Gospel: John 13: 31-33a,34-35 Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible.
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You shall seek me;…Whither I go you cannot come; so I say to you now.
34 A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
35 By this shall all know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.
Did God ask that we love only those like ourselves? Or to love only those who follow Christ? Did Jesus teach a love that excludes any who do not follow Him, or are the wrong color, or have different customs, or live in another country? There are some calling us to love only the right kind of people, we are asked to fear those different from us, we are asked to build walls. How can we justify a wall in Christ’s name? The One who came to tear down walls, to teach universal love for all God’s creatures. Indeed, Christ is teaching us that we are only his disciples if we have love for one another.
Can anyone truly say they are followers of Christ without keeping this new commandment? And each day, we are called to reflect on how we have loved that day, have we embraced all people in our hearts. To exclude others is a human trait, to strive each day to be inclusive in our love, is to follow the yearnings of our heart to be disciples of Christ.
The 4th Sunday of Easter is celebrated as Good Shepherd Sunday. Today’s Gospel is quite brief and very rich. Each phrase can be pondered again and again.
The first phrase is, “My sheep hear my voice.” Do I? How do I know that I hear Jesus’ voice? Obviously this is often not very clear. It requires a life stance of discernment, always listening, always searching my heart to know that it is not “my wants” that I choose to follow rather than what Jesus calls me to.
Secondly Jesus says, “They follow me.” Again, do I? What does that mean? We know that if we follow Jesus, we can expect the same treatment Jesus had. Oh, no! If and when I truly take to heart Jesus’ call, it is always a stretching experience, one that leads me beyond where I am to ever deepening love and generosity to those around me and beyond. That’s not always easy!
Jesus promises, “I will give them eternal life.” What an amazing promise! Jesus promises that if we hear His voice and follow Him, we will share the fullness of eternal life forever. Jesus continues, “No one can take them out of my hand. . . . The Father and I are one.” This is an invitation to participate in the life of the Trinity, a life of unending love. It is an invitation to share in the love that ever flows within the Trinity and embraces all of us even now. When I listen to the voice of Jesus and follow Him, that love of the Trinity flows through me and, hopefully, beyond me to everyone I encounter, for we are all one in Christ.
On this Good Shepherd Sunday, let us ponder our call to be good sheep of the Good Shepherd.
I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me. (Ps. 30:2a)
In this Sunday’s gospel from John, Jesus reveals himself for the third time to his disciples after rising from the dead. Some of the disciples have been fishing without success. Jesus, on the shore, suggests that they try again; when they do, the net is overflowing. As they come ashore, Jesus prepares breakfast for them.
In reading this, I am always struck by Jesus’ humanity and servanthood. Here he is, risen from the dead, in his glorified body, cooking breakfast for his friends. It is an ordinary event with extraordinary overtones.
We may not have this same opportunity to see Jesus in the everyday events of life, but we do have the potential to bring his presence into our daily interactions with others. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” When Peter responds that he does indeed love Jesus, Jesus asks him to feed his sheep. He is asking us as well to show our love for him in the way we treat our brothers and sisters.
This past Lent, I participated in Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever. In this program, Matthew Kelly spoke often of the concept of “holy moments.” We are all called to holiness, but no one (not even the saints) is holy 100% of the time. (Peter, who professed his love for Jesus repeatedly in this gospel, had denied him repeatedly just a few days earlier.) Matthew Kelly suggests that we begin with one holy moment and focus on increasing the number, so that we are living our lives in holy moments. One holy moment often leads others to respond with holy moments. My young friend Eli recently brought me some pastry he had made (a holy moment) to say thanks for something I had done for him (also a holy moment). What would our world be like if we all practiced holy moments?
May each of us, in the coming week, draw closer to the Risen Christ and help heal our broken world by practicing holy moments.
This week’s readings provide us once again with confidence of what we are able to accomplish through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles, prior to witnessing the resurrection and receiving the Holy Spirit, were ordinary people just like us. Thomas, who despite having lived in the presence of Jesus, and listened to his words on a daily basis, still doubted that Jesus could have risen from the dead. We all have moments in our lives where we, like Thomas, have doubts.
Great saints like Mother Teresa have discussed these doubts. However, time and time again, these saints relied upon Jesus in their moments of weakness. They returned to him in prayer and persevered on in faith and good works.
In the First Reading we are given an account of what these “ordinary” men accomplished through Christ. Their good works became an inspiration for others to follow. We have that same ability in our daily lives when we rely upon Jesus and place our faith and trust in Him to guide us. We have the opportunity and the ability to accomplish what these same ordinary turned great people accomplished over 2000 years ago provided that we keep returning to the Lord for strength and guidance while we persevere through life’s journey.