Sunday, May 12, 2019
FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (CYCLE C)
The world we live in is rife with sundry and various voices vying for our attention. Emails, text messages, Facebook contacts, cell phone calls, radio and TV programs, and yes, our daily newspapers, too, bombard and pepper us with relentless information soliciting our response.
In the midst of this cacophony of voices, we deliberately step aside on this Good Shepherd Sunday to listen, at a deeper and more discerning level, to God’s voice in the midst of the beauty, the goodness, the truth, the joy, and the peace of all that touches us, surrounds us and makes up the wider and deeper world of our personal experience. At this Eucharistic celebration, we weigh especially God’s voice in today’s Gospel where we hear Jesus tell us that we are his sheep, a metaphor indicating that we have a unique relationship with him. As our shepherd, he says to us, “I know you.”
Yes, he knows us in the same way shepherds in the Ancient Middle East knew their sheep. Shepherds always had a special bond with their sheep. They cared for their flock day and night against every peril that threatened their sheep. They communicated with their sheep in ways that their flock knew the very tone and texture of their shepherd’s voice. Such was the congenial connectedness between the shepherd and his flock that the sheep would follow only the voice of their own shepherd and no other.
That binding relationship is what we cherish as our sacred bond between Jesus and ourselves. We listen to his voice and follow him. He keeps us close to himself in a profound and deeply intimate friendship. His embrace and love for us is so close and binding that nothing can sunder or separate his nearness to us. We are caught up in an “I-Thou” relationship with Jesus.
In truth, there is nothing that can take us from his hand and his grasp. So strong and cemented is his relationship with us that he gives us his promise of eternal life. Indeed, we shall not perish. Rather, he introduces us into the life of his Father who is the origin and source of our life in Christ. The Father continuously sends Jesus to us and reveals him to us. Thus, we have always been in the Father’s hand. For Jesus and the Father are one. In knowing Jesus, we know the Father. Recall Christ’s admonition to Philip at the Last Supper. “Philip, have I been with you so long a time and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. . . Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? .. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. . .”
It is precisely this eternal oneness of Jesus and the Father that we are invited to live in them and with them through Christ Jesus, our shepherd. Jesus reveals this radiant intimacy with his Father and summons us and draws us to share in that same cosmic communion of the Father and the Son. He opens us up and draws us into his very own life with his Father and himself.
It is this very mystery that we celebrate on this Good Shepherd Sunday. It is Jesus our shepherd whom we follow into the depths of the mystery he discloses to us this morning. Awed and inspired by the breadth and depth of this profoundly intimate relationship between Jesus and the Father, and overcome by his voice unveiling and displaying the Father’s oneness with him and with us, we turn to a passage from the Psalm 23 to praise God’s initiative who crafted this incomprehensible mystery and gift which Jesus calls us to live every moment of our lives.
- “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.
- He guides me in right paths for his names sake. Even though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are at my side with your rod and staff that give me comfort.
- You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
- Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever and ever. Amen!”
Bill Watters, S.J.
St. Ignatius Church
Baltimore, MD 21202