4th Sunday of Easter A

“Some three thousand were added that day. “

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us how on Pentecost Sunday the church established by Christ, counting up to then no more than 150 members, suddenly acquired 3,000 more.

Obviously, the Holy Spirit desired to get Christ’s church off to a good start so He distributed the grace of conversion most generously on the day the apostles started preaching. In later centuries, too, the Spirit has launched the church in certain places with miraculous assistance. One fascinating case was the apostolate to the Jumanos Indians of New Mexico in the early seventeenth century.

Spanish Franciscan missionaries established their first Indian mission in New Mexico in 1622 at Pueblo Isleta. About a year later, a delegation of Indians from a distant tribe, the Jumanos, called on the friars at Isleta and asked that a mission be set up in their own pueblo. Sorry, the friars said, they couldn’t oblige, for they were too few in numbers. For the next three years, however, a band of Jumanos Indians put in an annual appearance, repeating the invitation, receiving the same reply. Finally, in 1627, 30 new missionaries arrived. Scarcely had they reached Isleta when they were greeted by a party of 50 Jumanos – the largest yet. Now the friars asked them, “Who told you to come to us for missionaries?” “We were sent,” they said, “by a beautiful woman in a veil and a blue cloak.” “Why didn’t you tell us that before?” the Franciscans replied. “Because you didn’t ask us,” they answered. “Anyhow, we thought she was around here, too.”

The friars already suspected something extraordinary was going on. There was in Spain in those days a Sister Maria Coronel, a very holy woman who had founded a monastery at Agreda. Her nuns wore blue cloaks. When examined by church authorities in 1627, she said that by the mystical gift of “bi-location” (being, or seeming to be, in two places at the same time) she had been miraculously transported across the Atlantic hundreds of times to teach the Indians of the Southwest. (The case was amply documented not only by her own testimony, but by that of Indians in three Southwest states.) What she did when she came (without ever leaving Agreda) was to tell them of Christ and the cross and urge them to seek out missionaries and baptism.

When the long-sought for friars set out for the Jumanos country, they were greeted before their arrival by a procession of these pagan Indians carrying crosses. The tribesmen knelt devoutly before the Franciscans and kissed the crosses of their crucifixes. How had they learned such a proper way to greet the priests? Because Mother Mary had just come over again and told them “Here they come. Welcome them thus and so!”

I doubt that the whole Jumanos nation was as numerous a population as was the three thousand who joined the Church on the first Pentecost. But they were docile listeners; and thanks to this special wonder wrought by God, they came into His church in large numbers.

– Fr. Robert F. McNamara

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Q471: 3,000 new members in one day (Acts 2:36-41)? Why don’t we see that happening in our Church now?

There is not enough space to respond adequately! However, let me ask you: how often do you hear a preacher give a homily that calls you to Repent? I suspect that most people overlook that last line in Peter’s message today: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Yes, this is indeed a corrupt generation today – probably worse than in Peter’s time, because we have no excuse. Immorality, violence, baby-killing, political and commercial chicanery at its worst, total disregard for both the natural law of God as well as the scriptural revelations about right living — the list of corruption is endless!

You know, priests and deacons need to hear more than “that was a nice homily, Father / Deacon.” They need to be held accountable for proclaiming the Good News; but that proclamation also needs to include the Challenge that the Gospel message always places in front of us. The challenge is to change, or using Peter’s language, to “repent,” and then to actively respond to our environment. We need to confront this “corrupt generation” with the truth, and help each other in waging that deadly combat that determines the final resting place of our soul, and the souls of our brothers and sisters.

It is not just the person in the pew who must change and engage in spiritual warfare. Your help is needed in reminding the preachers about our nation’s apparent loss of a sense of sin, and the dangers that poses to our families. We need to hear about “sin” as well as God’s grace, to help people recognize and cope with it since they encounter it every day. Remind your priests and deacons about that! I suspect that if we returned to meaningful preaching (including paranesis or moral exhortation) in today’s environment, then perhaps the pews would fill up again as the Truth is recognized…to say nothing about the confession lines…

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Sin is present in human history – and that includes today; any attempt to ignore it or joke about that dark reality is both futile and deadly (see CCC #386). God’s grace is freely given to us to overcome all evil, and also to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church (CCC #2003).

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My Sheep Hear My Voice

Paul and Barnabas experienced both success and failure at Antioch. Many Jews accepted their message, but the synagogue officials rejected them. The apostles turned to the pagans who responded with faith in great numbers. This puzzled the early Church; this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, was it? We find another strange reversal of expectations in the Book of Revelation. Of all domestic animals sheep seem to be most in need of human guidance and protection; they need a shepherd to survive. Yet here we have a lamb, the weakest and most helpless of sheep, becoming the shepherd! That does not seem likely to install confidence in the future of the flock. But Jesus tells us that he, the Lamb who was slain, is the shepherd and his sheep, the ones who hear his voice, are like those who listened to Paul and Barnabas. They will not perish. This shepherd will feed and water them and wipe every tear from their eye.

Lord, open my ears to hear the voice of the Shepherd; strengthen my will to follow him. Guide my steps to join him in your eternal presence.

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