Interfaith Mission of Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi, Tulalip, WA
4th Sunday in Easter
Readings - Roman Catholic Church
First Reading Acts 4:8-12
Second Reading 1 John 3:1-2
Gospel John 10:11-18
Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.'
Sermon - Fr. Dan Duval
I find that if we only look at the Gospel reading for today, it looses some of it’s importance. When we read John, chapter 10 in its entirety I believe it gives us a larger perspective on what was happening and what Jesus may have been trying to say. Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees. He was trying to help them understand the difference between an inner and outer religion, or perhaps the difference between religion and spirituality.
Prior to the verses we hear in today’s gospel, Jesus is saying that if anyone tries to climb the fence and get into the sheep pen without actually going through the gate, they are cheating and not able to get the full benefit or depth of the spiritual life, or a life that unites them with the Divine. I believe Jesus is saying that you can not steal true understanding. Being a spiritual person is not the same as a religious person. We often hear today that going to church does not make one a good person, there is more to it than that.
The Pharisees were those empowered by the Romans to keep the Jewish people of the area in line. As in all times, power was equated with prestige and somehow knowledge and wisdom. The Pharisees were looked up to as interpreters of God’s law. They arbitrated disputes and were able to forgive or condemn in accordance with Jewish and Roman sanction. This is what Peter is most likely referring to in the first reading of Acts when he says that the people, (if we read this from the beginning of chapter 4 he means the people in power) want to know by whose authority they healed. The Romans gave power only to handful of Jews to keep the peace among their people. The question of whose authority do you heal by is one of, who gave you permission to decide of this person should be healed or not. It is not a question of how did you do it or who made the healing happen, it was one of who gave you permission to heal this person. Who said this person was worthy of being healed. They were the keepers of the law and only they could say who was allowed to be healed according to that law. The church leaders of that day worked in concert with Rome. Many of them made a show out of praying loudly in the temple and bringing attention to themselves as men of power, because in that time, no woman would be permitted to hold such a position. Going to temple and keeping the law to the letter was seen as the way to be close to God and be God’s favorite. Look, see I followed the rules God but Jesus didn’t when he healed on the Sabbath, ate with beggars or hung out with women. The Pharisees were trying to take a short cut to God and sound almost like the pesky sibling that was always telling on you for not following the rules.
What Jesus was trying to do, possibly in a way that would not raise to much suspicion or ire, was to let them know they were missing the point. Much like in the book, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint- Exupéry, Jesus was saying that a real relationship with God takes time. One had to work at it, as in taming sheep or as in the case of the Little Prince, a fox. As the Fox explains to the Prince, it is not a quick process and one that must be worked at. It has to be one of caring, patience and dedication. Jesus echos this when saying that if one is not invested in this relationship, such as a hired hand, as he possibly saw the Pharisees, that person would bolt at the first sign of trouble and allow the sheep or other object of taming to fend for itself. Only one who is invested in the love of another, whether it be the sheep, the fox, or God can truly know the dedication necessary to stick to the dedicated path.
In the same way, God, The Divine, Creator or whatever name you chose to give, offers us that same sort of taming. God is patient with us. God waits lovingly for us. God shows up and is there so we may get used to God’s presence. God protects us, God teaches us. God is taming us and will assist us in the taming of ourselves. As Jesus says, I am in the Father and the Father is in me. God is taming Jesus and Jesus is taming himself and others. Jesus makes no distinction of whom he gives his information to. He does not judge whether someone is worthy of God’s love, he just pours it out. He does not reserve this love for those that the law says can have it. This Love is not a gift for being good, it is sacred food for our journey and no one can deny it to anyone. This gift of taming and being tamed is the birthright of all creation.
There is a Unity prayer of Protection that I believe exemplifies this and I would like to close it.
The light of God surrounds us;
The love of God enfolds us;
The power of God protects us;
The presence of God watches over us;
Wherever we are, God is!
And All is Well!