God's Word on Sunday: Jesus can be heard in noisy world

  • May 5, 2019

Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 12 (Year C) Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100; Revelation 7:9, 14b-17; John 10:27-30

New ideas nearly always provoke controversy, resistance and even violence. This applies in all areas of human activity, but nowhere is it more prevalent than in religion.

This was the case 2,000 years ago just as it is today. The religious wars we have fought and the bitter feuds and polarized debates that divide religious communities attest to this lamentable human failing.

Paul’s preaching in Antioch in Pisidia should have been received joyfully and enthusiastically — and it was by many, both Jews and Gentiles. But it also caused a huge rift in the community, for many felt angry and threatened.

Negative reactions are the result of fear, jealousy and the desire to possess God, none of which is an attitude worthy of God. Usually they have more to do with our own issues than anything about God. It is not that we should be gullible and uncritical in the face of newness, but that our minds should be open enough to listen and discern.

Luke is severe in his judgment of the people of Antioch in Pisidia. His conclusion is that they are not worthy of eternal life. One can only hope that time, experience and education has made us more aware and tolerant of the many factors that are part of the dynamics of faith and unbelief.

It is striking that even after being run out of town, the apostles were not angry. Their mission was not about them and their issues, but about God. On the contrary, they were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit — a sure sign that one is being guided by the divine will and is open to growth and new life.

The striking vision of John is puzzling and yet comforting. The countless multitudes standing before the throne have come through the great ordeal and have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. What can such a strange vision mean for us — and what is the ordeal?

The ordeal can be anything — persecution for one’s faith or what is right or just the blows and pain that ordinary life on our scary planet can bring. The point is that the Lamb at the centre of the throne is their shepherd — they have kept focused on Him.

God is their comfort, and they are renewed and refreshed from the springs of life.

We might draw courage from this as we face the challenges of life. We have a source of courage and strength of which the world is unaware. Nothing can overpower us and we need not lose faith, hope or commitment in the face of opposition and struggle.

How do we hear the voice of Jesus in a noisy and chaotic world in which there are so many discordant voices? There is always the danger of losing one’s spiritual bearings. Those who have put on the mind and heart of Jesus will always be able to pick His voice out of the world’s din — it will be clear and heartening.

Jesus assures us that those who belong to Him can never be snatched away, as long as our heart is focused. We need not fear the uncertainty and the constant turmoil and change of the world. It is from Jesus alone that we will be gifted with eternal life.

The good news is that we do not have to wait until we die, for eternal life in the Gospel of John does not refer solely to going to Heaven after you die. It describes a particular transcendent quality of life: living in the conscious awareness of God’s presence and dwelling in the Father and in Jesus.

We can experience this now if we remain in Jesus in thought, word and deed. With such a close relationship with the Lord, we must never give away our freedom or our minds and hearts to anyone or anything else.

This is our birthright as Christians and it must be guarded. In every situation, if we still ourselves inwardly and listen with the heart, we will hear His voice.

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