Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter, May 5
May We Reach Out to One Another with an All-Inclusive and Selfless Love, for in This Way We Assist Our Lord in Creating That “One Flock”, So That Each of Us May Truly See Him As the Good Shepherd of Us All.
We hear our Lord speaking to the Jewish authorities in today’s Gospel, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
How secure are we, today, in the faith which you and I profess? Do you and I readily accept everything which our Church teaches us? Or do we begin to falter and question its teachings, especially when you or I or a loved one find ourselves being affected by one or more of its precepts?
I remember a conversation I once had with a friend who had difficulties accepting the Church’s teachings on divorce, and his misperception that separated and divorced Catholics are not welcomed in our faith community.
I attempted to impress upon him that those who are hurting due to separation or divorce are and always will be an integral part of our community of believers. But it was as though I was speaking to a brick wall, for he could not open his heart to accept or maybe even understand what I was saying, since his thinking, for whatever reason, was so sadly biased in the opposite direction.
And prejudicial bias is at the very heart of what we find in our Readings for today.
Luke is showing us, in our First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, that there was still a reluctance on the part of some of the first Jewish Christians, especially those in Jerusalem, to accept Gentiles into the Christian mix, for there was an antipathy, an aversion to or disliking of integration of Gentiles and Jews. For we read that those who were dispersed due to the persecution of those who followed the Way of Christ “…preached the word to no one but Jews.”
There were others, however, who opened their hearts to peoples of non-Jewish descent, and we are told that the Gentile Christian communities were beginning to grow, especially among the Greeks in the city of Antioch.
And it is here that Scripture tells us that these non-Jewish disciples were first called Christians, probably due to the belief that the Gentile members of the Greek community wanted themselves to stand out clearly from Judaism.
And this integration of peoples from various cultural backgrounds and nationalities is echoed in the words of today’s psalm, for it tells a story that people from all over the world will call Zion their birthplace, for it is truly the City of God!
And even in today’s world, there are Christians from every race, creed and culture who will call Jerusalem the birthplace of their faith, for it was here that Christ died; it was here that Christ rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven; and it was here that the Church began when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost!
In our Gospel for today, it is during the Feast of the Dedication held in Jerusalem in December, an eight-day festival of lights, which, in Hebrew, is referred to as Hanukkah, where we find Jesus addressing the Jews who were pressing Him for a direct statement that He was the Messiah.
He responds to them by saying, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
This conversation follows Jesus discourse on the Good Shepherd, for He is still focusing on His role as the Shepherd who leads His sheep. And for those who hear and follow His voice, Jesus states, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”
And then, Jesus declares, “The Father and I are one.”
This dramatic assertion is to claim the unity which exists between the Father and Himself, and also reveals that the words and deeds of Jesus are the words and deeds of God the Father.
It was so difficult for many of the Jews listening to our Lord to “wrap their heads” around this concept and accept what He was saying, even after personally witnessing the miraculous healings He had performed in front of their very eyes, for the next verse in the Gospel, which is not part of today’s Reading, states that the Jews were picking up “…rocks to stone him”, for they believed He was committing blasphemy, making Himself equal to the Father.
They were unable to make that leap-of-faith, for they were undoubtedly expecting a Royal Messiah, someone who would come in great power and majesty to cast out the Romans, and bring the state of Israel back to its former glory!
For me, I would have to ask the question – Why? Why was it so hard for them to open their eyes, especially since the evidence of His good works, the works of His Eternal Father, were staring them right in the face?
Why was it so difficult for the first Jewish Christians to open their hearts with love to their non-Jewish brothers and sisters?
And do we not have this same problem today? Even those of us who call ourselves good Christians seem, at times, to have difficulties accepting those who are different. The difference could be the color of one’s skin tone, or the difference could be a mental or a physical defect or deficiency.
The difference could be due to a different dialect in the way one speaks, or the country they hail from or the culture they embrace which is difficult for us to understand or appreciate. We are all sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father, and yet, this idea of our true brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ is so foreign in the way some think.
What is truly sad, what is truly disheartening is seeing basically good Christian people discriminate and become unfairly biased against others for some very non-Christian reasons!
If our Lord taught us anything throughout His three-year mission here on Earth, He taught us that God is Love. The Beatitudes which He gave us are at the very heart of Jesus’ teaching, for they express the vocation of the faithful, in that we are each called to live lives of love and charity and selfless-service for the well-being of others.
Living the Beatitudes gives us hope in the midst of our journey through life, which is oftentimes fraught with various tribulations and crosses. And at the very end of His teaching on the Mount, Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”
Loving each other, caring for each other, being non-discriminatory in our way of thinking and acting, is based upon the very idea that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. And this way of thinking, this way of acting, should be at the very core, the very heart of who we are as a Christian people.
Is it always going to be easy? No, of course not! We are human beings, with our own shortcomings and our own failings. We must remember, however, that each one of us is unique – a special and wonderful creation of God, with our own God-given talents and gifts.
And it is through our uniqueness, and the talents and gifts with which we have been given, that God is asking us to reach out with love to each other – especially to all those who are different from ourselves. For it is through this love that people will know that we are Christians, the sheep who listen to and who follow the voice of the Good Shepherd.
In the Scripture verses which immediately precede today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus said, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Let us individually and collectively as a Christian community, with our various talents and gifts, reach out with an all-inclusive and selfless love which is of Christ.
For it is in this way that we shall assist our Lord in creating that “one flock”, which is His Divine will, so that each of us may truly see Him as the Good Shepherd of us all.
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
- “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
- “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16)
- “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)
- “But the LORD said to Samuel: ‘Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7)
- “My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Sit here, please,’ while you say to the poor one, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?” (James 2:1-4)
- “However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’, you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” (James 2:8-9)
- “Blessed those whose way is blameless, who walk by the law of the LORD. Blessed those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with all their heart. They do no wrong; they walk in his ways.” (Psalm 119:1-3)
- “Now, my children, listen to me; blessed are they who keep my ways.” (Proverbs 8:32)
- “My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all; they shall live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees.” (Ezekiel 37:24)
Prayer for the Day
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your Love.
May I see each circumstance in my life
as an opportunity to grow in Your Mercy.
May I see my environment
as a place to grow in Your Peace.
“When I am tempted to become impatient,
help me to be patient.
“When I am tempted to become unkind,
help me to be kind.
“When I am tempted to become jealous,
help me to be tolerant.
“When I am tempted to become boastful or proud,
help me give You the glory.
“When I am tempted to be rude or selfish,
give me the gift of gentleness.
“When I am tempted to take offense,
help me to let go.
“When I am tempted to become angry with someone,
give me the gift of forgiveness.
“When I am tempted to become resentful,
give me Your power to love.
“All gifts and all charisms come from You.Anonymous
All will one day come to an end,
with one important exception, the gift of love!
Help me to always love others as You love me. Amen.”