|The Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 13:14, 43-52
Psalms 100:1-2, 3, 5
Revelation 7:9, 14-17
My Irish grandmother had a comforting expression; “God loves His own.” We all knew what that meant; God loved us because we were Irish. She was convinced that being Irish was a covenantal relationship and we had better enjoy it and keep it to ourselves. She would never consider herself as prejudice, rather, self-accepting.
In today’s First Reading, we hear of Paul and Barnabas who have experienced God’s love for “His own,” but “His own” is being expanded to the gentiles. They speak of Jesus in the midst of the Jewish worshippers who grow frightened and jealous when seeing how many people begin following this new Way.
For all their witnessing they get run out of town and so continue the action of the Holy Spirit as they move onwards. The early Church grew by the work of the Spirit and the freedom of the Apostles and their disciples to say simply their truth despite any resistance or persecution. God does love “His own” and we see in this reading how hard it is to let God be larger than our minds, fears, and expectations.
The Gospel for today is thick and tightly packed. God loves “his own” and they hear the voice of that Love which is more intense than a shepherd for his flock.
There is a delightful jealousy to Jesus’ saying that no one can take us out of His hand. Jesus claims us as a gift from His Father and in the Third Cannon of the Eucharist, we pray that Christ will make us “an everlasting gift to the Father.” We are baptized so as to enter into Christ’s being an eternal gift of God to this world which He claims as “His own.”
Paul, Barnabas and the other Apostles had been inspirited to see themselves as gifts which could not be confined to territories or traditions. Their actions and words unwrapped the gift and revealed the Giver. God loves “His own” and “Himself” so infinitely that God keeps nothing jealously except love for “His own,” who are all of us. Our work is not to get tangled up in the wrappings and to allow God’s love to be seen and heard through our apostolic acts.
We have a strange conflict within our spirits. We want to belong to someone, some group, some way of getting things done. We also have a fear of being owned or possessed in such a way that we lose our freedom. We fear abandonment and yet we don’t want to be held down. We want to live in some form of commitment, but we want to do that freely. We dislike the thought of being grasped or forced into a relationship. So here we are with these conflicts and yet found in the hands of God.
Barnabas and Paul were in the hands of God and the hands of those who found the new Way offensive and threatening. They found joy in how God was handling them. We have our own tensions, because we have our own fears and threats. If we trust God, what will God do to us in a future which frightens and also threatens us.
Back to my Irish Grandmother. Each summer my parents would leave the six Gillick children in the hands of Grandma and take a week’s vacation. What could be more loving than that! We soon learned that Grandma had plans to improve the house and also keep us close at home. We loved her, of course, but we did not love what her hands made our hands do, for six days. We rested on the seventh.
All six of us still have an image of a Grandmother-God Whose hands we want to know exactly what is in them. What is going to be asked of us all if we trust being, “His own”?
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