APOLOGIES: I made the mistake of writing a reflection for today last week. So I am writing the reflection of last week’s Monday today.
Jesus in the Gospel presents himself as the Good Shepherd. He contrasts the Good Shepherd to the hired hand who leaves the sheep and runs away when he sees the wolf coming, because he does not care for the sheep. But the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. We see here, the difference between the hired hand and the Good Shepherd: the hired hand is not interested in the sheep. He is there when it is convenient but runs away when there is danger or inconvenience. Because of the hired hand’s negligence, the sheep suffer and are snatched by the wolf who also scatters the sheep.
We see here the fruit of a hired hand: the flock is scattered. We are known by our fruit and if the result of my ministry kills the flock or scatters rather than unites, then I am a hired hands, who does not care about the sheep. The aim of ministry is to give life to the flock and to unite them under Christ. Jesus himself said I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
When Jesus said this, he was not referring to Catholics and Protestants. He was referring to Jews and Gentiles. The sheep outside his fold, when he said that, are those who will believe in the future: the Gentiles. He shows here his desire to call Gentiles, to reveal to them the love of the Father, that he also will die for them. But this also applies to Catholics and Protestants. There has to be one goal: to unite all sheep into one flock under one shepherd. This is not done by compromising the Truth as taught by Jesus Christ. While there have been a more cordial relationship between Catholics and Protestants these past few decades, there still exist anger and animosity between the Catholic Church and the Protestant communities. This is not to be so because this is not what Jesus wants. This disunity cannot be resolved by one party thinking they have the exclusive claim to the truth of Christ. However, unity is also not achieved at the expense of truth. We cannot say, join us because we are the same anyway.
When people are dead set on their own opinions of the truth, or when people compromise the truth, they act like hired hands, whose desire is to prove themselves right or to push their own agenda. Unity is achieved ONLY by listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd and teaching the flock to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. So how can we know the truth? Obviously, we cannot just rely on whatever comes to our mind when we read Scripture without guidance. This thinking has produced more than 30,000 communities only in North America. How can there be 30,000 versions of truth?
We see this in the First Reading: when the circumcised believers criticized Peter for going to the uncircumcised to eat with them. In response, Peter spoke about the vision he had, where he saw a large sheet from heaven with unclean animals and the voice tells him to kill and eat. what God has made clean, you must not call profane. This led him to go to the house of a Gentile. When he preached he saw the Holy Spirit fell on them as at Pentecost. When he finished speaking they were silenced and praised God saying then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life. Those who at first objected to what Peter did finally acknowledged he did right. They were willing to listen to the voice of the Shepherd speaking through Peter. But note, it is not bad to ask and question the truth. What is needed is to have an open heart to see it when it is presented.
In my experience, many of those who are stubborn in engaging and arguing about the Truth of Jesus Christ, are more interested in proving themselves right rather than seeking the truth. This is why there is either passive aggression or active aggression towards the truth. There is this stereotyping of the other that condemns the other to hell without even bothering to sincerely considering the other person may be right. I am speaking of Catholics and Protestants, both are guilty of this. My stance on promoting unity as a Christian is this: there are many other problems that we need to confront. Many people still need to hear the saving power of Christ. Many, like the Psalm says, thirst for Christ, like a deer thirsts for flowing stream. Many want to see the face of Christ, to go the altar of God. And Christians, bicker over things that divide rather than agree on the one thing that unites: Jesus Christ is Lord. We are at war and Isaiah 7:9 tells us if you do not stand firm in your faith, we will not stand at all! St Paul said in Galatians 5:15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Faith goes beyond confessing Jesus is Lord, it is hearing the voice of the Shepherd and responding to it. It is being open to consider that my ideas are wrong and I need to repent and follow what Jesus says. Otherwise, I am acting like a hired hand who is responsible for the death of the sheep and for scattering the sheep.
Lord, come and heal your Church. Give us a humble heart to believe Truth is what you say and not what I think. My opinions are nothing compared to your Word. Unite your Church. Let us look at what unites us rather than what divides us. Open our minds so we can willingly accept we may be wrong and repent of our stubborn hearts. Teach us to hear your word, so you may heal the wounds of your Bride.