This is my homily for 25 April 2010, 4th Sunday of Easter, for Newman Catholic Association at the Teaneck campus of FDU Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Mass is Sunday 7:30 p.m. during Fall + Spring Semester at FDU Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. **ALL ARE WELCOME.** To view the readings, go to http://www.usccb.org/nab and click “April 25” in the calendar.
[__01] It is traditional in our Catholic Mass, our Catholic worship, to read from the Jewish Old Testament and the Christian New Testament.
And, normally, we hear – at Mass – a reading from the Jewish Old Testament that relates to the Good News of the Gospel and New Testament. For example, we might hear about the Jewish people and their miraculous crossing of Red Sea in the Book of Exodus. Then, we would hear a reading from the Gospel in which Jesus also miraculously crosses the water, walking on water. In both readings, water is symbol of death and danger and sin …and God saves us from the waters of death.
Or, in another example, Good Friday, the first reading is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah which is about the suffering servant who will save Israel. Then, in the Gospel of Good Friday, we read about the Passion and Death of Jesus.
The exception to this tradition comes in the Easter Season. We read not from the Old Testament but from the New Testament and Acts of the Apostles. These apostles have experienced the resurrection and have seen Jesus and are being sent out to serve and “act.” Thus, we read about these “acts” of these “apostles.”
[__02] Coming to the altar, we also experience the resurrection. When we come to the altar, we say and sing, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:9)
We are similar to the apostles; we touch him; we receive him.
And, we remember that touch is an invitation.
[__03] For example, to be “tapped on the shoulder” by the President means you are being sent to Washington D.C. to be part of the Cabinet.
To be “tapped on the shoulder” by the coach means you are being sent into the match.
Touch – in these two cases – is an affirmation of who you are and what you can do.
Nevertheless, we are also called to keep our ego in check, keep our pride in check even when someone singles us out to do something.
In anything we do there will be failures, rejection mixed with success.
And, this is the case in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The reading about Paul and Barnabas.
Paul and Barnabas experience some encouragement, some success.
They go to Antioch to preach the Good News but they are run out of town within two weeks.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that they go the synagogue once. But, then they go to the synagogue the next week and their “poll numbers” are way down. Next stop: Iconium.
[__04] Sometimes, being touched and being sent spiritually can be uncomfortable. The Lord may ask to do things that seem difficult - uncomfortable – or even impossible.
And, we may be asked to do something for which there is no study guide or reading days. Fortunately, our *Teacher* has “office hours” and you can even take the exam multiple times.
Maybe we are being led – as Peter is after the resurrection – where we do not want to go. (cf. John 21:18)
Or, we may be led to change something that we do not want to change.
For example, suppose we find ourselves with a particular friend or group of friends with whom we feel very comfortable; or among whom we feel very popular ... but also with whom we also find ourselves tempted to do things really are against our own Catholic Christian ethic of wholeness, and human dignity , faithfulness to Christ in both body and spirit.
It is not easy or comfortable to distance ourselves from such a friendship.
Saying no – even out of love – can be very disruptive. Also, telling someone else –that “your behavior does not demonstrate love” is a great challenge.
It’s not easy to tap the other person on the shoulder.
Prayer is important before, during and after any such conversation. Even when you are having such a difficult conversation, pray in your head and heart. Prayer helps to keep our own ego in check while really seeking the good of the other person … and also putting aside our own desires for status, popularity, comfort.
Also, prayer helps us to remember that true love and friendship are only built on the sands of time and comfort. Rather, true love and friendship even exists beyond the sands of time. And, true love exists into eternity in our friendship through Christ. Our hope is that our relationships will continue in heaven. And, this friendship does not mean sand, it means rock.
We don’t build our houses on sand but on rock. (cf. Matthew 7:24-29) The solid rock of honesty, self-sacrifice. This sometimes I do not get what I want…but that I become who I truly am both now and forever.
[__05] Touch is a loving action but also can produce some discomfort in the short term. Being tapped on the shoulder and sent into the game can be difficult.
It is so for Paul and Barnabas in chapter 13 of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.
Tapped on the shoulder by the Holy Spirit, Paul and Barnabas are sent to Antioch to preach the Good News. Some of the Antioch townspeople welcome and encourage them; some do not.
Their stay is cut down to only two weeks and their message – by their persecutors – is deleted faster than a phony email asking for your Bank of America PIN number.
Paul and Barnabas end by shaking the dust of Antioch from their feet.
[__06] Yet, this remains Good News. Even when we have to shake the dust of our feet of something that happened …or when It is Good News when we realize who has touched us, tapped us, sent us and in whose hand and reach we are.
Jesus not only sends us into trouble and danger but also meets it himself on the cross on Good Friday.
This is the cross whose wood we also touch on Good Friday. Traditionally Good Friday is about touching, touching the wood of the cross which reminds us to bring our joys and sorrows to him.
And, which reminds us that we are within range – of touch and voice of the Good Shepherd. And, we pray that he will continue to be guided us by his words and his hand.
As we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel:
Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:27-30)
This reminds of the Trinity, of the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that Jesus hears our prayers and intercedes for us in heaven. [__end__]