The Incredible Closeness of Christ
User's Guide to Sunday, April 17
Sunday April 17, is the Fourth Sunday of Easter. Mass Readings: Acts 13:14, 43-52, Psalm 100:1-2, 3, 5, Revelation 7:9, 14-17; John 10:27-30.
We really do belong to Jesus. As the Compendium of the Catechism puts it, “A baptized person belongs forever to Christ. He is marked with the indelible seal of Christ” (263).
Today’s readings show just how true that connection to Jesus is.
First, our connection to Jesus is “in our blood.”
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me,” says Jesus.
What he has in mind here is very much like something we see in nature: Birds can find their parents by their songs.
Human beings add another dimension: Mothers can distinguish their babies’ cries from other babies’ cries. Children can hear their parents’ voices, too. I remember being lost in a store as a child and being able to know where my dad was just by hearing him clear his throat.
In nature, this happens through genetics. In the spiritual life, there is a kind of spiritual genetic connection that happens through our being incorporated into the body and blood of Christ. It gives “God’s faithful people” the “ears to hear” the commands of the Lord.
Second, our connection to Jesus makes him our true home.
The second reading describes a vision that many of us long to see: “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue,” gathered together in unity and harmony.
The vision is of heaven, and it is a very comforting vision because it is our true home. Consider: In heaven, the blessed “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.”
The reason this vision is attractive to us is that it seems to describe the happiest moments in our childhood, those times when people who love us watched over us, fulfilling every physical and emotional need, and we had no worries and no fear.
The only place we can find that again is in our memories and in heaven.
Third, our connection is so real, it rises above other connections in our lives.
In today’s first reading, Paul faces the community he was raised with, the Jewish community, and invites them to follow Christ with him. Many take him up on it. Then it happens.
“When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said,” says the reading from Acts. Paul tells them, “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.”
In response, Jewish leaders stir up opposition to Paul and Barnabas, and they have to leave — they shake the dust from their feet and travel to Iconium, modern-day Albania, to continue preaching.
It is a good reminder. The incredible closeness of Jesus Christ means many wonderful things in our lives, but occasionally it means some things that are not so wonderful.
It means we have to be willing to leave lesser loves for the one love we have found in Jesus Christ.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.