My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
Today the Acts of the Apostles, in our first reading, tells us bluntly: It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.
We have to wonder about this statement today when everyone wants everything to be easy and without hardship. We have to ponder how to speak about the kingdom of God in a way which draws people to embrace the kingdom and yet does not make the kingdom of God sound easy. For the early followers of Jesus, learning to have faith in Jesus as God was an incredible experience. Today our hearts are usually much more hardened and we do not easily believe that Jesus is God or that Jesus actually can and does touch our lives.
The second reading today, from the Book of Revelation, tells us: Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.
In our hearts we can understand how astonishing it is that God wants to be present with us. Not only with us, but with the whole human race! God wants to be our God and wants us to be His people. For so many today, God simply does not exist or if He exists, He has no interest in our daily lives. So many of us have lost a sense of awe and wonder about the presence of God.
The Gospel today, from Saint John, reminds us: This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
We might ask ourselves today: are others attracted to follow Jesus today because we who are His followers love one another? Are we seen more as an institution today rather than a group of people, following the Lord and caring for one another? How do we live that love that Jesus has for his followers? How do we love one another? If this love for another is the sign that we follow Jesus, how do we live such love more and more completely and profoundly?
As we consider the three readings today and ask the Lord Jesus to form us by these readings, we can see that the hardships that we endure are the hardships of striving to love one another. Tt is not easy to love even one other person, much less a whole group of people. Loving everyone seems practically impossible. Yet this is the hardship that we must accept in order to follow the Lord.
We can also understand that we others see us striving to be faithful in love and accepting the hardships of loving one another, they can also understand that God is with us and that we are truly seeking to live as His people. Christ is risen, alleluia! Because of that, because Jesus died for us and rose for us, we have the power and strength to remain faithful in love and service of one another. Let us ask the Spirit to strengthen us in the Easter joy so that our love and service of one another truly is witness of God’s love. Alleluia.
Your brother in the Lord, Abbot Philip
The Fourth Sunday of Easter
The fourth Sunday of Easter is also called Good Shepherd Sunday. In each of the three lectionary cycles, the Gospel is taken from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. This chapter of John’s Gospel follows Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the rejection of this miracle by Jewish leaders who question Jesus’ authority to heal. Jesus responds to this challenge to his authority by calling himself the Good Shepherd. He is criticizing the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders. Already, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders are so angered that they attempt to stone and arrest Jesus (see John 10:31 and 10:39). This controversy with the religious leaders continues until Jesus’ death.
Set in a moment of tension and conflict in John’s Gospel, today’s Gospel reading is Jesus’ answer to the question, “Are you the Messiah?” Jesus responds by saying, in essence, “If you have to ask, then you are not one of my sheep.” Then Jesus asserts his unity with the Father. At the conclusion of these words, John reports that the Jews intend to stone Jesus for blasphemy, but he escapes arrest.
We may be less familiar with the metaphors of sheep and shepherd than those to whom Jesus spoke. The image of Jesus as Good Shepherd and the community of followers as his sheep has endured over the centuries as a primary image in our faith tradition. Its power to describe the relationship between Jesus and his followers transcends direct experience with sheep. The image speaks to us about the protection, security, and care that shepherds represent for their sheep.
Today’s Gospel speaks powerfully about the familiarity and intimacy between Jesus and his disciples, expressed as recognizing and knowing another’s voice. Today’s Gospel also speaks to the relationship between Jesus and the Father. In the Gospel of John, Jesus identifies so closely with the Father that he tells us that they are one not just close, but actually one. To know Jesus is to know the Father. Jesus doesn’t just bring us closer to the Father, Jesus puts us directly into contact with God the Father, removing all distance between us. Our relationship with Jesus is an invitation to share in the life of God.
The first reading describes the effort of the authorities to stem the effects of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The strange detail is that the apostles find themselves in the presence of the Sanhedrin the same place that Jesus was tried. At the end of the passage comes another small but powerful detail: “So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor of the sake of the name.” Why the joy? Scripture scholars and theologians tell us that what motivated the early Christians was the “imitation of Christ.” Some of these men and women gladly embraced death rather than deny their faith because martyrdom bound them closely to Christ. The persecuted apostles rejoiced not at the suffering, but rather, at the opportunity to imitate Christ. This precisely is the implication for us as well. If faith needs to mean anything to us; if religion needs to be more than a way to get to heaven; if faith need to be more than a crutch that we lean on; if faith is not something that is stagnant – the key to all of this is the imitation of Christ. If our religiosity does not lead us to think, talk, and act like the Christ of the gospels, then, I believe that we have not understood the implication of the resurrection.
The second reading is from the Book of Revelation. The main purpose of Revelation is to offer hope and consolation to the persecuted community. The glorious vision that is described in this book is meant to counter the suffering endured by the persecuted community. However, passages like these can also be used to give hope to anyone who is suffering. The book of revelation is meant to give us hope in the midst of any kind of suffering.
Jesus appointed Peter as pastor of the entire church. However, Jesus’ question to Peter was not, “Are you ready?”, but rather, “Do you love me?”. Every person is a pastor in some capacity or another. As father, mother, husband, wife, doctor, nurse, engineer, manager, teacher or simply a worker, we are all responsible for one another. I can hear Christ say to every one of us: “Do you love me?” Only when we respond in Peter’s words, “Lord, you know that I love you,” does Christ day to us, “Tend my sheep.” In other words, to be the best father, mother, worker or professional, our first task is to strengthen our relationship with Christ. Christ is inviting us to a very personal and passionate relationship with him. We must take the time in prayer and reflection to accomplish this.
Fr. Satish Joseph
JESUS CHRIST HAS RISEN! PRAISED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!
What greater evidence is there of God’s infinite mercy than this: that Jesus Christ died for our sins and has risen from the dead so that we may have life, and have it to the full!
Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. This feast was first proclaimed by Pope John Paul II nineteen years ago today, when he said that the Second Sunday of Easter would be Divine Mercy Sunday. So today, we reflect on God’s infinite mercy.
In our first reading today, we hear how the Apostles attracted the sick; how they cured them of “unclean spirits”. The power of our resurrected Lord flowed through them: The Divine Mercy of God heals the sick.
In our Gospel, Jesus gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins. He instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He breathed on them; the power of the Holy Spirit was given to them: The Divine Mercy of God forgives sins.
We also hear in the Gospel that Thomas was in doubt. He hadn’t seen the Lord. He didn’t believe, but his eyes were opened, and he made that splendid profession, “My Lord and my God”; The Divine Mercy of God strengthens our faith.
Jesus came through locked doors and through the wall of fear. He brought peace: “Peace by with you!” And the disciples rejoiced: The Divine Mercy of God instills peace and joy.
Our world today stands in need of God’s Divine Mercy. It stands in need of healing, forgiveness, faith and peace.
What can we do? First, we must prayerfully approach the Merciful Heart of Jesus. This is not difficult — it takes only five minutes a day. We must approach him close enough, just like the Apostles “to be breathed on”, “to touch his hands and his side”, “to touch his wounds”, to hear the voice of the Lord, who speaks to us”
The Heart of Jesus — the Divine Mercy of God — gives us a message that is very different from the message of the world.
Jesus says: “The sick are numerous and they are my Body. You will find freedom in serving them. I will give you everything you need to serve them well.”
Jesus says: “There is great power and authority in forgiveness. Forgive those who have harmed you, and pray for them.”
The Merciful Heart of Jesus says: “Your faith in me and in my Church is ancient and forever new. Behold! I am sending forth my Spirit to renew the face of the earth. You shall have no other god before me.”
Jesus says: “To those who are mature in faith, filled with hope, and fervent in love I give a peace and joy that is beyond understanding.”
The Apostles went forth and preached the Gospel with fervor. They announced the mercy of God found in Jesus Christ who gave himself for our salvation and rose from the dead. They went forth with trust and confidence, and hundreds were healed; thousands were converted.
We too can go forth and do what they did. Thanks be to God: Love is stronger than death; mercy is greater than sin!
Let us fix our gaze on our Risen Lord and pray, “Jesus, I trust in you!” Let us draw near to the Heart of Christ flowing with the Divine Mercy of God!
Deacon Bob Yerhot