Monday of the 4th Week of Easter
(Acts 11:1-18; Jn 10:11-18)
A story was told about three guys who were at the opening casket funeral of a friend. The first one says “there’s a legend in my family that if you bury a man with a little bit of money, it will help in the afterlife,”and he puts ten dollars in the casket. The second guy wasn’t planning on it but digs into his wallet, finds a ten-dollar bill, and lays it on top of the first one. The third has a reputation for being cheap, so the first two look at him. “What, you think i won’t put it in, too?” he says. “I’ll put in twenty!” Then he writes a check for forty dollars, drops it in the casket, and takes the two ten-dollar bills as change. (Jokes every Man Should Know, edited by Don Steinberg, p. 83) The character of the Good Shepherd is not one that takes advantage of others or one who is hired just for money. Besides, one of the important things we discover as an Easter grace is the identity of Jesus who reveals Himself as the Good Shepherd and Peter as the shepherd of the new Christian community.
1. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep- The Gospel today is about Jesus who proclaims himself as the Good Shepherd and He mentioned this twice to emphasize clarity on what He meant by “Good.” His first proclamation has something to do with comparison. He brought about the comparison between a hired shepherd and one who really owns the sheep. A hired shepherd serves according to his pay. He does not own the sheep and when a wolf comes to snatch the sheep away, he “leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.” A good shepherd suffers, protects and dies for the sheep because he knows and owns his sheep. His second proclamation had something to do with clarifying the depth of the relationship between sheep and shepherd. Jesus said for the second time, “I am the Good Shepherd” describing ownership of the sheep like the Father who own us and how the Father could manifest His love for us even allowing His Son to lay down His life for our salvation. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He said “this is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.”
2. The Good Shepherd envisions one flock, one shepherd- Jesus as the Good Shepherd dreams of unity and communion. He is good because He is not exclusive but inclusive and dreams that every sheep shares in the grace of God equally. He 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.” This happened to Peter also in the first reading who was accused of mingling with uncircumscized men, which means associating himself with the Pagans. Peter replied by saying that he had a vision at prayer. It was all about a vision of four legged animals: wild beasts, reptiles, and birds which were food of the Gentiles. But he heard a voice commanding him to get up and to slaughter and eat. But Peter replied “Certainly not, sir, because nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But a second time a voice from heaven answered, 'What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.' This happened three times, and then everything was drawn up again into the sky.” This indicates that the early Christians had to be more understanding and to be inclusive in their manner of exercising the Christian faith. The Gentiles became part of the Church and considered also as heirs of the Kingdom of God.
3. Peter is the new shepherd of the new Christian Community- Peter has to continue the mission of Christ on earth. He has to exercise leadership in the new Christian community patterned from the Good Shepherd. Peter is commissioned by Christ to protect, love and care for the Church. We remember Jesus saying to Peter “feed my lambs.” (Jn 21:15). The Church, after His Resurrection, was commissioned and entrusted by Jesus to Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth.” (cf. LG 8) This new role of Peter is one that his very humbling and challenging. Based from the vision he had in the first reading, Peter had to be the converging point between Jews and Gentiles. In the same way, He has to call into unity what Jesus mentioned in the Gospel, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice.” This entails mission and proclamation of the Word. Peter had to lead the community of Apostles to proclaim the truth about Christ and the Church. Peter has to continue the command Jesus had and what Jesus began by bringing all the sheep together. Jesus said “this command I have received from my Father.” The future of the Christian community lies on the shepherds of the Church we have today.
Monday of the 5th Week of Easter
(Acts 14:5-18; Jn 14:21-26)
Mark Link opened his reflection today by mentioning one of the finest passages (he would call it) St. Augustine wrote; it was with this question “What does love look like?” He said that Augustine did not answer the question with metaphors that compare love to the eyes of a chile, to a breeze on a hot day, or to daisies dancing in the sunlight. Augustine just said: “love has hands to help others, it has feet to hasten to the poor and needy, it has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of others. That’s what love looks like.” Love is just simple yet profound, practical yet eternal. Jesus says “whoever loves me will keep my word.” The readings today speak of the nature, the act, and the goal of love.
1. Love is a virtue from the Father- Love is one of the three theological virtues. It is theological because man cannot produce love, he can only share what is endowed to him. Love comes from God and love emanates from a Divine source. It was St. Augustine who said “If you see charity, you see the Trinity.” In the same way, Pope Francis who made his pastoral visit of peace in Egypt brought about the gift of love which comes from God. He said, “God, the lover of life, never ceases to love man, and so he exhorts us to reject the way of violence as the necessary condition for every earthly “covenant”. For him, violence is the occupation of the one who does not love. He continued to say “for violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression.” Jesus positively identifies love as an authentic expression which leads to God the Father as the source and rewards of love. God is love and Jesus is God embodied in the world. Jesus said “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
2. Love is a journey- Love follows a path that leads towards meeting someone. Before man recognizes a path of love, love has already experienced a path from God towards man then, love created its own path towards an encounter with God. If love has a path, then it leads towards a goal. Benedict XVI asserts that “love looks to the eternal” (Deus Caritas Est 6). Before man journeys towards the eternal, God, who is love, travels towards man first. When the love of God is reciprocated, God journeys and lives in man. In the Gospel today we were told that when one loves the Father, Jesus said “we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” The Talmud says “the worth of a kind deed lies in the love that inspired it.”
3. Love is transforming-Love searches for the good and thus, it is a virtue that dynamically searches a way to renew something in every way possible. The person who loves transforms himself in order to be a good as well as a valuable gift to the other. When love becomes a journey to discover the other, it is willing to sacrifice. It is willing to change itself for the other. Love embraces a disposition that is no longer self-seeking but it becomes an altruistic activity.Love is desires to make the other happy and blessed and therefore it renounces and seeks an inward purification because it is willing to give its selfless self to the one he loves. (cf. Deus Caritas Est 6) Paul and Barnabas experienced persecution among those whom they preached but because of their love for the Risen Christ, they managed to withstand all the pains and sufferings and never halted in their mission. We are told in the first reading that they “they continued to proclaim the Good News” in the midst of popular opposition. The love for Christ made them endure trials in mission for love indeed endures forever.