First Reading: Acts 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.
Second Reading: Revelation 7: 9, 14-17
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.”
Gospel: 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.”
This week is given over to messages of Hope: salvation for the Gentiles, a vision of the time where God will wipe away every tear, and Jesus’ care for His sheep.
I’d like to focus on the second reading (since everyone likes to ignore Revelation…which, sounds worse than I meant it, but is sadly even more true). John has a vision of the Saints: the ‘great multitude of every nation, race, people and tongue.’ Here is the twofold definition of a Saint: one who has “survived the time of great distress” and who has “washed [his] robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” That is, they have persevered and they have received Christ’s Mercy.
It is interesting that perseverance is listed first in this instance. That, obviously, doesn’t take anything away from the necessity of the latter element, but rather, I think, is a kind of warning. It says “before you come forth to receive Jesus, remember that you are committing yourself; there can be no turning back. First take thought for yourself and your own actions.”
Again, this isn’t to say that our own actions and choices are first in importance or the primary sources of our salvation. It’s to say that this is what is most under our own control. It’s what we need to keep in mind.
But then again, and more importantly, the Saints are those who have ‘washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ Our perseverance is important, and it is what we need to focus our wills upon by its very nature, but before you can persevere you have to have something to persevere in. Hence, the primary importance to receiving God’s mercy and Grace, without which it’s impossible to either persevere or to be saved in the first place.
“Washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb” contains the three most important Sacraments within it. “Washing” calls to mind the act of bathing, that is, Baptism, which cleanses us from our sins and makes us White. The Blood of the Lamb, meanwhile, strikes me as an explicitly Eucharistic image; that we must have a partaking of the Sacred Blood of our Lord.
So far is fairly clear. But there’s one other Sacrament that I think is called to mind here; the fact that ‘washing’ and ‘being made white’ are separate clauses indicates that the one doesn’t necessarily ensure the other; that is, one may be washed, but may not remain white (as is the case for most of us). But both elements; the washing and the being made white, must be present for Salvation. Hence, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in which we are ‘made white’ over again, even if we have no need to bathe again (John 13:10).
Let us all pray that we are among that great multitude, washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.
Vive Christus Rex!