away the stains of human sin, that is, the Blood of the Lamb; for it is that Precious Blood, poured out for us, which alone gives the power for supernatural cleansing to the baptismal waters of the Church.  As Jesus said:

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

People of God: it is a fact of Catholic spiritual awareness that the sacraments of Mother Church are to be regarded as the fruit of the outpouring of Jesus' Blood, and that such a precious outpouring should never be rendered vain by thoughtless irreverence, let alone by downright disdain.  Today, however, far too many parents think they will have their child baptized merely to satisfy their own parents, or, perhaps, to gratify their own pseudo-conscience ("I would like to have my kids done … then I will feel I have done my best for them"), without having any real intention of bringing up their child in the ways of Jesus according to Mother Church's teaching.  They understand baptism only as a ceremony, where water is poured over the child's head whilst a few words are said, and then all is over and done with.  They have little or no reverence for the sacrament, little or no awareness that the water poured out is most truly holy water, water empowered by the shedding of Jesus' blood and enabling those dedicated to Jesus (by personal innocence or intention) to thereby wash their (souls) and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. Such water, and indeed the grace of all the other sacraments, should only be used, poured out, or received, in Spirit and in Truth, that is, in a sincere love of and reverence for Christ in His Church, showing itself as a desire both to obey His teaching and to follow the guidance of His Spirit.

But let us leave doubtful Catholics behind.  Let us look forward and upward, let us seek to learn more about this new life He has won for us, so that hopefully we may come to more fully appreciate our calling and find ever greater delight in worshipping God and serving our neighbour as committed disciples of Christ:

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.
The Lamb who is in the centre 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.  

Those before the throne of God serve Him day and night in His Temple; that is, they delight in Him, praise, worship, and glorify Him in Mother Church, and above all, in JESUS, with ever deeper joy and more consuming zeal.

To understand something of this, just think, my dear people, of the spontaneous "Oh!" and the outburst of clapping which can take place when some big throng of people are surprised by beauty or majesty, power, wisdom or skill, seen or portrayed.  Now those who are before the throne of God catch glimpses of His infinite beauty and truth, wisdom and holiness; His awesome majesty and power; His unimaginable goodness and humility: they see God.  And because God is infinite, just as when travelling by car over countryside or through woodland and guided only by the stars above and the full beam of your car's headlamps, you catch ever-fresh glimpses of beautiful trees, gardens, streams, cottages, valleys and hills lit up by your headlights and all following one another in seamless continuity as you continue on your journey through the night, so it is for those before the throne of God: those thus blessed can never weary of praising and delighting in Him because He is endlessly new and totally beautiful, admirable, and good, filling to overflowing any and every human desire and capacity for joy in being.  Moreover, He who sits on the throne, we are told, will spread His tent over the blessed: they will never have any fear for their treasure and well-being is secure, nor can their love ever be compromised or diminished, for eternal peace and security overarch and protect the plenitude of their heavenly blessings.

The Lamb at the centre of the throne will be Shepherd of those He has brought to springs of living water in the Father’s presence.  Yes, Jesus will be there -- with us and for us -- as our Shepherd, our Leader and our Glory, leading us along the heavenly paths of eternal life, so that, with Him, all that is truly human in us, far from being smothered or denied, will be glorified as He, our Lord and our Brother, is glorified in His humanity. 

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Who can fittingly speak of the intimacy and tenderness of God the Father's relationship with each and every one of His children redeemed by the blood of His Only Begotten and most Beloved Son?  All lingering hurts and humiliations, all accumulated anxieties and fears, will be tenderly wiped away by the all-knowing, fully-understanding, and ever-watchful, love of our Father in heaven.

That is some slight idea, and I hope, some glad anticipation, of the life of heaven.  Now, that life -- Mother Church teaches -- begins here on earth for Jesus' true disciples, but its heavenly fulfilment can only be attained by those who have passed through tribulations of varying degrees chosen by God in His Fatherly goodness to cement their union with Jesus in sincerity, depth, and trust.

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. 

What are these tribulations?  Let us recall our first reading:

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.  

Today many who are turned from God and seeking worldly power and fulfilment behave like the jealous Jews of Paul's time: they reject the Gospel themselves and seek to prevent others hearing and obeying it.  The young are – by peer and social pressures -- challenged to indulge in sex and drugs, urged to be seen having and enjoying as much of the world as anyone one else.  Others have friends or acquaintances who, not trusting God themselves, constantly incite them to worry about the past, the present, or what might imaginably happen in the future; especially with concerns about money, health, or  others’ opinion of them.  For young Christians these are modern equivalents of the persecutions endured by Paul and the early Church; less violent trials indeed but perhaps more insidious temptations awaiting those still immature in the love and discipline required of true disciples of the Lord. 

The Gentiles were delighted, and glorified the word of the Lord.  All who were destined for eternal life came to believe. 

There are many Catholics who have been gladdened to hear the word of God and to experience the grace of God in their lives before such trials and temptations sullied the purity, peace, and joy, of their faith:

The Jews 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. 

Many, when friends and family oppose them – like those devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city – allow themselves to fall by the wayside.  They may not fall away from Church, but certainly, joy in Jesus no longer fills their heart; and as their longing, so too their searching, for Him dries up; they settle for life on earth and no longer think of, or aspire to, that heavenly life which, after its beginning in baptism, should develop through a life of discipleship and reception of the sacraments, into its full flowering in heaven.

My sheep hear My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, they will never perish. My Father Who has given them to Me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are One.

Dear People of God, you have been called into Jesus' flock; listen, then, to His voice, and follow Him alone.  Do not yield to siren voices whose worldly attitudes and aspirations only serve to stir up tensions and antagonisms, worries and anxieties, in your hearts and lives.  In Jesus alone are true joy and peace,  fulfilment and strength, to be found.  Keep close to His traces and He will lead you to eternal life, for such was the commission given Him by His Father, and to do His Father’s will He lived, died, and rose again.