Israel’s mission — to be God’s instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth (see Isaiah 49:6) — is fulfilled in the Church.
By the “Word of God” that Paul and Barnabas preach in today’s First Reading, a new covenant people is being born, a people who glorify the God of Israel as the Father of them all.
The Church for all generations remains faithful to the grace of God given to the apostles, and continues their saving work. Through the Church, the peoples of every land hear the Shepherd’s voice, and follow him (see Luke 10:16).
The Good Shepherd of today’s Gospel is the enthroned Lamb of today’s Second Reading.
In laying down his life for his flock, the Lamb brought to pass a new Passover (see 1 Corinthians 5:7), by his blood freeing “every nation, race, people and tongue” from bondage to sin and death.
The Church is the “great multitude” John sees in his vision today. God swore to Abraham his descendants would be too numerous to count. And in the Church, as John sees, this promise is fulfilled (compare Revelation 7:9, Genesis 15:5).
The Lamb rules from the throne of God, sheltering his flock, feeding their hunger with his own Body and Blood, leading them to “springs of life-giving waters” that well up to eternal life (see John 4:14).
The Lamb is the eternal Shepherd-King, the son of David foretold by the prophets. His Church is the kingdom of all Israel that the prophets said would be restored in an everlasting covenant (see Ezekiel 34:23-31; 37:23-28).
It is not a kingdom any tribe or nation can jealously claim as theirs alone. The Shepherd’s Word to Israel is addressed now to all lands, calling all to worship and bless his name in the heavenly temple.
This is the delight of the Gentiles — that we can sing the song that once only Israel could sing, today’s joyful Psalm: “He made us, his we are — his people, the flock he tends.”
Scott Hahn is founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, stpaulcenter.com.
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