Monday, April 20, 2015

4th Sunday of Easter - April 26, 2015

First Reading Commentary
Some things never change.  Peter is being examined for doing a good deed.  Our fallen nature likes to keep the thought of quick temporal rewards lurking somewhere within the human psyche, and good deeds done without seeking a reward or personal recognition seems to be rendered as suspicious.  But what Peter is proclaiming is not a reward but the gift of mercy which comes from Jesus Christ. 

“He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.”   This verse is from Psalm 117 (118).  Peter is using the Old Testament to persuade all the hearers of this message that Jesus is the promised Messiah Who was crucified and raised from the dead; and Who has saved the world. 

The crippled man who was healed represents Christ’s saving grace.  Peter makes sure that everyone knows that this crippled man was saved by Jesus; and that saving grace is available to all of us as Jesus is the only way to salvation.  “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Let’s examine this healing closer: First, Peter knew Jesus personally when He walked the earth.  That’s a good place to start.  Secondly, there is the grace of ordination.  Peter was an ordained priest and appointed by Christ to be the head of His Church.  Those are great graces but limiting in the sense that very few walked with Jesus while He walked the earth and most of the Church’s members are the laity, not the ordained. 

For the laity, a wonderful reality to grasp is that Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  One does not have to be the pope or ordained for that to be a reality in one’s own life.  How does this happen?  It happens when God is truly the Center of our life.  How many of us can honestly say: Regardless of what happens today, I will still make time for God in prayer, in intimate communion?  In any relationship, time together increases the bonds of trust and love.  What is easy to forget is that humankind communally and individually is God’s priority, our Lord’s most important relationship.  He waits patiently for us to do the same.  When that occurs, the soul will gradually become filled with the Holy Spirit because our house will go through a house cleaning process, throwing out the junk, permitting the Indwelling to take full control of the soul. 

Then the Voice of our Lord, those gentle whispers, those movements of the heart becomes easier to perceive.  Hearing that Voice is how Peter knew that it was God’s will to have “a good deed done to a cripple” through him.  

Second Reading Commentary
We the baptized are children of God and that will never change.  If we meditate on that alone, eventually we will realize that this is a tremendous gift of which we are not worthy; and that gift within itself is more than sufficient. 

But God’s love for us goes far beyond the privilege of calling Him “Father”.  There is more to come although what is coming has not yet been revealed. 

Our God became like us so that we may become like Him.  And becoming like Him can only be that unimaginable and indescribable beauty of beholding His Face for all eternity.

For now, though, in our culture which often rejects Love Himself, let us remember Scripture teaches us that where sin increases, grace overflows all the more (cf. Romans 5:20).     

Gospel Commentary
In “Meditations for Every Day” are the following words: “How happy are we in having such a Shepherd, so great, so good, so loving, so careful of our true welfare!  O He is the true Shepherd indeed that came down from heaven to seek the poor sheep that was lost; and when He had found it, took it upon His own Shoulders to carry it home with joy to His heavenly fold.  How dearly have His sheep cost Him, for truly has He made good in Himself this sentence, that the Good Shepherd giveth His life for His sheep.  Let us then ever follow and obey, love and embrace this true Shepherd of our souls.” 

Jesus, the true Shepherd, He loves His sheep so much that He would even lay down His life for them.  Jesus, unlike the hired man, stood between His sheep and the wolf so that we would not be a victim of the wolf.  Since His Resurrection, Jesus continues to protect His flock and guide us through our trials and sufferings.  At times we go astray because of our sins; but like a Good Shepherd, Jesus brings us back home.

Love is not only a mutual attraction, it is more importantly the giving of yourself completely to another.  That is what Jesus did and continues to do: All that He is, He offers to us unreservedly.  

Most who live in the Middle East, and certainly in the ancient world, would have a clearer understanding of what Jesus means when He says: "I am the Good Shepherd, I know Mine and Mine know Me."  Many of us have never witnessed a shepherd and his sheep interact.  

Father Benedict Groeschel, God rest his soul, was a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, as well as an author, psychologist, and well-known EWTN personality.  He once shared a story of his visit to the Holy Land in which he watched shepherds work with their sheep. He said that there were sheep bunched together walking in a field along with three shepherds. Then the shepherds split up and each walked in a different direction, and then made a whistling sound with their mouths. The sheep, all bunched together, began to divide and walk towards the direction of their own particular shepherd; each of the sheep recognized their own shepherd’s whistle and followed him.  What a beautiful image that is!  And we, the sheep, could adapt it to the liturgy as we walk towards our Good Shepherd, to receive Him: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.