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Easter 4 (B)
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Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

 

1. Acts 4, 8-12

  • Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit.  I hear another good news message from the apostle to all the assemblies of the worldwide church.  And I can repeat it fittingly if I allow myself also to be filled with the Spirit.  And who might that Spirit be?  The divine one who gives me courage to speak my faith, the loving one who makes sure everyone is included, the eternal one who witnesses only to the truth.  Let me reach this point before I attempt any further reading.
  • Why are there so many passive voices here: Examined, done, saved, healed, rejected The word of God is anything but passive!  So I refuse to get mired in them.  The key words here are not these verbs but a couple of pronouns.  We and he (the cripple) are subjects receiving God’s favor, and you are listeners who could become subjects in their own right.  I will rehearse this grammar at the base of the passage until I get it right.
  • I have found those active words that tie the reading together: good deed, raised from the dead, become the cornerstone.  Peter is saying something like this: Yes, all this is connected with the healing, and do you want to know how?
  • I proceed to the good news message itself.  As a church we witness to the name of Jesus Christ.  On the one hand you crucified him.  On the other God raised him from the dead.  He has become the cornerstone, as we re-interpret the words of Psalm 118.  Jesus gives health to the sick and salvation to everyone, which are both fruits of the name of Jesus.  Three times I hear it in the mouth of Peter.  It is our active proclamation as a church. 
  • I hear urgency in the voice of Peter.  You and all the people should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean.  ‘Jesus the Nazorean’ everyone knew, but ‘Christ’ comes from his faith – and mine.  I will enunciate that faith.
  • And, further, the curing of the cripple is a sign for everyone, a time for decision.  Nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race.
  • Climax: There is no salvation through anyone else.  The words have been tragically misunderstood by so many, to justify wanton attacks upon non-Christian cultures, but they do reveal the urgency of the apostles’ mission.  I witness to this, and pray that our homilist will help us to understand the meaning.
  • Message for our assembly: It is not our feeble constructs, but God in his wisdom, who defines expansively and decisively how Jesus saves.
  • I will challenge myself: To speak with the same boldness and inclusiveness that Peter showed before the council of Jewish elders.

 

2. I John 3, 1-2

  • Every word in the apostle’s letter lives and breathes the intimacy of God with us.  He compares it to the relationships in a family.  God is Father and we are the children of God. 
  • We may not hear the word ‘Jesus’ in this brief passage, but he is the primordial child, the beloved, who has brought us together.  We do not hear now of reconciliation, as we do in Paul’s letters, but rather about the realization of something that is always true.  Yet so we are.  That is what we celebrate most of all at Easter.
  • Examples of the intimacy between God and ourselves abound throughout the letter.  In this brief passage I hear the words Beloved, love bestowed on us, children of God, know him, be like him. 
  • What we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We are getting into resurrection ideas now, and the apostle dismisses all the creative ways we might imagine that existence.  We must keep our eyes of the loving God.  We shall be like him.
  • The reading is short, and I will make use of pauses and changes of tone for effect.  The reading (and its rendering into English) are also spoken plainly and directly, and I should present them plainly and directly.
  • Climax: Yet so we are.  So simply put, so conclusive.  Is there any greater truth?
  • The message for our assembly: Here is the witness to the universal call to holiness: We shall be like him.  No more disguises, no more poses, just the unvarnished truth, the way it is.
  • I will challenge myself: To convince the assembly with the tender way I speak the words that witness to God’s family.

 

Gospel. John 10, 11-18

  • I am the good shepherd.  I hear the Gospel passage of the Good Shepherd, the first image with which the early Christians identified the risen Lord. 
  • I hear the contrast with the hired man who works for pay and has no concern.  Yes, the poor maligned wolf makes its entrance, to catch and scatter them.  (I am more partial to the wolf, knowing something about its social behavior and realizing that it is today the endangered species.)  As I read I make sure to place more blame on the irresponsible stewards, a theme from the Hebrew prophets. 
  • There is repetition throughout the passage.  The phrase good shepherd comes twice.  Jesus fulfills the image of the shepherd who lays down his life by the witness of his own death: and for these sheep I lay down my life. 
  • This phrase ‘lay down one’s life’ occurs three times.  It fits seamlessly into the reading, even though we have always paid more attention to the spirit of Psalm 23, the Nativity shepherds or the Pastoral Symphony.  This reference to ultimate sacrifice gives a hard edge to the passage, which is something I will try to evoke in the midst of the green pastures and peaceful waters.
  • Jesus is intimate with the sheep.  I know mine and mine know me.  Jesus is also intimate with the Father.  The Father knows me, the Father loves me, a commandment from my Father. 
  • Climax: The promise of one flock and one shepherd.  The challenging mission, once again a life-and-death struggle today, is handed on to us, in words that were set down several generations after Jesus completed his mission on earth.
  • Message for our assembly: We are comfortable knowing that Jesus wants to be our shepherd.  Are we willing to listen to his voice?  Mine know me, they will hear my voice.
  • I will challenge myself: To bring the promise of the one flock closer to fulfillment with my reading.

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