God holds us in His hands at all times Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Apr. 21, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

The readings of this past weekend speak a much-needed word of consolation, hope, and joy to each of us, in the here and now.

I don’t know about each of you (though I’ve heard from a number of you), but in my opinion there are a good number of reasons for concern in our times, and there’s good reason to wonder where things are going -- especially in terms of our national political scene.

But in such moments of uncertainty, the followers of Jesus Christ have always been able to consider the ultimate realities and to reflect back upon readings like those of this past weekend.

In the first place, we can consider the context of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:14, 43-52) as they have begun to go out and preach the Good News far and wide.

Who is Christ and why He came

When Paul and Barnabas arrive at a new place, they start with their own people (the Jewish faithful) and they lay out who Christ is and what He has done for them in the context of Salvation history.

They offer a very rational argument, with references to the Torah, to demonstrate Jesus as the Messiah. And a good number of people begin to follow. But, when the leadership of the time hears that these two apostles are holding sway, they are outraged and “with jealousy and violent abuse (Acts 13:45),” contradict them and then stir up persecution such that they are eventually driven from the area.

Paul and Barnabas are bringing good news of great joy -- news that had been anticipated by this people for generations! So, why is it that they are contradicted, persecuted, and driven away?

In part, it is because the news does not take the form they were expecting; Jesus is not the political leader they were hoping for to come and overturn the Roman establishment and to reestablish a Jewish Kingdom. And, in part, it is because Jesus’ message is one of very serious conversion of life, and it is hard.

Jesus tells the people things like “love your enemies (Luke 6:27),” “the last shall be first (Matthew 20:16),” “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you shall not have life within you (John 6:53),” “whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery (Matthew 5:32).”

And Jesus knew that these messages would not be well received by all. Several times, He sees people -- even His one-time followers -- leave while He’s preaching or after He provides a challenge. And ultimately, of course, He is tortured and killed.

Preaching God’s Word

Paul and Barnabas don’t expect to be received any better than Jesus. And yet they go out faithfully, and lovingly offer the Truth to people.

When they are contradicted, persecuted, and driven out, what do they do? They say, “Well, we did our job and we did it with love. Now, let’s ‘widen the net’ and preach also to the Gentiles.” They keep going and they’re more ambitious than ever. They continue preaching the Truth, with love, and they’ll not give up or give in.

And why will they not give up or give in? Because they know the words of Jesus from our Gospel (Jn 10:27-30):

“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.”

They have come to believe and to know that Jesus is both the Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God, and they trust completely in that. There is no one that will take them from the Father’s hand, because they belong completely to the Lord!

We are always in God’s hands

And this is the case for us; no power on this earth can ever take us from the Father’s hand. No matter what happens in this life, no matter which way things go with this or that election, or with our country, or our community, or even our family, nothing can take us from the Father’s hand so long as we remain tied to the Son, united with the source of His Grace.

We’ve talked about worshiping the Lamb and demonstrating that to the whole world (especially when it comes to the beauty of the liturgy and the beauty of Christ’s teachings). And this week’s readings speak to that reality too.

In our Second Reading (Rev 7:9, 14B-17), John sees “a great multitude” standing before the throne of the Lamb in worship. In his vision, John asks, “Who are they?” The answer comes, “They are the ones who have survived the time of great distress . . . whose robes have been made 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,” John is told. “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.”

The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. And He will shelter us. Our eyes must remain fixed on Christ and upon the ultimate goal -- to be among those who surround the throne of the Lamb in worship.

Recognizing Christ’s Truth

By recognizing the Truth of what Jesus has spoken, and by keeping mindful not only of His dominion, but also of His promise that He will never let anyone take us out of the hand of the Father, we can be a people of hope, of peace, and of joy, even as we face our own “times of great distress.”

We must always be mindful that the way things go in this world is not the end of the story. We must work hard to affect the way things go in our country, in our culture, our families, and so on, but we must remember that the way things turn out should never shake our faith in the Lamb -- who is also our Good Shepherd.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Praised be Jesus Christ!