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Sunday, May 3, 2020

Reflection 2020-05-03 Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday, Day of Prayer for Vocations)

Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:20-25; John 10:1-10
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus describes himself as the Shepherd who:
  1. Enters the gate. Jesus does not force himself to our lives. We need to give him permission to enter.
  2. Who calls his sheep by name and leads them out. He calls us by name. He knows us individually, more than we know ourselves.
  3. After they are out, he goes ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. He calls them out from where they are. He leads them to where the Responsorial Psalm says: down green pastures, besides still waters. He leads to freedom AND fullness of life. Jesus said he came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. This does not mean material prosperity but a life that is full, a life with God and a life IN God!
How do we obtain this life? Peter tells us in the First Reading to repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. Jesus, the Good Shepherd calls everyone to repent so we can have that abundant life he wants to give us. How can we know where Jesus leads us? How can we know the mind of Jesus. For one, we need to pray so that, as Peter said in the First Reading, we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit guides us to know Jesus. But the question is: so I can just rely on my good intentions and whatever comes to my mind is from the Holy Spirit? Well, throughout the Church history, including today, we see many well intentioned leaders of the Church who act and teach based on their own opinions.
How then can we know what to believe? How do we determine if a bishop, priest, deacon, theologian, preacher, teacher is teaching what is according to the mind of Jesus. We cannot say we will rely on the Holy Spirit, because as of today, we have 30,000 different communities who claim they have the truth revealed by the Holy Spirit! How can there be 30,000 versions of the truth when there is only ONE Truth. One plus one equals two. There can never be another version of that truth.
In terms of faith, there is only one Truth and that is Jesus Christ. He has passed his teaching to the Apostles, like St Philip and St James whose feast day it is today, and from them to their successors, the bishops. These Apostles and faithful bishops knew the mind of Jesus. They knew how to discern the opinions presented to them. St Athanasius, whom we celebrated yesterday, was one of the few bishops who believed in the divinity of Christ, yet he was able to uphold the Truth because he remained faithful to the teaching of the Apostles.
So today, in the Church, there are many who preach opinions, who water down the teaching of the Church and preach their opinions to please people, these opinions have to be rejected because these will never lead us to Christ. Jesus describes them as thieves, who come to steal, to kill and destroy. The true test of fidelity to the teaching of Christ is the person’s pursuit of the truth.
  1. Do they preach according to the teaching of the Apostles. This assumes we ourselves know what the Apostles taught, so it is our responsibility to know our faith.
  2. What is their intent for preaching, is it to make them feel appreciated, or is it to lead people to Christ. St Peter said in the Second Reading, you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. Are they seeking the approval of human beings by presenting their opinions, saying what people want to hear, or do they stand for the truth to seek God’s approval? 
  3. What is the fruit of their preaching. Does their preaching lead to repentance that gives life or does it steal from their listeners the plan of God for them? Does it lead them to death and to eternal damnation? We are known by our fruits. If their fruit leads to deprivation, death and damnation, we need to reject their teaching.
Today, we pray that God will continue to lead us in HIS Truth, that he will give us shepherds, leaders in his Church, who have courage to proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ as taught by the Apostles. For our Diocese, we pray for more young men who will present themselves as seminarians. We pray for fathers who will mirror God’s call to holiness and be examples of holiness to their families, to encourage vocations to the priesthood.
Lord, you are the Good Shepherd. Lead me away from thieves who steal my inheritance from you by preaching their opinions rather than YOUR Truth, who seek to kill me by letting me continue in my life of sin and who seek to destroy me by not calling me to repentance. Reveal these thieves and may they repent of their ways for the sake of their souls. Give us good Shepherds who will lead us to you and YOUR Truth.

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