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Contents: Volume 2 - 4th Sunday of Easter - C
May 8, 2022

 

  2022

EASTER

IV

(C)

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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4th Sunday of Easter 2022

The Gospel selection is a very short one but I think a very timely one. These days, I read Scripture readings on my computer most of the time rather than in my Bible. I also usually check my email on my computer rather than on my phone. It occurred to me after reading the Gospel about hearing the voice of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, that the difficulty in actually hearing and following Jesus's voice is compounded these days by all the other "voices" that bombard us via today's omnipresence of media.

As a grandparent, in order to update my knowledge (and chances of success) of living with a teenager, I subscribe to a number of emails from parenting sites about parenting teenagers. Talk about the number of "voices" calling for my attention to navigate those interactions... WOW! The good news is that each site offers valuable insight on specific sub-topics. I find myself comparing the newer approaches to the ones I used to parent my own two now grown children. I have come across some definitely competing approaches and some completely new but important topics!

All of the sites promote trying to understand the teenage rewiring mind that has been so well -researched since the days my own were teens. That is very different from trying to conform what the teen is doing to what I want that person to do, and now! It feels like (how's that for a teen phrase) on-going tension between being closed minded and flexible. Connecting that thought to the Gospel reading leads me to try to understand why Jesus's voice says to act in a certain way rather than my fitting how I want to act into what I want Jesus to be saying and, honestly, okaying.

All of that sounds complicated, but discernment actually is complicated. My going back to who Jesus is and what Jesus said and did is the key for me. I am the one learning about Jesus, not the all -knowing person who, like a teen might think, already knows how to act. I need to understand the mind of Jesus and the will and plan of the Father so I can learn to act in the ways that will help me grow. The path to that knowledge is research... re-searching the Scriptures and meditating on what the voice of Jesus says through the words I read and hear.

I'm not sure any of that makes sense right now, but, truthfully, anything that connects to teens in today's world does have that lingering question! Fortunately, Christians do have a "life manual" called the Scriptures whereas kids/teens do not come with an owner's manual. I find that keeping up with Jesus works better than keeping up with the Joneses or whoever/whatever is trending although combining the knowledge of both seems to be working... sorta! I pray a lot!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Fourth Sunday of Easter May 8 2022

A.K.A. Good Shepherd Sunday & Mother’s Day

Acts of Apostles 13:14 & 43-52; Responsorial Psalm 100; Revelation 7:9 & 14-17; Gospel Acclamation John 10:14; John 10:27-30

The image in the gospel of John this Sunday most often causes us to think of ourselves as a sheep – a single one. It is a "me and Jesus" image that most often allows us a feeling of being cared for, of somehow safe in the arms, well on the shoulders of the Lord. We can get lost, get caught in briars and thorns, be chased by wolved, be kidnapped by rustlers – but Jesus will come for me. It is a most comforting image and one that tells us we are forgiven. We make Jesus the hound of heaven of that famous Francis Thompson 182-line poem. We are made the message, minimizing the revelation that Jesus by believing it is all about me. If we look carefully at the gospels, Paul’s letters, the letter of James, and even John of Patmos’ Book of Revelation, it is always about us. Me is important only as it is one of the us.

But let us take another look at this very short gospel reading this Sunday. No where is there any reference to a single sheep. All references to sheep are in the plural. The image we conjure up of being carried on the shoulders of Jesus comes from another gospel reading – the one about the one lost sheep for whom the shepherd searches, leaving the 99 of the flock to fend for themselves while the shepherd searches. And that narrative is about that one errant sheep being brought back to the fold, back to the flock where it will thrive and grow.

So, this selection about the Shepherd is about the flock. This is no individual pursuit, no individual salvation. There is nothing in this reading about being saved. It is all about following after Jesus. In that following they have eternal life, and THEY shall never perish. No one can take THEM out of his hand. The Father has given THEM to me. No one can take THEM out of the Father’s hand.

In the first reading Paul and Barnabas heading for Antioch in Pisidia. There they preach first in the synagogue. Their message was so engaging that nearly the whole city turns out the following sabbath. Those who held positions of honor and power became jealous. They needed to divide and shout violent abuse. We are familiar with such abuse in political rallies, in school boards meetings, in rhetoric spewing from public media and now especially in the anonymity of social media. That abuse, that violent rhetoric seeks to divide us, tear at the very roots of our religious and social structures. It is not of God! If we carefully read the Acts of the Apostles, we will discover it is very much about a community of those who follow in the Way of Jesus. So it is that the Jews of Antioch turned away from the message because of their jealousy. Paul and Barnabas turned toward the Gentiles. And the Gentiles were delighted to be included in the community of those who followed in the way of Jesus. This story insists there is no caste system in Christianity. Oh, that this revelation were practiced in our hearts. Would that we got rid of the system of self-pride that is based on considering oneself better than others. What occurred in Antioch continues today in many different ways. Caste systems are based on skin color. There is a concentrated effort to prevent immigration of persons with darker skin. It is as though those of color are an infection on the social body of the nation. Sometimes it is about language. Other times it is about culture. Other times it is about gender. Still other times it is about wealth. Any time we marginalize another person, another culture, another faith tradition, we serve the god of jealousy and division.

In the second reading from the wonder book of Revelation written by John of Patmos, we hear again of a great multitude – uncountable. Note, please, that this great crowd is of every --- that word every should be noticed and taken to heart – of every nation, race, people, and tongue. What makes them one – that is right, makes them one – is that they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. They have been washed and became a great multitude. They are together in one great community. It is they who have conquered and overcome the time of great distress. They came through the violence, the jealousy, the terror, and the persecution by those who believed themselves to be gods. The message of the lamb is the message of the good shepherd who collects, who gathers, who unites into one flock all humanity. Whoever divides, whoever holds up a system of caste however based is not of the flock. Those are they who create the time of great distress. Those are those who promise wealth, power, and glory to those who follow them. Those are they who steal the dignity and worth of others to enhance their power, their wealth, and their glory. They are not of the Good Shepherd. They are not of God.

In the very short gospel reading for this Sunday, again we are instructed to amend any system that separates us from those who follow in the way of the Lord. In every line of this short gospel the sheep are a flock, not one sheep.

If we get the message, we will know that our strength, our resilience in the face of violence and our defense against the lies and propaganda of those who cannot live in an inclusive community – our strength is the God of us all. While this Sunday is about community it is truly about God who is a Trinity. God is a community of three. And God’s life is the life of community. If we wish to achieve in paradise the eternal life of God, then we must learn how-to live-in community.

How do we start, how do we begin? We come into the community of followers of the Way of Jesus when we are washed in baptism, The ritual itself teaches that. For, whether as an infant or an adult, when we come to the font, we commit to rejecting Satan and all Satan’s wiles. It is then that we come into the Community. In one of the ancient churches in Antioch, there is a strange construction just outside the church doors. It is a cistern, deep and enterable by reason of steps that reach the bottom. Those first set of steps are by the entrance gates to the courtyard in front of the building. There are a second set of steps leading up from the cistern toward the front doors of the church. What an obvious teaching by architecture. One enters the assembly by burying the old way of living and rising to a new community, one that is modeled on the very life of God.

How do we get to that now? We start by coming to know those others who come into the assembly on the first day of the week, that day commemorating the Rising of Jesus the Christ. Self-introduction gets us started to sharing our living. We celebrate together the Passover meal, the Last Supper, in which the very life and substance of Jesus becomes our food and our drink. BUT, we cannot forget – even though we shroud the truth of it by the speed with which we carry this out – that it is what we bring to the altar – that so little thought of procession – that becomes the material that is consecrated and transformed into the Body and the Blood of the Lord. The offertory comes just after we have committed once again to the truth of our faith in the Creed. And what we commit to is what we have heard in the Scriptures and their exposition by the homilist. The offertory procession is for the work of the church. Absolutely so! The work of the church, of this assembly is to live the truth that is God’s presence with us. Whether we have money to share, whether we have only the movements of our hearts, whether we bring to the table of the Lord a load of sorrow and suffering, whether we bring to the table of the Lord heaps of overwhelming joy – whatever it is we bring to the table of the Lord – it is all transformed in the symbols of bread and wine into the Body and the Blood of the Lord. Since it is transformed, since the material that is raised up by the Spirit of God, we in effect eat and drink the daily lives and works and sufferings and joy s of the assembly. When that is transformed by the power of the Spirit, we then receive the entire assembly into ourselves as food and drink. It is the Christ, this Jesus, who makes us one in community. Some may wonder why it is that there are those who stand after receiving the Lord. They remain standing at their place until the tabernacle door is closed after communion. The reason for this is to recognize that in receiving the Lord we become one with all those others who also receive. Our oneness is expressed by our standing as one.

The symbols of the liturgies we celebrate are consistent and powerful lessons. In all our sacramental life there is a clear insistence on Community. We are members of a flock, or as John of Patmos insists in one of his visions – we are members of a great cloud of witnesses. If we think of that, if we pray on that, if we practice that the message of Jesus The Christ becomes more apparent. We will discover peace, we will live in the strength of the Son of God who became Man for us, to teach, to model, to heal, to strengthen so that our living is all that it can be. We are all in this together – we should act out that truth in our encounters. May it be so!

Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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BELONGING TO JESUS, OUR GOOD SHEPHERD: 4TH SUNDAY EASTER C

Acts 13:14, 43-52; Revelation14:9, 14b-17; John 10:27-30

Have you ever lost a dog, a cat, a parrot, or other pet, and were at your wit’s end searching for your precious pet? I ask this because of what today - Good Shepherd Sunday - is about.

Here In Australia, it’s not easy to relate to sheep in personal ways. Here we have so many thousands of sheep that Australians tend to view sheep as impersonal animals, all much the same, all smelly and dumb. But for the shepherds of Jesus’ day, they were more like the pets in our day that are so dear to us. Shepherds, by themselves with their sheep in the fields, would talk to their sheep (perhaps for lack of anyone else to talk to), and would call them out by name from their common holding pen. At the sound of their pet names, ‘Frisky,’ ‘Floppy,’ etc., each sheep would follow the shepherd into the fields for grazing.

The bond, then, between sheep and shepherds, is one of many different pictures we can explore, to understand better a basic need we humans share. This is our need for intimacy, for being connected to others and yet accepted as individuals, special and unique. We Christians share a need for bonding with both Jesus and fellow human beings in close and continuing friendly relationships.

Another significant connection with the gospel picture of sheep and shepherds is the weaknesses generally associated with sheep. Jesus himself understood this connection when he said that he was sending his disciples out like ‘lambs among wolves’ (Lk 10:3). In our First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles today (13:14, 43-52), we hear of Paul and Barnabas and their brave attempts to tell the good news of Jesus, and how they were rejected and thrown out of the city of Antioch. But as they walked out of town, so the Reading tells us to our surprise, they ‘were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.’

What all this suggests is that our Good Shepherd’s care for you and me, and the call and responsibility we have to shepherd one another, centres around a different kind of power that Jesus has taught and emphasized. The power of Jesus was not the power of domination, the power to bully or boss people around. That kind of power is illustrated by the story of the captain of a destroyer who saw a light ahead and notified the radio signalman to order the approaching ship to change its course 20 degrees to the south. A message came back: ‘You change your course 20 degrees to the north.’ The captain sent another message: ‘Change your course . . . I am Captain Cunningham.’ The message came back: ‘Change your course . . . I am Able Seaman 3rd class Jones.’ Finally, angry and determined, the captain sent a third message: ‘Change your course right away. I am a destroyer.’ The message came back: ‘Change your course right away. I am a lighthouse.’

As we focus on pastoral care today, Good Shepherd Sunday, we are deeply aware of how few people nowadays are saying that they feel drawn to becoming a priest or religious. I wonder if we, as the community of Jesus, were to put more emphasis on relational power rather than dominant power, whether there would be more persons wanting to take up the kind of good shepherding relationship that goes with being a good priest, brother, or sister?

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, says: ‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me’ (Jn 10:27-30). But with so many parish mergers now resulting in mega parishes, there is no way anymore that a priest can truly get to know every single parishioner. The challenge has come, then, for all parishioners to be good shepherds – accepting and caring for one another. This involves the effort, for a start, to discover and remember the names of more and more people each week, greeting them by name, and sharing with interest and enthusiasm, our concerns, needs, feelings, fears, hopes and hurts.

This is to imitate the Good Shepherd who knows each of us by name and calls out each of us by name to the green pastures of life in community. Then, the more we strive to build a family relationship in our parish, the more we will get to know the ones who would stand out as good shepherds for all. We might then quietly and gently approach them to take on that special leadership role in the Church that being a good religious or priest involves.

The benefit of being in a shared loving relationship with Jesus our Good Shepherd is illustrated powerfully in our Second Reading today from the Book of Revelation: ‘They will never hunger or thirst again; neither the sun nor scorching wind will ever plague them because the Lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes’ (Revelation 7:16-17)

As we approach the table of our Good Shepherd today for Holy Communion, let us ask him to lead us to springs of living water by giving us an experience of a deeper and closer relationship with him personally, and with all our brothers and sisters gathered with us around the same table, the table of Jesus.

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

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