Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Fourth Sunday of Easter: How to Do Your Laundry
I want to start today by speaking about a task that all of us have to learn how to do, at least, all of us who are not totally spoiled need to learn how to do. The task is doing the laundry. Unless our Moms taught us when we were really little, the chances are good that we learned how to do the laundry the hard way. Probably at one time or another all of us had whites that ended up pink, or grey or the traces of some other color that dominated the load. That’s when we learned that it is not a good thing to wash your whites with your colors.
Evidently, that rule doesn’t hold in God’s washing machines. In the vision from the Book of Revelations, our second reading, people are seen who had just done their laundry. They are wearing robes that are sparkling white. The robes represent their baptismal garments. But the reading says that they washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb. It is all symbolic. They carry palm branches which is the symbol of martyrs. The people in the vision are those who died for the Lord.
In today’s Gospel reading the Lord tells us that his sheep will never perish. He says, “No one can take them out of my hand.” When we study the history of Christianity, we learn about thousands and thousands of people who were persecuted for their faith, people who had everything taken from them, but no one could take God’s life from them. The martyrs, those who gave witness to Christ with their lives, will never die.
We are all also aware of the thousands who are suffering this present day because they are Christians. God’s love for them is strong. They may be assaulted or even killed, but they will never die. They have affirmed their baptism with their testimony to Christ. They have washed their baptismal garments in the Blood of the Lamb.
The first reading presents Paul and Barnabas being persecuted for the faith. They were not put to death. That would happen later in both of their lives. At the stage of their Christian lives presented in today’s Gospel, Paul and Barnabas are mocked by their own people, Jewish people, as they presented the faith in Antioch in Pisidia, This was not the Antioch in Syria that our patron, St. Ignatius, was from, but a city right in the middle of present day Turkey. Paul and Barnabas were run out of the city, symbolically shaking the town’s dust off their feet as Jesus instructed disciples who are rejected to do in Luke 9:5 and parallel passages.
I do not know whether any of us here will be put to death for our faith. I think all of us would be willing to die for Christ. Realistically, the chances of that happening are slim, unless of course, some of us choose to care for people in those countries where Christianity is persecuted. So, it is easy for us to say, “I would die for Christ.” But are we willing to be persecuted for him?
That is the question we have to ask ourselves when we are called upon to take a stand against popular but immoral positions. Certainly abortion is the foremost of these, but there are other positions demanding that we stand up for Christ and accept persecution from the pseudo intelligentsia around us. For example, we need to take a stand against the bigotry and hatred when and if it is used by politicians who appeal to people’s basest instincts. I’ve recently been blasted for doing exactly that, but it makes no difference. I have to proclaim the gospel and affirm that a Christian cannot give in to hatred, especially that which might be lurking within the recesses of his or her mind. Nor can a Christian close his or her eyes and ears to those who promote hatred. If in some people’s minds relating the Gospel to the current times is, to use the attacker’s words, “spewing a political position,” then we need to accept persecution and promote Christianity.
Sometimes we have to accept persecution from those within our own families or circle of friends when they expect us to join them in affirming popular immorality. Many times people will say that it is so wonderful that two people have found each other and are now living together, even though they will not marry for social security reasons for the elderly or for commitment reasons among the young. When we say, “I can’t accept that,” we will be attacked, persecuted, or at least excluded, but we cannot turn from the truth of the Lord.
There are times that we suffer simply for doing what we need to do. Many of you are or have been care-givers. Some for your husbands or wives, some for your parents, and some for a chronically ill child. You have been pushed beyond your comfort zone so many times that you forgot what a normal event-less day is like. I’m sure you could find ways to turn from your responsibilities, but your love won’t let you. Your love is God’s love, sacrificial love.
All good parents, you folks, love their children sacrificially. You cannot count the times that you have gotten up in the middle of the night to care for a child. It is what you do. Your day revolves around your children’s needs, not your wants. Sometimes you are exhausted, but always you are loving. You are also loved by your children in their own way and loved by your God who sees how well you love Him through your children. That doesn’t make your life easy.
If Christianity were easy, the Lord would never have said, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
The Lord says to us today: “Use my laundry service. Wash your robes white in my blood. Stand up for me, care for my children, and know that I will always care for you. Don’t be afraid. You will not perish. You are mine.”