ACTS 5:17-26 ; JOHN 3:16-21

"GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might ... have eternal life."  With this prophetic statement St. John summed up the deepest meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus that he was to portray later, in extended detail as he wrote the final pages of his Gospel.  By anticipating the divine plan in this early chapter of his account, the Evangelist introduces us into the hidden mystery of the divine plan as it unfolds in the events and encounters of the Savior's mission to our world.  The various teachings and activities of the Lord's brief public life are played out in awareness that they were to culminate in the willing sacrifice of his life.

Significantly, in this brief passage the Beloved Disciple does not, as we might quite properly expect, state that God so loved his chosen people that he gave his dear Son for their salvation; rather, he affirms that it is the world as a whole that is the beneficiary of his merciful love.  After the resurrection the evangelist was to reinforce this teaching by recording that the risen Savior made no distinction among peoples as he gave his chosen apostles power to forgive sins.  He added shortly after that he has written his account might attain to faith and that "those believing in him may have life in his name." (John 20:31) As if to emphasize the critical role played by belief, John had commented earlier in today's text that "whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God."

The liturgy today underlines the radical importance of a trusting faith.  By illustrating how the early Church was strengthened in its commitment to the reality of the resurrection by the Lord's continuing presence in the life of his faithful we are given an instance of His loving care.  The story of Peter's deliverance from jail and escape from those who sought to destroy the Church through eliminating its head is surely a remarkable confirmation of Jesus' promise to remain in active support of his followers.  Matthew considered this assurance so weighty a matter that the last sentence of his Gospel leaves records us with this reassuring pledge in our Lord's own words: "See, I am with you all days until the end of the age."  At this Eucharist we express our grateful thanks for his continuing care shown to us as he fulfills this promise for each of us in this sacramental communion.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger