I have a large family. My wife and I have nine kids, and I love to bless them in ways that they truly appreciate. One way that I regularly try and surprise my kids with is by taking them to a local ice cream shop. It is pretty yummy! When I gather my children and take them to the parlor, there is much joy, with a little caloric regret. Because my family is large we have a reach within our neighborhood that is quite impressive. In other words, through the relationship my kids have with others we can reach dozens of kids in our block. Whether it be to have a 4th of July party or a huge game of baseball, plenty of kids are around. What if I asked my kids to go out and invite their friends and any other kids to come along for an ice cream surprise? All are invited! You can be sure that we’d need to rent a bus in order to get them to the ice cream shop. This example isn’t a perfect comparison; but really, God invited Jewish people to live out a relationship with Him in such a way that modeled and invited the world into a deeper union with God. We all are religious beings according to the Catechism, and when one looks at other religions we can see that humanity wants to respond to what it means to be alive. The celebration of God the Father is for all, and the reach of God would not be hindered, even with many disobedient children throughout salvation history, in that He would personally invite all to the feast through Jesus Christ.
The readings this week have a common thread: the proclamation of the Gospel and our response. We may not be liked or understood for sharing the Good News of Jesus’ saving work, but we are an Easter people, filled with the hope that all sinners can be made pure in Christ. That is what we see in the Scriptures, and that is what we believe when we receive Him in the Eucharist. We can be thankful that the Blood of Jesus forgives us and that we are nourished by His Body so that we can spend forever with Him in Heaven. The joy we know because of the love of Jesus causes us, like the apostles, to want to share the Good News, but not everyone will respond with appreciation. The Gospel is meant to be presented to all, but unfortunately not everyone willingly accepts the inclusive and merciful gift of our Savior.
In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas are having an amazing response to the presentation of the Gospel, which includes the Gentiles and not only the Jews. By the account given from St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, we see that almost the whole town gathers to hear the Word of the Lord. There is jealousy among the Jews, who argue adamantly against these missionaries, and the notable woman of prominence and leading men of influence within the city are encouraged to persecute Paul and Barnabas. Instead of being angry, we see these proclaimers of good news shake the dust from their feet and move on to another city, filled with joy! Why? Because everyone needs to hear and have the opportunity to be invited into the love of God given through the salvific work of Jesus Christ.
The Psalm speaks about the truth of everyone being the people of God, the flock that He shepherds. The Psalmist is reminding the listeners that God has made all people, and we note that the reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a written account of God fulfilling His promise of old that all the lands are the Lord’s, causing us to respond with gladness and rejoicing.
We are made to worship God. When we hear the reading from the Book of Revelation we are reminded that all people are called together – from every nation, race, people and tongue – to adore the Lord. We were made for Heaven; to be in the presence of God. While the story of God revealing Himself throughout time came through the Jews in special covenants with the Lord, the fruit of this self-gift was that all could come into a whole relationship with God.
The Gospel of John speaks to us about the truth of sheep knowing the shepherd’s voice. We are the sheep that He shepherds, and in truth you and I were made to be with Him!
So what now? Most of us want to be liked. We may not all be in the public forum, trying to posit an idea or message that will propel us into the limelight; but I would guess that whether it be in your work place, out for a gathering with friends and family or even meeting someone new, in general, what we say and do is something that we would like to be heard and accepted. Interestingly enough, we have been chosen by God to present the love of Christ, the Good News of salvation, to those we meet in whatever situation we may find ourselves. That lifestyle of joyful hope in Christ may not always be received by every person, and in that, you and I are not alone, but the message must still be proclaimed. The Shepherd has called and we get the chance to respond because we know His voice.