The short Gospel reading (Jn 10:27-30) that we heard at Mass today is part of the larger Good Shepherd discourse in which Jesus is confronting the Pharisees with their ‘spiritual blindness’; because they expelled the blind man Jesus had just healed on the Sabbath – which the Pharisees see as evil. To put it bluntly – Christ is disturbed, maybe even mad. Jesus is now proclaiming the truth to these religious leaders and will not back down. He has already announced that He is the bread of life and now He challenges the Jewish religious leadership directly – showing no fear.
But with His confrontation with the Pharisees we see, in this short reading, the good news of Easter. Christ will never leave us; He has declared that No one can take us out of His hand. Come what may in our life, Christ will be with us, to strengthen us, to guide us, to feed us – as a shepherd does. The only thing that can come between us and Christ is ourselves – if we leave His hand. It is only by our decisions that we can find ourselves not in His flock.
But, if and when we do find ourselves alone and lost, we need only open the ears of our heart to find our way back. “My sheep hear my voice.” He says. His voice is readily available to each of us, and His voice speaks to each of us. If we truly listen with our hearts there is no doubt that we will understand. “I know them, and they follow me.” He tells the Pharisees.
Our Shepherd is leading us to where we were meant to be – eternal happiness – heaven. His goal for us; our true goal, is eternal life with Him. What we are going through during our stay here is nothing compared to what He has planned. For this He has come, to lead His flock to their God-given destiny.
And He tells us that we can be sure of this plan, of His guidance His shepherding. ‘The Father and I are one.’ He is GOD; and as He will show everyone on Easter morning – nothing is out of His grasp. But now, in this moment of the today’s Gospel, He announces to these ‘harden’ Pharisees who He is: plain and simple, Ipse est – He is.
In this short Gospel we are told the glorious news of Easter:
We are God’s beloved sons and daughters.
Christ will never leave us; He will keep us and lead us.
We can be assured of His promise, He is God.
But this Good Shepherd discourse, highlights a very important aspect of Christ’s message about truth. Jesus throughout His ministry teaches and ministers with love, accepting the faults and failures of others, hoping that they will see the light, hoping they will eventually desire the truth. He never forces Himself or His message on those who don’t want to hear. But He draws the line in the sand, so to speak, when it comes to what is the truth. He will not allow reinterpretation, reinvention of the truth He proclaims. ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ He does not tells us – I am a way, a truth. He is very clear ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. Without the truth, the way is lost and eternal life in Heaven is missed. There is no other alternative. Living this life of truth is only way to stay in God’s hand; because living a life of truth is living within God Himself.
But the tasks and the challenges we have, to stay in His hand is difficult and sometimes threatening. All we need to do is look around us and see the societies of the world. See the ideology of secularization that is marginalizing Christ; that is pushing away the truth. It is exhausting to keep battling this and other anti-Christian ideologies, as we see Saints Paul and Barnabas do in the first reading today. It wears us out and maybe wears on our ability to discern. And when we do find ourselves lost all we need to do is look at how our lives are buzzing with action and distractions that make it so hard to hear His voice.
All of this shows the importance of prayer; constant communication with our Heavenly Father through our Lord. We need to define within our day time to listen, to shut out the chaos of our lives so that our hearts can know peace and be receptive to the Good Shepherd’s voice. We need to be able to enter into the calm that the Easter joy brings so that we can be strengthened with the truth and remain within God’s loving hands.
Wasn’t this what we asked God for as we prayed the Collect today:
Almighty ever-living God,
lead us to share in the joys of heaven,
so that the humble flock may reach
where the brave Shepherd has gone before.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.