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.
TESTIMONY TO THE RESURRECTION
MARY OF MAGDALA:
On that morning, we awoke before the dawn . . . full of sadness and sorrow . . .
Our Lord Jesus had died on the Cross.
We watched them lay his body in the tomb.
“Come, let us take embalming ointments and go to the tomb,” we decided.
We arrived . . .
The huge stone covering the entrance had been removed. We stood there . . . puzzled and terrified.
What could have happened to the Lord Jesus’ body?
We fled – trembling and bewildered – too frightened to talk.
I awoke that morning . . . grieving . . . the Master had been crucified.
He died on the cross . . . he lies in the tomb.
The silence of the dawn was broken . . . it was Mary of Magdala.
She had been running and was out of breath.
She said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they put him.”
We – the other disciple and I – we decided we must go to the tomb.
We were running . . . the other disciple ran faster and arrived before I did . . . but he did not go in.
I arrived at the tomb – breathless and afraid – immediately I entered the tomb.
The linen cloths laid on the ground. The swath that covered His head was rolled up in a separate place.
Then we knew.
Then we understood the scripture teaching.
Christ Has Risen From the Dead!
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord,
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”
How exciting this must have been to be there and see folks praising our Lord and excited about His presence. There are times during our lives that we too encounter the crowd excited for our Lord, this is energizing and uplifting. This is how we feel during Lent at Mass – when there is a community of believers praising our Lord.
Then we move into the Gospel preparing for Holy Week.
In this Gospel, it is the story of how the Disciples struggled to stay awake and pray with Jesus, the betrayal of Jesus, the denial of Peter, and the Crucifixion of Jesus. This is all in preparation for Easter and His rising. During Lent, it should have been time to spend in deeper spiritual growth. But just as with the disciples, there has been exhaustion, confusion, frustration and sadness. How does it feel like we have grown closer to the Lord when during our preparation during Lent, there were illnesses, broken water heaters, more work at the office? We must look at our times of struggles just like the disciples and not lose sight that our Lord will rise and we will grow with Him.
“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” How long would it have taken you to leave if you had been there? I bet I would have been one of the first to “slip away”. If we have lived any length of time at all, we have sinned. Maybe we have been blessed to only commit small sins but we have sinned.
The attitude change of this crowd is impressive. They were willing to stone the woman caught in adultery. They moved from “ready to stone” to “slipping away”. This section of Christ’s teaching is very quiet and powerful. “Neither do I condemn you.”
I find it so easy to judge or condemn others. Yet this Gospel reminds me that it is not my job to judge others. It is my job to live as well as I can and to encourage others to do likewise. We will live better lives if we let God do the judging.
Reflections on the recent floods in the Midwest makes me recall the stories in the Bible starting from the time of Noah and his Ark after the flood water subsided, Genesis, Chapter 9; 12-17 And this, God said, “is the sign of the covenant which I now make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all ages to come: I now set my bow in the clouds and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I gather the clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, I shall recall the covenant between myself and you and every living creature, in a word all living things, and never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all living things. When the bow is in the clouds I shall see it and call to mind the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth, that is, all living things.” “That, God told Noah, is the sign of the covenant I have established between myself and all living things on earth.”
Even when the waters of the Platte River, the Missouri River and many other small streams and creeks flowed and spread devastation over the lands of the Midwest and the heartache that took place when homes and other properties were washed away in the blink of an eye we can still look for the rainbow in God’s promise. Our lives often take unexpected diversions in many ways; we can always rely on God’s promise of taking care of us. Matthew 6: 26 “Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are?”
Despite all the weather that we have experienced of late and all the changes that have taken place we can remain hopeful to the joy of spring and the relaxation of the summer seasons. As a farm wife, I have come to appreciate each season with the good and bad that it brings. God has many promises that we can look forward to. The most is that at the end of this life He has prepared a place for us. John 14: 1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” In the meantime, keep looking for the rainbows and try not to worry about what is next.
We have all been through Lenten practices many times in our lives and we continue to be saddened by the events that happened to Jesus during the final weeks leading to his death.
As we spend our time meditating on the life and death of Jesus, it is difficult to think of what he went through. He always knew his fate and although he asked our Father to take this suffering from him, he was destined to die for our sins to save us. Would anyone of us be ready and willing to do what Jesus did so we could spend eternity with the Father?
Let us continue to pray and meditate into the next weeks of this Lenten journey as we await the glorious Resurrection of Jesus.
by Kathryn Schinker, Notre Dame Associate
We entered Lent earlier this week and today’s readings provide a framework and a challenge for me as I ponder the focus of my journey these 40 days.
The gospel acclamation says one does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. The devil even tempted a hungry Jesus to turn stones into bread. These temptations of Christ challenge me to seek my strength, consolation, desires and actions from Him. When I was young we were encouraged to “give up” something. That can be a start but I have realized that I need to increase my actions to love, to serve, to pray - to fast on the things of the world and to feast on God’s love poured out for each of us.
I pray for openness, acceptance, thankfulness and willingness to deepen my relationship with Christ on this Lenten journey toward Easter.
The readings today are compared to good fruit from good trees, meaning that if we follow God’s ways with our whole heart, we are the good fruit. We need to question our own motives. Are we acting and speaking for our own benefit and being selfish, or are we acting for the good of others? The world pulls us away from God through wickedness & sin. We need to examine the “splinter in our eye” before removing the splinter in others. How are we guilty of the same things we blame others of doing? We need to transform ourselves first … with God’s help and grace. God wants us to follow Him to eternal life. In this journey, we also need to bring others along with us by speaking and acting with the same agape love God has for us.
How can you transform your heart, mind, soul and voice to be more in sync with God’s way?
Ps 92:2-3, 13-16
1 Cor 15:54-58