From the Pastor's Desk
We have such an amazing God! As if it weren’t enough that God entered time and space and was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit at Bethlehem, bringing dignity and grace to the entire human race. As if it weren’t enough that the adult Jesus traversed on foot the entire regions of Palestine and Galilee to speak to people, opening their minds to God, healing them, forgiving them, inviting them to follow, giving widows and the poor words of hope and encouragement, and even raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. As if it weren’t enough that he taught us to pray, gave us the Last Supper as a model for the Christian Eucharist, taught us how to serve and do ministry, was arrested, persecuted, flogged, walked the Via Dolorosa bearing the weight of the heavy cross, and was crucified on Calvary, shedding his blood that men and women might be set free, and dying that we might have life. As if it weren’t enough that Christ rose triumphantly from the dead on Easter Sunday morning in glory, opening the gates of Heaven by revealing the Resurrection. Now, today, we are again made aware of the continuing and abiding presence of the Risen Christ, leading his people through the journey of life, accompanying them, and gathering them into one fold, wanting a personal relationship with the members of his flock, always concerned about those who lag behind. This is an amazing story of a gracious and loving God, whom we are privileged to call our Good Shepherd, a fitting image for us, as we ponder the continuing and abiding presence of the Risen Christ among us.
This weekend’s readings give us a very tender and caring image of the Redeemer Christ. Surely it is an image directly opposed to the prevailing Jansenist images of a transcendent and distant God, one who is frightful, rigid, harsh and exacting, engendering fear in the people. In contradistinction to this image, the Risen Christ reveals himself as the Good Shepherd, an image that surely brings home to God’s people his desire to be in relationship with them, care for them, attend to their needs, go after them when they are lost, nudge them along when they are disoriented, and unify them in one fold of safety and security in the grace of and love of the Father. This more-tender image of the mercy and providence of God reveals the presence of an immanent God, one who is close, touchable, and approachable. It is surely the Risen Christ’s desire that we might understand this image of God, be in a tender relationship of trust with him, and journey confidently in hope, knowing that he is ever at our side. As another Evangelist once recorded Jesus saying: “I will be with you always, even until the end of time.”
As I mentioned in my homilies last weekend, we cannot be Pollyanna about this teaching. We cannot simply whitewash and pretend that everything in life is fine. Life, as we know, is not always easy, not always tidy and perfect, nor without a full expression of the Paschal Mystery. Jesus suffered, so as to usher in forgiveness and healing to humankind. Jesus walked the Via Dolorosa so as to bring to fulfillment the plan of redemption of us all. Jesus died, so as to rise, and reveal the Resurrection. Yes. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are both essential parts of the Christian mystery. They are the pillars around which our faith in Christ revolve. However, it is comforting to know that our own suffering can take on a redemptive meaning. Our own walk in the dark valley can awaken a new level of maturity in us, bringing forth virtue and new life. Our own darkness can give way to light. Our own death is the precursor and door to life eternal. This is our appropriation of the Paschal Mystery, one which confidently understands the mystery of the continuously abiding presence of the Risen Christ, journeying with us as our Good Shepherd.
May you find and renew your life in the Good Shepherd, who continually abides among his people to lead them to the green pastures of life in abundance.