Sunday Sermon for April 22, 2018, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B
Readings: Acts 4:8-12; 1 Jn 3:1-2; Jn 10:11-18
Our faith is one of mystery and what might appear to some as contradictions. Of course, there are no contradictions; paradox would probably be the better word to describe it. Our readings today describe several paradoxes for our consideration.
First, we hear that Jesus is the stone rejected by the builders that has become the cornerstone of the living Temple of His Body. Second, we are told that we, human persons who are children of our human parents, are children of God. Then we hear that Jesus is the Good Shepherd Who lays down His life for His sheep. This is all fine until we realize that we are the sheep and He is the Lamb.
So, He is both Shepherd and Lamb; we are both sheep and children of God. If Jesus is both the Son of God and the Lamb of God, then it makes perfect sense that we can be both the children of God and the sheep of His flock. He can be the cornerstone because God is the Rock and we are living stones in the Temple of the Lord. We all know that this is only a small sampling of the points that could be mentioned, but it suffices to show how seeming contrary things can exist together in and through our Lord.
What is important for us is to see how these pieces come together in the Person of Jesus. Our Lord tells us in the Gospel that the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. A shepherd who is a hireling will run away when the wolf threatens, but a good shepherd will stay with the sheep to protect them and to fight for them. Indeed, our Shepherd not only gives His life for His sheep; He gives His life to His sheep.
In sharing His life we are made children of God. However, as St. Peter makes clear in the first reading, the only way to obtain this life, this salvation, is in and through Jesus Christ. Contrary to what is being said by many today, St. Peter says there is no salvation through anyone else and no other name under Heaven given to us by which we are saved.
So, in order to be saved we have to be sheep of a flock, the Shepherd of which was crucified, raised from the dead and now lives forever. Being a member of His flock means being a member of His very Person. This incorporation occurs through baptism, which makes us children of God and partakers of the divine nature and the divine life.
This is why Jesus says in the Gospel that He knows His own and His own know Him just as He knows the Father and the Father knows Him. There is no doubt about the fact He knows us perfectly, but the question we have to consider is whether we know Him. We know much about Him, but do we know Him?
In another passage He tells us His sheep hear His voice, they recognize it and they follow Him. With all the voices and noise we hear every day, do we recognize the voice of Jesus? If we do not recognize when He speaks to us, then we certainly cannot say we know Him. We recognize the voice of an acquaintance long before we know that person as a friend. Babies recognize the voices of their parents and respond when they hear them. If we are children of God, then we should recognize His voice and respond when we hear Him.
After all, Jesus tells us that what He did for us was because He received it as a command from His Father. He taught us to call God our Father, so we should be able, not only to recognize the voice of our Father, but be obedient and act when He speaks to us.
St. John tells us that the world does not know us as members of Christ because it does not know Christ. If we do not know Him or even recognize His voice, then, by St. John’s definition, we are of the world. Christ and the world are two contraries that cannot exist together in one person. This means we have to make a choice: Jesus or the world.
The world is passing away and will be destroyed at its end. Jesus lives forever and nothing can destroy Him. The world is limited, finite, and chained to time. The love of our Lord has no limits; He is infinite and eternal. The world cannot offer salvation; salvation is only in the Lord. Immerse yourself in Jesus, not in the world. Plunge yourself into the depths of His Sacred Heart and you will know Him as He knows you.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.