A Cycle – 4h Sunday of Easter 23

A Cycle – 4th Sunday of Easter 23

Jn. 10:1-10

The impact of a believing community has on visitors and seekers is significant.  New families seeking, those struggling with faith when they see faith in others begin to believe the promises of God are worth pursuing.  The impact of seeing a church full of people who have hope, joy, belief, and trust in the God they worship challenges those whose faith is uncertain.  In many dioceses around this nation churches are empty and devoid of energy; it is as if the people have given up hope.  Their faith in God’s love is perhaps if they obey the laws and rituals, they may attain purgatory. 

We put our faith in repentance and obedience not in God’s mercy and love.  Have you ever noticed how attendance at Ash Wednesday masses are packed.  There are more people there on that day than there are attending the mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.  Why do we seem to show up to repent and acknowledge our failures than we do to embrace the gift of forgiveness which is so evident on Holy Thursday?

Jesus reminds us, He came that we may have life and have it in abundance.  So why do we choose to wander in the wilderness than embrace the life of joy offered us by God.

In psalm twenty-three, the psalmist tells us God desires to lead us as his flock to verdant pastures, lush green grass, fresh clear water. Once there the Shepherd will protect us from all that would bring us harm.  That image is remarkable because the land of ancient Israel was and is still arid and dry. The grass is not green and verdant, it is brown and scraggly.  Cattle and horses could not survive on those pasture lands, but sheep can and do.  God wants us to move us out of barely existing to becoming nurtured and fully alive. 

The contrast between what is and what God desires for us is what God wants us to become aware of and seek to discover it.  Yet we resist the invitation and wonder why life is so hard, why we feel lost and wonder why God has abandoned us.  Jesus said, “I have come to bring you life.”  Yet we fail to do the one thing we need to do to experience that life and that is to know it is ours.  All we must do is to ask for it, seek it, step out of the boat, and walk toward it.  One of my mentors helped me gasp the importance of acknowledging desire and its impact on experiencing the power and presence of God’s love.

What is it that motivates us?  What do we seek by being in church each Sunday?  What are the people around us seeking?  We all want what God is offering us but as we look at ourselves, we feel unworthy.  We feel the impact of sin and separation from God.  Despite what we think of ourselves, Jesus invites us to follow him, to allow the good shepherd to lead us.   

That is why the impact of those who have experienced the forgiveness of God, whose lives have been changed by experiencing God’s presence are instrumental in causing doubters to seek what they have found.  To become a part of a flock who is being fed lush food instead of dry tasteless fodder which does not nourish.

The voice of the Shepherd calls us, but we must be willing to follow.  We also must have spiritual leaders, shepherds, who feed us.  In a recent visit to my home state, I attended mass on Sunday at a parish that in the past was known to be vibrant.  Thousands of worshipers would attend services which were powerful experience of God’s presence.  It had been at least two and a half decades since those days, but I did not expect to find the church piratically empty.  The service was devoid of any expressions other than acceptance of a lifeless emptiness.

 Where was God?  He has not abandoned them, but it seems as if they had abandoned Him, just as the disciples abandoned Jesus after He was arrested.  I have no idea of what changed during those two and a half decades, but it is obvious there was something that caused those visible manifestations of an encounter with God to diminish. It can only be the impact of the shepherds becoming lazy, and willing to settle for less than what God desires to give. Not realizing during challenging times God is with us and has not abandoned us.  We need more Moses and less doubters leading us.    

We need powerful expressions of a strong belief in the promises of God.  Peter did just that as we hear his words in our second reading today. His faith caused the hearts of those listening to desire what God wants us to receive.  Where are the voices of those who have encountered God’s mercy, love, forgiveness, and his healing touch?

It is those voices we need to hear.  Those who like the woman at the well who have encountered the mercy of God who show us what is possible if we only acknowledge our desire.  Those people who sit beside us each Sunday as we experience God in the Eucharist, in the sacraments, in the Word and in their lives that make the difference in creating a desire in those who have lost all hope.    

The simple truth is the Good Shepherd can lead us but only sheep can beget sheep. 

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