This holy Mass began as Father prayed our Collect: “Almighty and ever-living God lead us to share in the joys of heaven so that the humble flock may reach where the brave Shepherd has gone before.” That prayer and our readings from the Word of God clearly help us to realize God Calls us to Joy to, as our Psalm proclaims: Sing (in word and action) Joyfully to the Lord!”
Following our Risen Lord this season of Easter we share a journey fraught with great challenges. Our readings from the Acts of the Apostles speak of times of great blessing coursing though trials of persecution, and internal turmoil in the Church but through it all they “were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit”.
St. John in the Book of Revelation speaks to us of those Christians, having survived times of great distress, are worshiping God in the beauty of holy joy. These lights from God’s Word shine on our short Gospel and bring us to understand: Jesus our brave Risen Shepherd calls us to follow Him in joy.
The Gospels speak repeatedly of our Good Shepherd. Anyone who has worked around sheep or livestock know well that voices and manners of anger, hate and fear will not work to bring these creatures to their needed place with any degree of health and well being. So it is with us. Yes Jesus, our Good Shepherd knows and warns, guides us from the perils and evils that may abound. But God calls in, through and to Himself in joy.
The great Jesuit scientist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said: “Joy is the most infallible sign of the Presence of God.” (fruit of obedience and the Holy Spirit) Jesus calls us to follow and grow in His joyfully holy Presence. This is not a joy of a TV style silly happiness or of ever easy and cheerful circumstance. It is a joy rooted deep in the love of God that enables the soul to know, even in what the storms and crosses life may bring that joy of God grows in the truth that God created us, knows us and calls us..to His healing embrace.
The great 16th century saint and doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila lived in a time of great challenge for the faithful. Many in the Church had settled into lives of ease and neglect of the pathway of God. Her own Carmelite Order was struggling with spiritual weakness and lack of faith. Called by God to reform her order and in many ways the greater Church she became a great saint of passionate, contemplative love for God. But there was a distinct aspect of her witness for her Savior. She had a profound sense of humor and recognition of the need for God’s gift of humor and joy. One of her famous quotes was: From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord deliver us.”
In our faith of today so often inundated with the messages of deep sadness, anger, fear and confusion many are the temptations, the voices, that would call us to despair, doubt and to turn away from the Lord and His Church. It is for each of us to realize deep within our soul the voice of our Good Shepherd calling us to joy.
Nothing in life, the world, our soul surprises God. He knows what we face every day of our life. God created us, Jesus calls us, to follow and, as the Gospel proclaims, to be known by God. It is as we grow ever closer to He who died on the Cross and conquered death and sin we are filled with His joy. Let us, with His holy saints resolve to follow Him and proclaim and share in the joys of heaven, now and for all eternity.
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