Gospel Thoughts 15 May 2011, Good Shepherd

May 11, 2011 at 12:08 Leave a comment


In today’s Gospel Story (John 10:1-10) Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd and tells us, “the shepherd calls his sheep by name and leads them out, he walks ahead of them and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice”.

He calls each of us by name — each of us as a person, not as a member of a group. And each of us, if we choose to do so, responds as an individual person, following him wherever he calls us. He gives us an intensely personal invitation, and we respond in an intensely personal way. He leads us, when we let him, to know him present in our own life, and to come to recognize him in the others who are in our life – the same Shepherd calling and present in each of us. As our openness to him deepens, so does our openness to others. This itself is a gift of grace from the Shepherd.

On our own journey with Jesus, it may be that he leads us out of our safe place, our world of definitions, codes of conduct, dogmas, answers, to a world filled with uncertainty, and we follow him because we recognize his voice. This is a dangerous place to be, especially these days when deviations, whether perceived or real, from established norms and customary ways of thinking can bring about opprobrium and unpleasant attacks and even threats of punishment. Jesus leads us on a very personal journey with him, perhaps through doubt, uncertainty, even fear, but which we cannot avoid if we want to grow into the meaning of what we have believed and which becomes for us not just ideas but descriptions and insights into our own everyday life. No one can make this journey for us, and no one can keep us from making our journey even if we feel we are attuned to Jesus in a way that others are not. If we believe that our understanding of Jesus is the only one for everybody everywhere, we might really be missing something.

As we sense the Shepherd calling us by our own name, we might be a bit hesitant to undertake this journey, because it is safer to stick with the same beliefs and ideas, the same interpretations we have gotten from somebody somewhere. It is not always comfortable to come to a new and perhaps different understanding of the implications of what we believe for our everyday living. Many of us have never gotten beyond just “going to mass” or approached the whole experience of participating in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. What do Catholics do?  Catholics “go to mass”. This is boring, and many just drop the whole thing. Yet the Eucharist is what gives meaning, depth, strength, insight to our living every day, which is much more than just “going to Mass”. Eucharist is a relationship with Christ and with all who gather with us in his name, and has implications for our everyday living. What these are we learn from our time in prayer with each other in the presence of Jesus among us. Many of us don’t get it. Even some communities or parishes just don’t get it. Eucharist is a relationship, not a spectator sport, a box to check, or a schedule to maintain. We don’t just sit in the pews, go through the same motions every time, and receive wisdom. We share a living relationship of grace which moves us out of our safe place and into some form of action in response to Jesus among us. Eucharist is Jesus and all of us together. This requires a trusting openness that comes only through prayer.

While we want to follow Jesus in our life, often we are not all that sure where he is leading us or what he is calling us to do. Our focus has to be on him, and so we come to the importance of prayer in our life, praying for openness and trust, and the courage to go wherever this takes us. We need prayer just to keep focused and alert to Jesus however he may be leading us. The journey can be lonely, and may lead us to be seen as a threat by others whose  journey is not like ours. The world of ideas etc separated from real people and real everyday living can be quite safe. When we think we have all the answers for everybody always and everywhere, we are comfortable hurling accusations and calling names, even inflicting punishments on those who would disagree with us. The headlines remind us how true this all is. There are too many lines in the sand already, but not many of us will be told by others how to think or what not to think about. Our intellects are gifts from a Shepherd who loves us. And it is the Shepherd who guides us in using them.

On our journey Jesus leads us in how we are to live. All that is going on around us is part of our journey. How we deal with all the stuff has to come from our relationship with Jesus and our desire to be open to him however he is leading us. If we shift our focus to our own comfort and safety, and react with our own version of righteous anger, we become part both of the problem and of the dangers to ourselves and our journey. For many this is a journey of letting go, perhaps a fearful and lonely journey even of being thrown out of familiar loved places and of being hated by loved people. There is a lot of this in recent headlines.

Nowhere does Jesus say come to me and I will make you safe, and teach you the right words and ideas and codes of conduct. He says, “Follow me”, and  tells us to take up our cross every day. Sometimes just following him is cross enough in itself. Yet, as he says in the Story, he walks ahead of us, and it is on him and on hearing his voice that we have to focus, and so our prayer takes on greater depth and importance for us. We depend on it to help us follow Jesus and hear his voice, which might be saying something different from the voices all around us. Sometimes the only way we know our prayer is “working” is that we keep on praying. We keep praying and beg the grace to go wherever it takes us. And grace, the loving presence of the Shepherd in our life, no longer just an idea, concept, or dogma, becomes an ever more real experience  . .

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Entry filed under: Catholic, Current Church, Gospel thoughts, Priest.

Gospel Thoughts 8 May 2011, Emmaus Gospel Thoughts 29 May 2011, Commandments

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