4th Sunday of Easter ~ 8 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 13:14, 43-52; Responsorial: Psalm 100; II: Revelation7:9, 14b-17; Gospel: John 10: 27-30
Alleluia Christ the Good Shepherd is Risen! The eternal joy of Easter continues to be proclaimed in the Church as we begin this 4t week of Easter. The Word of God shares the message of Christ, conquerer of sin and death as our Good Shepherd. Many are the titles and revelations of God throughout Scripture and time. But the lesson of our Lord God as the Good Shepherd is both ancient and more needed and relevant than ever.
All our readings share either the direct message of Jesus our Shepherd or clear examples of God’s grace calling and leading the faithful in the ways of God, or, as the Collect for Mass prays: “…God, lead us to share in the joys of heaven, so that the humble flock may reach where the brave shepherd has gone before.” The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of how the early church delighted and glorified the Word of God and how the Word of God spread through the whole region.
As the Psalm shares “We are his people, the sheep of his flock.”. As His sheep we see that we are “a great multitude…from every nation, race, people and tongue.”, (emphasis mine). This exquisite holy diversity is proclaimed without compromise in our second reading from the Book of Revelation. The apocalyptic reading we share concludes with the message “…the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water.”
It is in the Gospel for this Lord’s Day we are reminded by Jesus that: ” My sheep hear my voice: I know them and they follow me.” This holy Easter we may well relate to the early disciples as they struggled to realize what they could not understand. Jesus is Risen! Especially in a world of conflict and deep turmoil affecting so many we may have difficulty in seeing the reality of Christ risen. We may also struggle with doubts, fears that would lock us away as the apostles prayed. But we, also like the early faithful are called to be listening to Jesus our Shepherd as He calls and leads us. But this leads us to wonder, if we are to know the Shepherd’s voice what is the language of God?
Years ago, while living in Seattle, in the Scandinavian district of Ballard I sometimes encountered fervent discussions among the Christians as to what language God spoke. The Danes said Danish, the Swedish were adamant it was Swedish, the people of Norway of course knew it was Norwegian, and the Finns were cold certain it would be Finnish. While all this was in jest…usually, it reflected a common reality of our appreciation of the Language of God. We think, want, expect God to speak..as we do or as we would prefer.
This are very much more heated arguments today about the language of God in our liturgy and worship. Latin is the official language of the Roman Catholic Church. And there are those who fervently believe our liturgies should be in this beautiful, holy and traditional language, even as the church has restored the even more ancient tradition of worship in the vernacular of the people.
This focus on language is a challenge for other Christians as well. I have known many deeply faithful Protestants who intensely believe their preferred version of the Bible is God’s choice. For centuries the beautiful English of the King James version of Scripture was THE only standard to be accepted. But as always how we speak evolves and the “Thees & Thous” of ancient English are not well received by some in this post-modern world. And there are many more examples of how we sheep from many flocks struggle with how we think God’s language should be.
It is perhaps why, the Shepherd of our souls brought this Sunday for His people. God has no problem with this great multitude of many tongues. As we draw closer to the exciting joy of Pentecost we are reminded that God’s Holy Spirit was manifested in several ways, including the disciples speaking in diverse tongues! But we still wonder…What is God’s language? How do we recognize the voice of our Shepherd?
As we follow Christ we learn He ever seeks to lead us beyond ourselves. He calls us, finds us, saves us, where ver we come from and are in our journey of life. This process of conversion can begin with being baptized as an infant. Or it may be when one learns of and seeks Christ as a teenager or adult. But God’s voices is calling us, by name, to follow and grow in God’s Kingdom, not ours. So we must remember that while God hears and perfectly understands us whether we seek Him in Spanish, English, Latin or in the language of any land God’s language, to us, will share some universal expressions.
God Speaks Peace. It is important to realize all through His earthly ministry Jesus sought to bring the Peace of His Kingdom to the souls he was with. The disciples, the woman at the well, the Jewish leader whose child was dying, the Gentiles..Jesus sought to cut through their conflicted lives and souls with His peace. This was even more evident after His resurrection. Every encounter, even when they could not see past their disbelief Jesus spoke to His followers in…Peace.
God Speaks Mercy. Consistent and often loud is the language of guilt and condemnation our sin and Satan can bring. Anger and unforgiveness is also one of the most popular dialects in this world. But God would speak mercy, and forgiveness to all who will listen. Jesus knew, fully the sins of the world and of each of us when He came as our Savior. But He still calls us each by name that we may know and proclaim: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
God Speaks Hope. One of the most common struggles in life today is depression and and anxiety. In recent years the most common medications prescribed were not for cancer, diabetes or heart disease. The most common medications were anti-depressives and anti-anxiety drugs. This, of course does not include the massive quantities of socially and self-prescribed doses of alcohol, cannabis or other drugs. We would do well, especially as a genuine Easter People, to quell the voices of the world and listen to God who would speak Hope not founded in futile or temporal relief but in His Living Word, His promises that cannot fail.
God Speaks Love. We prayerfully hope that the worst of the Covid pandemic has passed. But there is a pandemic of even greater peril and destruction. It is the pandemic of hate. In Europe we witness a brutal war instigated by a man’s hatred for his neighbors and the sacredness of their land and lives. With the changes that (prayerfully) look to come about for abortion law in our country we are seeing storms of anger and hatred between people on this heart breaking issue. This is also seen in the civil life of our time were the false gospel of choice and politics with God has resulted in idols of hate and anger to breed deep strife and rancor. But! Jesus calls us each by name to follow Him out of the morass and deadly fields of this world into His peace, hope, mercy fused together in His love that conquered all that is deadly in this life. Christ calls us, as His Easter sheep to..Love, as He loves us. Together let us Listen for God, His Peace, Hope, Mercy and Love and then let us be His voice of Peace, Hope, Mercy and Love.