As we journey through the Easter season, our Gospel readings move away from the accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection and His appearances to His disciples to readings which speak to the promise we have in Jesus of our own resurrection. In our second reading from Revelation, John has a vision of a great “multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue.” They are described as those who “have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” And the promise is that the Lamb “will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
In our Gospel reading from John, Jesus says, “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.” And so, in these readings, we have the assurance of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ and the promise to be with Him forever.
I found myself drawn to Jesus’ words: “No one can take them out of my hand.” And I believe that no one can take us out of Jesus’ hands. But if we choose to leave Him, He will not force us to stay. And even though He will not force us to stay in His grasp, no matter what we or anyone else does, no one can take us out of His heart. His love for us is unconditional and everlasting!
As I continued my reflection, I thought about people who may have taken themselves out of Jesus’ hands without realizing it. I thought of the people in our first reading from Acts, who spoke out against Paul and Barnabas, and then succeeded in driving them out of Antioch. Luke writes that they were “filled with jealousy,” but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that they convinced themselves they were acting out of righteousness. It reminds me of an old movie entitled “The Ox-Bow Incident.” The movie follows two cowboys, played by Henry Fonda and Harry Morgan, who come into a town that hears that some horses or cattle have been stolen (as I remember it), and one of the townspeople’s brother has been killed. So the town organizes a posse and our two cowboys join in. The posse comes across three strangers: One is a Mexican; one is an old man seemingly in the throes of dementia, and another man. The members of the posse have convinced themselves, without any evidence or the virtue of a trial, that these are the guilty men, and proceed to prepare to hang them. The only person showing these accused men any compassion is an African-American who is tolerated because he has no power to change what’s going to happen. So the men are hanged, and the posse, perhaps better described now as a mob, go back to town, congratulating themselves on doing such a good service. However, they find out on the way that the real culprits have been caught somewhere else, and that they just killed three innocent men.
When we give into fear or jealousy, or hatred, or greed, even when we can convince ourselves of our righteousness in doing so, we take ourselves out of Jesus’ hands. We ignore the vision in Revelation that tells us that the saved will come from “every nation, race, people, and tongue.”
How do we stay in Jesus’ hands? By believing in the reality of Easter. By living in hope, not fear. By choosing to love as Jesus loves, following not the wisdom of the world, but the wisdom of the Gospel. In short, by placing ourselves in God’s hands and letting God lead us instead of trying to do it the other way around. It is Jesus who can lead us to “springs of life-giving water,” not the wisdom of the world; not our own devices! It is Jesus who loves us beyond description and beyond what we deserve! He is Risen! May we put ourselves in His hands!
In the Risen Christ,
Fr. Phil, CP