Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year C)

May 12, 2019 Views 148 Listen 31 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (13:14, 43-52)

Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats. Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.

On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said. Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "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. For so the Lord has commanded us, I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth."

The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord. All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region. The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (100: 1-2, 3, 5)


(R) We are his people, the sheep of his flock.

Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands, serve the Lord with gladness, come before him with joyful song. (R)

Know that the Lord is God, he made us, his we are, his people, the flock he tends. (R)

The Lord is good: his kindness endures forever, and his faithfulness, to all generations. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Book of Revelation (7:9, 14B-17)

I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.

Then one of the elders said to me, "These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress, they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." "For this reason they 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."

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (10:27-30)

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.”

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

On the Sundays of Easter Season this year, we read some important passages from the Book of Revelation. According to early tradition and sometime around the year 95 A.D. during the persecution of Christians, John the Apostle was allegedly banished by the Roman authorities to the Greek island of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation.

John himself writes in the book that while he was on the island and praying on the Lord's day, which most Christians assume to be Sunday and the day of Christ's resurrection, he heard a loud voice. And when He turned to see who was speaking to him, he saw someone "like the Son of Man", that is, Jesus Christ, wearing a long robe and a gold sash and standing among the lampstands. When he fell at Jesus' feet in worship, Jesus comforted him with a touch of love and instructed him to write down all that would be revealed to him. Jesus also reassured him that "He was the first and the last, and the living one." He died, but He is alive forever, and He possesses the keys of death and hades, Revelation (1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19).

In last week's text, we read John's vision of heaven which, in fact, had begun in chapter 4 and for which John was taken into heaven, Revelation (5:11-14). Describing the vision, John said that he saw God on the throne and a great host of angels, elders plus all the creatures in the whole universe surrounding the throne, and heard them singing praises to both God and the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. To Jesus in particular, they sang, "Worthy is the lamb, who was slain, to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honour and glory and blessing."

In today's text, John continues to describe his vision of heaven, Revelation (7:9, 14b-17). He recounts that he saw "a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands", John (7:9).

There are four things that we must note about in this verse:

  • The people John describes as "the great multitude" represent people from all parts of the world with faith in Jesus Christ.
  • White robes are the clothing of the heavenly inhabitants.
  • Palm branches commonly represent joy and victory.
  • Much of this imagery parallels Jesus' triumphal and victorious entry into Jerusalem before His passion and death.

However, while the people who had accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem deserted Him later, the people celebrating the victory of Christ before the throne of God were those who had remained faithful to Him until the end. This was indeed confirmed by an "elder" who was engaged in heavenly worship. In fact, in the verses before this, which are omitted in today's reading, the elder himself had asked John, who these people in heaven with white robes were and where they came from, John (7:13-14a). Only when John replied that he did not know, the elder explained to John that "these are the ones who survived the time of great distress, they had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb", John (7:14).

How can we understand this verse? First of all, "tribulation" and "distress" in the Bible are general terms denoting the suffering of God's people. Actually, the Bible tells Christians to expect suffering. For instance, the Apostle Peter admonishes all Christians in his letter, "not to be surprised" when persecution comes, or think that "some strange thing" is happening to them when they are persecuted as Christians, 1 Peter (4:12). So does the Apostle Paul in his epistles as he speaks of a suffering for Jesus Christ in a very real and hopeful way, Romans (8:35-36); 1 Thessalonians (3:3-4); Acts (9:15-16).

Moreover, Jesus Himself had told his disciples that they would be called to suffer for His sake. He had even warned them that they would be killed, just as the prophets of the Old Testament were killed by the Israelites, John (15:18); Matthew (24:21-22); Mark (13:14-23); Luke (21:20-24). So, the survivors of the "great distress" in John's vision refer to those who had endured severe trials, persecution and affliction for their faith in Christ. Among them, John probably saw his own contemporaries who were martyred for their refusal to "worship" the Roman emperor and other idols.

Secondly, and literally speaking, we do not use blood to clean or wash clothes. We use only water, with soap. So, "washing the clothes and making them white in the blood" is strange and highly paradoxical. If this is the case, what does it mean to be washed white in blood? The word "white" occurs seventy-five times in the Bible and, it has several representations or meanings. White is often used to depict purity, holiness and the deliverance of man from sin, Psalm (51:7); Isaiah (1:18). It also represents the absolute purity of God and of Christ, Daniel (7:9); Revelation (2:17).

It is a symbol of God's judgement on the white throne, as well as God's victory over the powers of evil, Zechariah (6:3; 6:6); Revelation (19:11, 20:11). Additionally, white is often associated with the righteousness of God, sometimes specifically to Christ's righteousness, Daniel (7:9); Matthew (17:2); Mark (9:3). When Jesus cleanses us from sin, He makes us "white as snow" by giving us His righteousness, 2 Corinthians (5:21). So, in the metaphorical or figurative sense, "the garments made white in blood of the Lamb" can be understood in two ways.

  • These are the people who had, since baptism, fully given their lives to Jesus Christ in obedience and submission, and accepted even death.
  • These are the people who had been cleansed by the sacrificial "blood" of Jesus Christ. In other words, these people withstood and overcame the tribulations not by their own strength and efforts, but by the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.

"For this reason" the elder further told John that these people were given the privilege to stand before the throne and worship God day and night in His temple; they would be under God's protective care; they would neither hunger or thirst anymore; they would be led by the Lamb of God to springs of life-giving water; and their tears would be wiped away by God. In other words, those who are standing before the throne of God have left the earth and all its turmoil and, are now in the presence of the Lord where there is no hunger, thirst, pain, suffering, sorrow or death but only joy and peace.

What is the message for us?

  • This scene of John's vision serves as a reminder of the glory in Heaven which awaits all Christian martyrs. If we are like those persecuted first-century Christians, in that we also endure to the end in our faith in Jesus, we will have the privilege of being before God's throne and of serving Him. God then will clothe us in the white robes of the righteousness of Christ. We will be God's people, and God will be everything to us. He will be our spiritual food and shelter. He will remove every bit of sadness from our face. Hunger, thirst, pain, suffering, and death will be a thing of the past.
  • In heaven, we'll be united with all those who have followed Jesus on the way in overcoming sin, from the first disciples, right down to our own family members, from all nations and tongues, just as God had promised to make Abraham's descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands of the seashore, Genesis (15:5; 32:12). Therein will reign perfect peace and unity, untainted by sin. We will never again be made sorrowful by our sinful tendencies. Instead, we will naturally radiate goodness, love, joy and peace. We will be with God and His Son, Jesus Christ, Mother Mary and all the saints, for eternity.
(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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