4th Sunday of Easter – A Light to the Nations

Meet & Greets 5/19; Communion and Liberation at 7 PM

Our Easter season Meet & Greets will be held after each Mass next Sunday, May 19. Join us for food, drink and fellowship.

This past Good Friday, 13 of our parishioners attended the opening prayer service for the annual Way of the Cross over the Brooklyn Bridge. A few hearty souls continued across the Bridge to St Peter’s Church in Lower Manhattan. As I was not one of them, I do not know how many of our parishioners who had a half day’s work joined them. This was sponsored by “Communion and Liberation”. This group also sponsored the lecture on Andy Warhol as a religious artist that several of us attended in February.

Communion and Liberation is an international Catholic organization founded in Milan in 1954. (https://english.clonline.org/cl) Its goal is to present Jesus and the Church in ways that are understandable to modern people without distorting the Gospel or Catholic tradition. I am sure that many of you, like me, have attended church events or read materials which emanated from some church related place that made little or no sense to you. Also, it sometimes seems that you can tell something is Catholic by the appalling graphics. (“Pius Schlock”) CL seeks to address this in many ways, including an emphasis on beauty and culture.

Members of Community and Liberation will be at next week’s “Meet and Greet” after the 7 PM Mass. There will be no formal presentation, but we will have an opportunity to listen to each other over some prosecco and cheese. In hearing each other, we will hear Jesus.


Fourth Sunday of Easter

May 12, 2019

Acts 13:14, 43-52

With today’s reading, Paul joins Peter and Stephen as the preachers of the Acts of the Apostles. We read the final section 13:43-52, but it begins with 13:14. I suggest that you read verses 14-42. Your first reaction might well be that this does not sound like Paul’s letters. This is true. Luke is using the conventions of Greek history writing. The speeches will follow a common pattern and thus Paul and Peter will sound much alike. This would have been expected by the original audience. It is not only that Luke is demonstrating his grasp of the techniques of rhetoric but showing us that they are very effective means of communicating.

He is thus able to give us a great deal of information with considerable concision. As he has the plan of the entire work in his head, he can be very strategic in how he presents his material. Peter, Stephen and Paul are preaching to Jews or Gentiles who were friendly to and knowledgeable about Judaism. These sermons give an overview of Jewish history and place Jesus into historical perspective. There is some overlap but each one brings out more with very few wasted words. There is however development. By the time Paul delivers this sermon the need to choose for or against Jesus is made clear. This is not to leave Judaism, but to participate in its next stage.

Also, this is Paul’s first or inaugural sermon. As always in Luke, this will return us to Jesus. At the beginning of his ministry, he returned to his home village of Nazareth and went to the synagogue. As with Paul today he is asked to speak on a test from Isaiah.

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

19 and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Luke 4:18–19

He then tells the people that this has been fulfilled in their hearing. When he shows them however, that this was to be not just for Jews they are enraged and try to kill him. As we have seen Peter was originally received with great enthusiasm but eventually imprisoned for his preaching.

It should then come as no surprise then when after his initial sermon Paul and Barnabas were invited to return the following week almost the whole city came to hear them and as with Jesus and Peter, they were met with abuse from the Jewish leaders who were filled with jealousy. Remember last week’s reading: 17 Then the high priest rose up and all his companions, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and, filled with jealousy.

Like Jesus this jealousy is rooted in their wishes to keep the knowledge of God to themselves: But Paul tells them

47 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. Acts 13:47

This is not a new teaching of either Paul or Jesus but is rooted in Isaiah:

6 It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,  

to raise up the tribes of Jacob,  

and restore the survivors of Israel;  

I will make you a light to the nations,  

that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6

Paul knows that this is Jesus’s plan as it has developed so far. The Messiah was to restore Israel which was dispersed since 721 BC. This was begun at Pentecost with the Holy Spirit coming upon the 12 Apostles. Notice how Judas had to be replaced after he betrayed Jesus and committed suicide but as the Apostles died a twelve person “college” of leaders was not continued. The foundation had been restored and now was to be expanded. So we see Peter, Stephen indeed Philip and now Paul reaching out to the Jews in the Diaspora. Yet none of them lost sight that the ultimate aim was to be the light to the Nations.

At the very beginning of Luke’s gospel Simeon says to Mary:


30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,  

31 which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,  

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,  

and glory for your people Israel.”  Luke 2:30–32


Luke tells us very clearly that the good news is for everyone but reminding us that this was not added on to historic Judaism but part of its basic mission.


As we have noted we read only relatively small selections from Acts and some themes we will not be able to directly address this year. They will however be clearer in other years. One theme is hinted at today.


48 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, 49 and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region Acts 13:48–49


The good news was received with delight and spread throughout the Gentile territory. We have seen this before that external situations even persecutions do not stop the word. The next line should come as no surprise:

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. Acts 13:50

Clearly as with Jesus and the other Apostles persecution is always to be expected, will often be severe but is never the final word on the Word.

The final scene however is not as clear and needs some explanation.

51 So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. Acts 13:51

This reflects Jesus’ saying in Luke’s Gospel:

10 Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say,  

11 ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand.  Luke 10:10–11 (NAB)


This is a definitive judgment against the people of that town, not Judaism itself. It is mentioned that Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium.

When 1 In Iconium they entered the Jewish synagogue together and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks came to believe. Acts 14:1.

Paul considered himself a Jew, and “abandoning the Jews” would have been inconceivable.

What was always in the minds and hearts of the disciples was that the Holy Spirit was with them and that they may be occasionally beset with pains and sorrows, but they are always filled with joy.