Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.


cost of discipleship

Jesus our Good Shepherd

Mass Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter: 1st Reading: Ac. 2: 14, 36-41: Psalm: 23; 2nd Reading: I Pet. 2:20-25; Gospel: Jn. 10:1-10 [The Web version of my homily.]

Who is in charge? Who is in charge of your life? Our western culture takes immense pride in the concept that it is all about us, that I (capital I of course) am entitled to the choices of life. That I am entitled and best qualified to chose the course of my life.
While God has blessed us each with our free will it is a myth of fools to pretend we are in charge. It has been said if you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans. Yes, while God does give us free will our Creator, the Shepherd of our souls also gives us the ability to know we are…Followers..we choose to follow. In today’s Gospel Christ makes clear that we are sheep and that He is the Good Shepherd. He also makes clear the reality that there is evil, that Satan would seek to lead us astray, to rob, destroy that which is treasured and made by God. This brings us to ask, if we are honest, who is in charge? Who is guiding my life? As we look to Christ, as we look to the Good Shepherd we learn what it is to follow Him.

First we come to learn Jesus knows His sheep. He knows each human soul, created by Him. Christ, Lord, God, Savior, Shepherd knows… Whether we are the purest of spotless white lambs or if perhaps we may be the odd sheep of the flock, the proverbial black sheep. He knows, He created, He loves us for who we are. He knows and calls us each by name. Well He knows the paths we may have wandered, the wounds or struggles we have encountered. Yet His love never ceases. He calls, searches..seeks to bring us each into the fullness of His love, the safety of His fold. As we heed Word, His voice, as we yield to the loving guidance of His staff He leads us home to Him.

As sheep of His flock, as His followers, the guidance of Christ’s Spirit brings us ever closer into His Kingdom. Our Psalm today is a powerful prayer and confession of the faithful. While most often heard at a funeral we need to remember that if we think to wait until death before we start to follow Him, it may be too late, or at least we will have missed the fullness of life He created us to know. This Psalm of David, a man who knew what it was to follow God, is powerful in its honest confession. Christ will indeed lead us to the lush pastures, abundant waters of which we seek. But, because He is the good Shepherd He will also lead us through the valley of death, those dark nights of faith pressing close to He who leads us. Christ promises, that through His Holy Spirit He will lead us into His will, His path, His truth. This is not just some ethereal mystic hope. It is the promise to lead us with the wisdom of God, daily, taking up the Cross He shares to lead us, in our hearts, our families to do His will to love as He loved.

And it is as we yield to His voice calling our name, as we follow Him we come to learn the Shepherd provides for all we need as we follow His way. As we follow the Good Shepherd, as we follow the Risen Christ we soon learn He leads to the impossible. The God Shepherd leads us beyond our own limited resources and abilities to ….trust, to love…to know He will never forsake us. It is when we sit at the table, abundantly set for us, even at times in the presence of our enemies, we learn how faithful God is. We learn that, thanks be to God we don’t always get that to which we are truly entitled. We find instead God’s mercy, healing and love. We learn, Jesus is in charge. He is risen. He is Lord. He is my Savior and Shepherd.

Release & Receive

[Cyber-version~Homily for 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Wis. 9:13-18b; Ps. 90:3-4,5-6,12-13,14-17; Phmn. 9-10,12-17; Lk. 14:25-33]

The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel are perhaps some of the hardest to receive. In speaking to the crowds who were following Him Jesus lays out in clear terms the price of being His disciple. We could, as many did then and have done over the centuries turn away or hide behind our human explanations of these words…”carry your cross…follow me…renounce all of your possessions (including your relationships) if you are to follow me”.

Yet Christ spoke the simple truth in love. Whatever possessions we cling to, unless given wholly to Christ, hinders us from taking the cross, with Him. Whatever we fail to release to God restricts our ability to receive Him and all He longs to be and give through our lives. Perhaps a fire hydrant may help us understand.

One day, back when I working in the fire department, I was inspecting some hydrants in an area of new construction. I had with me an engine and crew and we set about checking the flow of the new hydrants that had been installed. The first few checked fine. However when we came to one at the end of the street we discovered it would fail the flow test without even turning it on. Upon removing the cap from the discharge we found that the inside was packed with sand, gravel, plastic sheeting and other construction debris. The hydrant that should have been able to quickly flow hundreds of gallons of water could not even flow a drop. The hydrant was full of all the stuff of which it was surrounded. It was not able to flow that for which it had been designed.

God designed us to be filled and flowing with life, with love. This includes relationships, this includes the things we need to live life here on earth. Yet when we start to hold onto..possess any of these things the flow of life, of God, of love is hindered. We parents do not possess our children, they are God’s gift for us to love and nurture. Spouses do not possess each other..they are couples through which the course of life and love is meant flow and share. The things we do…or have for our work and life,some of great beauty and value, all are talents and treasures of God’s placed in our lives for the stewardship of His purpose, His plans. Even the very dust we strive to clean away from our things, our relationships, is given by Him to remind us that only that which is from Him will last.

Our Lord longs for our lives to be filled and flowing with peace that lasts beyond possessions, with love that satisfies beyond lusts; with the riches of Heaven, even here on earth. The simple truth of today’s Gospel is ours to discover every moment, every time we release to Christ that which we think we own…and receive His Cross, receive Him who gave all on the Cross to be our love forever.

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