Sunday Scripture Readings

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER,

MAY 11

Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118;

1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18 OUR GOOD NEWS: Through the Spirit, our risen Lord continually works within the Church. Today's first reading marks a new and decisive stage in the unfolding of Luke's story about the early Church: For the first time, there is confrontation with official Judaism. Special needs call for special endowments, so Peter was "filled with the Holy Spirit," empowered for testimony on behalf of Christ before the supreme Jewish leadership. Opening words established the incongruity of his arrest. "If we are being cross-examined" - accused of crime - for an "act of kindness?" What law forbids healing a cripple? To understand Peter's speech we must ask ourselves three questions. First, what does "salvation" mean? Jesus' saving acts are not limited to forgiveness of sins and other "spiritual" gifts, nor do they take effect only at our death and entrance into the heavenly Kingdom. Luke used the same Greek verb for "saved" and "restored to health." The "saved" cripple shows that salvation bestows fullness of life and happiness originally intended by God. As a result of baptism, we look forward joyfully to the return of our ascended Jesus, bringing deliverance and healing to all creation. Being saved right now means receiving the gift of the Spirit who reveals God's mind; living in a faith community marked by mutual love and care; and being constantly engaged in prayer. We all share the miraculous power that enabled Peter to heal a beggar and courageously witness before hostile public authorities. In sum, salvation means detaching from the hopeless, meaningless lifestyle of unbelievers and having fellowship within the Church. This leads to our second question. Why is this salvation exclusively found "in Christ?" Luke thought in concrete rather than abstract, mystical categories. Being "in Christ" means being "with it," where the real action is. Far more than dividing world history into B.C. and A.D., Jesus structures the finale of all creation. In Luke's schema we are only one stage from the end-time fulfillment of the kingdom's promises. Those destined for sharing its glory can be found in the community, living between Ascension and Parousia ("Return-Presence") under the Spirit's direction. There is no longer hope in a bright future or one found anywhere else. No longer is salvation mediated through Torah laws and Temple, or pagan worship. Now is the time to escape this perverse, doomed "generation." A third question leads us to further insight: Why threefold emphasis on salvation in Christ's "name"? Today's story shows faith commitment is grounded in hard evidence. Real power - divine grace - is available to all accepting Jesus' "name," calling upon him for deliverance from a hopelessly doomed "generation." In sum, this cure of a cripple implies more than a spectacular event evoking awe toward God and reverence for Peter and John. It serves as a Spirit-inspired proclamation to Israel, including her religious leadership, and to us that salvation - complete healing, restoration to fullness of life - is finally available, but only through the "key" man, the "cornerstone." Through Jesus and his Church, God's final, perfect gift can become everyone's possession.

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