4th Sunday of Easter - A Gospel Perspective

 
Turbulent times call us to a deeper, more mature faith. The Crucified Christ teaches us that we carry within us - individually and as a community - the wounds of our world and of our Church... and the Risen Christ teaches us that these wounds have the potential to heal us from the hurt that we have endured. The Cross conditions us to self-denial, to contradiction, and to the possibility of total failure. The Empty Tomb assures us that the victory and the power of the Risen Lord are ours. It is through that power that we defy the world and its standards.

good shepherdEvery day, we see suffering and death presented to us right in our own living rooms. The 2020 Easter message of Pope Francis was quite clear. He reminded us that the "The Risen Lord is also the Crucified One, not someone else. In his glorious body he bears indelible wounds: wounds that have become windows of hope. Let us turn our gaze to him that he may heal the wounds of an afflicted humanity."  In these past few weeks, the lives of millions of people have suddenly changed. For many, remaining at home has been an opportunity to reflect, to withdraw from the frenetic pace of life, stay with loved ones and enjoy their company. For many, though, this is also a time of worry about an uncertain future. 
 
While we try to cope with the contagion of the Coronavirus, Francis talks about the "contagion of hope." And he reminds us that "This is not a time for indifference, because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic."  Indeed, this is not a time for self-centerdness, because the challenge we are facing is shared by all, without distinguishing between persons. This is not a time for division. It is not a time for forgetfulness. Speaking to all of us worldwide who are deprived of the sacraments because of the coronavirus pandemic, Francis assures us that “the Lord has not left us alone! United in our prayer, we are convinced that he has laid his hand upon us."

We humans inflict and bear wounds - sometimes throughout our whole lives. We have a memory of happiness and joyful moments; but we can also trace through our memories the hurts inflicted upon us and the ones we have put on others. We are conscious of the world's suffering - but sometimes are totally unconscious to our poor, to those violated by clergy, to the victims of attacks on fleeing refugees, or those suffering from famine in parts of the world other than our own.

Oftentimes, our perspective can be clouded by our own fears or our lack of attention to the experiences of those who need us the most. Each day we are called to give our response to the world: a communal response based on a common faith, expressed within our common community.
 
Francis is a breath of hope to a broken world - he sees the Church as a community of service, free from "all mundane spirituality" and one which can "offer itself as an open space in which all of us can meet and recognize each other, because there is space for dialogue, diversity and welcome in it."  But Francis is only one man; and not everyone sees through his eyes.  While Francis is popular among people around the world, he faces opposition not only in the Roman Curia but also among some of its members.

We are the Church - all of us, together, the community of disciples. We may be hurt, confused, angry, afraid. Nevertheless, we are one, and God is with us. The extent to which each person attempts to live out the spirit of the Gospels, is the extent to which his or her life-style enriches the church's basic mission in the world.

The image of Christ as the Good Shepherd speaks to everyone. The earliest statue of Christ (4th century) found in the Roman catacombs, depicts him as a youthful shepherd with a lamb across his shoulders.  The relationship between the young shepherd and sheep gives us some idea of our relationship with Jesus. He describes that relationship to be as strong and intimate as the one he has with his Father. Nothing can break that bond. When the sheep go astray our Shepherd comes out looking for us. He does not give up on us, even though it will require his life. “I will lay down my life for the sheep.”

The Gospel today reminds us that Jesus is the gate for the sheep, and that we can only be the people He calls us to be by living our lives as He lived HIs. Jesus modeled a life-style to which He was inviting all of his followers to share: one of concern and compassion, of service and dedication, one of relentless and abounding love... one that brings all people together in His own healing power.

Change does not unfold in any world view by chance. Change will not brought about by returning to the status quo when the pandemic ends. Change will emerge only as a new  understanding of our place as members of the world-family.

The Crucified and Risen Lord gives our lives both personal and cosmic meaning by connecting our suffering to the suffeing of others.  We all now share a global need for healing, and healing that which is broken requires a change of perspective – a Gospel perspective - which will enhance and shape not only our own personal lives but that of the world as well.