Friday, June 06, 2014

11 May 2014 – Fourth Sunday of Easter

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading:
Acts 2.14, 36-41
Second Reading:
1 Peter 2.20-25
Gospel Reading:
John 10.1-10

One of the questions facing Christians today is how to honour our faith and our baptism without becoming elitist and exclusionary. One way is to embrace the cosmic meaning of our baptism, which is to live in the experience of Christ. Bonaventure says God's visage is present in every creature, that is, God is expressed in all things, so that each creature is a symbol and a sacrament of God's presence. “Attentiveness to the other ... means relating to the other ... as icon through which the infinite goodness of God radiates. This is the basis of viewing creation as family in which we relate to all beings as brothers and sisters. ... To live in the experience of Christ is to live in the experience of relatedness, to be a member of the cosmic family, because Christ is the Word of God through whom all things are related.”1

In the First Reading, Peter says: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” What if we looked at this from the perspective of living in right relationships with God and all that is God's, that is, from the perspective of the experience of relatedness. Looked at this way, lived this way, we enter the dance of the Trinity, the dance of mutual outpouring love.

Peter continues by saying, “the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him." Now if we continue in the same understanding that I have been talking about, we must acknowledge that we are all called by God. But as we also know not everyone acts accordingly. Today's gospel reading is from the Gospel of John. Previously in this gospel, in verses 11 and 12 of the first chapter, the Evangelist tells us that Jesus “came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him ... he gave power to become children of God”.

Why, with the promise of unity with the Creator, would anyone resist God's call or Jesus' teaching or the prompting of the Holy Spirit? I don't think anyone does this on purpose but I do think that all of us, at times, fill our lives with so much noise and busyness that we can't hear the voice of God coming from deep within us. For most of us, this is a temporary lapse. When I say us, I'm speaking about anyone, who walks in the way of justice, compassion, peace and the common good.

On the other hand, some people become so taken by the perennial and alluring voices of thieves and robbers, that they become deaf to the voice of the Shepherd. These are the voices of profit and power-seeking, consumerism, competition, and various fears. But these voices belong to the thief who comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

Jesus tells us that he came that we may have life, and have it abundantly. He is the door of the sheep and if we enter by him, we will be made whole and find pasture. Now, by our baptism and participation in the Eucharistic meal, we are to become Christ for others. Our baptism is the door that invites us into the experience of Christ. Rather than being an invitation or membership into an exclusive club it is an invitation to realize, recognize and appreciate our relatedness to God and to all of creation because all-that-is came into being through the Word of God.

One answer to the question referred to at the start of this homily is: We honour our faith and our baptism by ignoring the voices of thieves and robbers who come to destroy, by heeding the voice of our Shepherd who told us: Our God is One. You must love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. ... You must love your neighbour as yourself2. Baptism prepares us for the knowledge that, religious truth, if it is truly religious, is not a formula to recite but a deed to do. As it says in the First Letter of John, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." If God is love, then the name of God is something to do. Without the deed, without doing the love, it is just noise, or a way to get my own way or to destroy my enemies. To quote one of my favourite sayings from John Caputo, “When love calls for action, we had better be ready with something more than a well-formed proposition even if it has been approved by a council.”3 In other words, more than something we feel, Love is something we do. Jesus is not only talking to Peter when his says, “if you love me, feed my lambs... tend my sheep... feed my sheep.”4 Amen! Alleluia!

Please share your thoughts.
1Delio, Ilia. 2008. Christ in evolution. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, pp. 62-3.
2Mark 12:30-31
3Caputo, John D. 2001. “On Religion – Without Religion” in On religion. London: Routledge, p. 130.
4John 21:15-17

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