ironphoenix (ironphoenix) wrote,

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This weekend's reflection

Reflection for 28-29 April, 2012
4th Sunday of Easter, Year B

Text: Acts 4:7-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”1 With these words, Jesus claims an authority for himself that identifies him with God, who is the shepherd of the Jewish people. His miracles of healing and resurrection are signs that he is truly the one to be trusted; he is known by his fruits.2 This Gospel continues Jesus’ response to the Pharisees who rejected him after he cured the man born blind, refusing to see the Godliness in this miraculous act of compassion because it broke the law of the Sabbath.

Similarly, his followers too are known by their fruits, and stand in sharp contrast to the religious authorities who would judge them: Peter, questioned by the Sanhedrin, the supreme religious court, declares that they are being challenged because they have done a good deed in the name of Jesus Christ.3 Remember that at this time, the Christians were not separate from the Jewish people: nearly all of them were Jews, born under the Law of Moses. By standing up and proclaiming the name of Jesus, they were defying the priests, who “gave them a warning on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus.”4 Peter and John refuse to take the priests’ words as authoritative, retorting, “‘You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God.’”5 Eventually, the authorities felt so threatened by these Christians that they cast them out of the synagogues, and thus the community. They remained steadfast in following Jesus’ teachings, and we are their successors gathered here today in a community of our own. Of course, we have not followed those teachings perfectly in our dealings with each other or with those outside our community, including and sometimes especially the Jews.

We are called to be good sheep as Jesus is the good shepherd: we must discern the voice that calls us home to God’s love. Jesus’ voice is present, but so are many others: there are many in the world that do not know him, and would abandon, scatter, or even prey on God’s children.6 We need to discern the voice that calls us to be good sheep, guiding us by paths of virtue.7 Jesus tells us what that voice says, in his account of the Last Judgment: “‘Then the King will say to [the sheep], “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me; in prison and you came to see me. … [I]n so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers [and sisters] of mine, you did it to me.”’”8 This is the most important task we have, to extend God’s love to each other. Jesus expresses it in his new commandment at the Last Supper: “love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.”9

Jesus is the example set for us; to be our shepherd, he became also a sheep, laying down his life to demonstrate love’s commitment, then taking it up again to show love’s enduring power.10 Faith can lead us, as it did Peter and John, to follow this way fearlessly. We trust that as God’s children, though we do not know what we will be, we know that we will be like the God we do not yet see fully,11 who will bring us together in one flock,12 guided and protected by her everlasting love.

1: John 10:14
2: Matthew 7:16
3: Acts 4:9
4: Acts 4:18
5: Acts 4:19
6: cf. 1 John 3:1, John 10:12
7: Psalm 23:3
8: Matthew 25:34-36, 40
9: John 13:34
10: John 10:17-18
11: 1 John 3:2
12: John 10:16
Tags: religion
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