Salvation is found in no one else 4th Sunday of Easter 2018 B

Friends, because today's gospel text deals with the qualities of the good shepherd and what is expected of the shepherd, it is referred to as the Good Shepherd's Sunday. In our time when so many people claim to be Shepherds, it is extremely important that we listen carefully to what our Lord Jesus Christ says about himself as the good shepherd. This of course within the context of the proclamation of Peter in which he clearly states: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

What is described in the first reading is a continuation of last week's story (Acts 4: 8-12). Peter and John had cured a lamb at the beautiful gate. While ordinary Jews were impressed and accepted faith in Jesus, the leaders, priests and Pharisees were not happy. They arrested Peter and John and had them locked up overnight. The next day they were interrogated, and Peter spoke in their behalf. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit just as Jesus had promised (Matthew 10: 17-20). Before the great Council, Sanhedrin, Peter, who had in another occasion when confronted by a maid denied Jesus, now with indescribable courage witnessed to Jesus as the Messiah. Peter wanted all the Palestinian Jews to hear the Good news.

Even though Peter's words, inspired by the holy spirit, were sensible and logical, he spoke to deaf ears. By rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, the leaders fulfilled psalm of salvation 108, verse 22. The Jews had desired a political Messiah who would free them from the hated Romans and create a kingdom for them on earth while giving them power to reign over the Gentiles. Their will was not of heaven but of the earth. Jesus was not the Messiah they wanted. For the Jews, it was believed that God does not perform miracles for sinners and fallen persons (John 9:31). If they were reasonable, they could at that point be able investigate the evidence as suggested by the apostles. But no, they did not, because they had closed their ears. No evidence could change them from their prejudices and certain opinions. Nobody is as blind as anyone who does not want to see. How are we?

Today's first reading makes an assertion that leaves no one neutral: "Salvation is found in no one else” (Acts 4:12). This means that the person of Christ has a cosmologic effect on all of creation. It also means that every Christian must reject (polytheism) and the worship of impersonal power (pantheism). The only way is the worship of a personal God: Monotheism, that means denying the existence of other gods. Christianity's claim that makes Jesus the only one that can save us means that the god of Judaism, Islam and other religions cannot not to be perceived as the same god as the Christian God because Judaism, Islam and the other religions do not accept Christ as God and the Messiah. According to Christian faith, it is God himself who manifests himself in Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified and rose from the dead on the third day. It means, according to Christian faith, that death is defeated.

All religions, in particular, the three world religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam claim to be the only truth and way to God. Jews, Christians and Muslims would like to see their religions as the way to the world's salvation. The challenge is that most people say that no one knows who is right, if anyone is right or if all religions are right. No one has proven in a scientific way that there is any God, nor has anyone proved that God does not exist. For us Christians, we believe that "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This is not an option.

Perhaps some might say that other holy books say the same thing. Nevertheless, not exactly the same way. A crucial difference is that other holy books are the word of men and reflections about God while the Christian Scriptures have God Himself as their writer. God's Word in human language.

­If this is true, the others must be wrong and if we are wrong then perhaps no one can be right about reality and truth. This implies that the truth lies beyond all religions. If this were true, our faith and preaching as Christians would be in vain. This makes the issue of religion difficult and at the same time particularly interesting. Everyone believes in something, atheism believes in something. Many say that if religions are to contribute to peace and harmony on earth, one must first destroy the idea of ​​having a monopoly on God and the truth. The view therefore sees all religions as equals, which means that it would not matter if you are Jew, Christian or Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’is.

It is controversial whether Jews, Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. All three religions have similarities. But there are also big differences. They have common roots, and there are great similarities between the three religions - but also important differences. Some believe that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are what you might call for sister religions. Christianity is the largest of the three with between 1.7 and two billion members in the world. Muslims are just over one billion and the Jews are about 18 million. The challenge between the three religions we find in the reverence of the holy texts that create similar challenges. Some believe that the sacred texts can form the basis of both magic and mystery. Based on them, different positions in current issues may differ from arguments based primarily on the interpretation of texts.

Today's gospel is part of Jesus' speech on the good shepherd. To teach his disciples, Jesus uses images and concepts that are drawn from reality (Joh 10: 11-18). The image of the good shepherd is one of the most famous images in the Old Testament. The Old Testament shepherds had the reputation of not caring for the sheep. They have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. They have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. They have ruled them harshly and brutally (Ezek 34: 2-6). God promised that he would be a shepherd for his people (Ezek 34: 15-16). This promise is fulfilled in Jesus (John 10:10).

Jesus contrasts himself with the Pharisees and Sadducees who work for their own gain. They strongly opposed Jesus' actions for fear of losing the power and the benefits that came with the position. One of the earliest images in the catacombs is Jesus carrying a wounded sheep on his shoulders. This is a manifestation of Love. We have no problem being sheep in this context. There is something innocent about sheep and at the same time a lot of stupidity. Humans are like sheep in many ways. God has given her limited intellect. A sheep who considers themselves to know much more than their shepherd rejects guidance. It's the same with a person who believes she can do without God and the Church. We often behave like sheep in our spiritual life. Thanks to God, we have a shepherd who is prepared to always die for us.

The wolf comes in our time in different shapes and colours. Trying to bring someone away from the true faith to something that you create, and call Christianity is a way to being wolf. The scriptures let us read that the devil comes to steal, destroy and kill (John 10:10). The wolf may come as something attractive while ultimately leading to pain and loss. Canaan was an attractive country. Exodus describes it as a good and spacious country (Exodus 3: 8). "I will bring you from Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey," God says to Moses (Exodus 3:17). This may be exaggerated, yet, it is true as we learn from extra biblical text that most wealthy towns were port cities. Canaan offered many opportunities that were not in Egypt. For those who were sent to reconnaissance the country, it was a nice and rich country (Deut 14:17. But with its riches, there were also religious views and beliefs that were entirely contrary to the faith of the God of Israel, the true God.

We see that not many have the courage to affirm claim that a religion may possibly be better than another. This also applies to Christianity. Ecumenical collaboration, which, in the best possible way, wants to wipe out differences, is highest on the agenda. Undoubtedly, true Christians must consider that the ecumenical movement that seems to assume that all religions are equally good does not reflect the Christian heritage. At the same time, it must be said that all religions cannot be as good just as all ideologies cannot be equally good, for example, communism and capitalism, or different political systems equally good, monarchy and democracy. All religions may well be false, but all cannot be true. For example, in Christianity, Jesus is the Son of God who, on the third day, resurrected from the dead; while in Islam, Muhammad is the last prophet who through the Archangel Gabriel brought to the world the word of God, the Quran, which makes the Bible superfluous. The truth in the Christian religion is that Jesus has suffered, crucified and resurrected the third day from the dead and now sits on the right-hand side of God the Father. Salvation is found in no one else. Do you really believe this? Chikezie Onuoha MSP.

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