Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fourth Sunday in Easter

May 15, 2011
Acts 2:14, 36-41; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:20-25; John 10:1-10

Good Shepherd Sunday conjures up images of a smiling, carefree Jesus lovingly caring for a single lamb in a larger flock of sheep. Everyone is meant to be happy and safe in his fold as we realize the care of Jesus reaches out to each individual. Many scriptural allusions, like Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd), convey trust in the guidance of the Lord as a concerned, providential shepherd. The Hebrews enjoyed the notion that the Lord is always looking out for them. Today, however, many people bristle when they are cast as "the sheep" because it reminds them of the old-fashioned, misguided concept of the laity as uneducated, unreflective people who are at their best when they mindlessly "pray, pay, and obey."
As we hear the Good Shepherd passage proclaimed, we realize distress and tension exists between Jesus and "the Jews" at the feast of Dedication. The division first surfaces three months earlier during the feast of Tabernacles. In the parable, Jesus makes a striking claim before the Pharisees: I am the gate and the good shepherd. All others are imposters, thieves, or robbers. The sheep know my voice and are afraid of others who intend them harm for their motivations are purely self-centered.

In the passage that precedes the Good Shepherd, the Pharisees were called out for their blindness. Jesus is now warning the crowds not to respond to their teaching. Jesus declares himself to be the gate through which persons have access to the sheep. He is also the true, ideal shepherd. For John, he becomes the only source for salvation as all who have come before him are cast as thieves who will not bring salvation. Jesus is cast as the one who will bring the people life.
One test of a shepherd is to put oneself in harm's way for the sake of the sheep. It becomes a test of credibility. It shows to others that the shepherd is a real person with authentic human compassion. When leaders are more concerned for the safe well-being of others and finds ways to learn their needs and desires, shepherds will reveal who they really are. The flock can see more about their shepherds than they realize. They trust their experience of the relationship between them. If shepherds earn their trust - time after time after time - the flock consents to follow their voice. Mostly, the flock wants to know that the shepherd's voice is aligned with the heart and attitude of God. People want to do well by God and by one another. They want their leaders to mirror God's goodness to others and not to seek their own reward.

For many reasons, trust between the laity and church leaders has eroded. The laity cannot place their faith or trust in religious leaders and these leaders are at the gate allowing some seekers in and keeping others out. Greater risk is needed as we make ourselves more vulnerable to each other. New paradigms of caring are to be used. We want the same goals. We need to examine our methodologies and have the courage to re-form them.
In some cases, the laity will be able to give the benefit of the doubt to leaders so trust can be re-established; the leaders also will be able to trust the goodwill of the laity, learn of their needs and concerns, and daringly put themselves in harm's way for the protection of each blessed person. To do this, we must learn new ways to listen to the voice of Jesus Christ again and to commit to the hard, incessant tasks of developing a more trusting relationship with each other.

Themes for this Week’s Masses
First Reading: We continue with the Acts of the Apostles with the Apostles' decision to include the Gentiles into the community. Peter lifted the Jewish dietary laws for them declaring that, "God granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too." Those who had been dispersed since the persecution that followed Stephen's stoning began proclaiming the story of Jesus Christ to their new communities. The number of converts increased dramatically. The word of God continued to spread and grow. At Antioch during prayer, the Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." In Perga in Pamphylia, Paul stood up and told the story of God's deliverance of the people from bondage and slavery. God's work continued in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord, but strict Jews opposed Paul and Barnabas and claimed they told the wrong story. The Gentiles were delighted when Paul and Barnabas opened scripture for them and told them of their inclusion as God's elect. Salvation was accessible to them.

Gospel: The Good Shepherd tale continues in John as Jesus tells his friends the characteristics of a self-interested person who pretends to be a shepherd. The sheep know and trust the voice of the good shepherd. On the Dedication feast, Jesus declares he is the good shepherd and that he and the Father are one. Jesus cries out, "whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me." Jesus speaks and acts on behalf of the Father. Further "I am" statements are made by Jesus as in John 13 when after Jesus washes the feet of the disciples declares that "I am." Jesus, in his farewell discourse, begins to console his friends. He tells them that he is going away but will soon return to take away their fear. He reassures them that since they know the mind and heart of Jesus, they also know the mind and heart of the Father since they are one.
Saints of the Week

Monday: Andrew Bobola, S.J., priest martyr (1591-1657), is called the Martyr of Poland because of his excruciatingly painful death. He worked during a plague to care for the sick, but he became "wanted" by the Cossacks during a time when anti-Catholic and anti-Jesuit sentiment was high. His preaching converted whole villages back to Catholicism and he was hunted down because he was termed a "soul-hunter."

Wednesday: John I, pope and martyr (d. 526), was a Tuscan who became pope under the rule of Theodoric the Goth, an Arian. Theodoric opposed Emperor Justin I in Constantinople who persecuted Arians. John was sent to Justin to end the persecutions. He returned to great glory, but Theodoric was not satisfied, though Justin met all his demands. John was imprisoned and soon died because of ill treatment.

Friday: Bernardine of Siena, priest, (1380-1444) was from a family of nobles who cared for the sick during plagues. He entered the Franciscans and preached across northern and central Italy with homilies that understood the needs of the laity. He became vicar general and instituted reforms.

Saturday: Christopher Magallanes, priest and companions, martyrs (1869-1927) was a Mexican priest who served the indigenous people by forming agrarian communities. He opened seminaries when the ant-Catholic government kept shutting them down. He was arrested and executed with 21 priests and 3 laymen.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         May 15, 1815. Readmission of the Society into Spain by Ferdinand VII. The members of the Society were again exiled on July 31, 1820.
·         May 16, 1988. In Paraguay, Pope John Paul II canonizes Roque Gonzalez, Alfonso Rodriguez, and Juan del Castillo.
·         May 17, 1572. Pope Gregory XIII exempted the Society from choir and approved simple vows after two years of novitiate and ordination before solemn profession. In these matters he reversed a decree of St Pius V.
·         May 18, 1769. The election of Cardinal Lorenzo Ganganelli as Pope Clement XIV. He was the pope who suppressed the Society.
·         May 19, 1652. Birth of Paul Hoste, mathematician and expert on construction of ships and history of naval warfare.
·         May 20, 1521. Ignatius was seriously wounded at Pamplona, Spain, while defending its fortress against the French.
·         May 21, 1925. Pius XI canonizes Peter Canisius, with Teresa of the Child Jesus, Mary Madeleine Postal, Madeleine Sophie Barat, John Vianney, and John Eudes. Canisius is declared a Doctor of the Church.