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Pastor's Letter 20220508 - 08 May 2022 - Perseverance in Trials


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May 8th, 2022

Fourth Sunday of Easter

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Jesus, the Good Shepherd

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:  “Perseverance in Trials” 

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

As we continue reading in Acts, our First Reading (Acts 13:14-53,) we hear how Paul and Barnabas continued preaching the Gospel of the Lord to the people of Cyprus, Turkey and then in Antioch, of Pisidia.  Having initially been welcomed into the synagogues, in their second week, they encountered much resistance when they preached that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the divine promises of a Messiah, from Scripture.   Although many who heard their proclamation accepted them, their leaders reacted with resentment and jealousy.  At this, they finally “shook the dust” from their feet and left, to preach to the Gentiles in Iconium.   

~~~

The visionary sounds of today’s Second Reading (Revelation 7:9-17,) must have been like a soothing balm for persecuted Christians.  John “the seer” described huge crowds of celebrants at the heavenly feast and held out the promises of “no more tears, no more hunger or thirst,” the real situation of his hearers was quite different.  Written during the reign of Domitian (81-96 A.D.,) who demanded to be worshipped as “lord and god,” with cruel enforcement, their persecution extended throughout Asia Minor.  Those who survived their present struggles were promised a hopeful, glorious and joyful future.

~~~

Part of a longer section, today’s Gospel discusses the mutual responsibilities which Jesus, His Father and His followers bore for one another (John 19:27-30.)  As the Good Shepherd, Jesus annotates the care He provides for the “sheep of His pasture”—those who keep His commandments.  Taking as an example the familiar sight of the day of many commingled masses of sheep leaving the city, even when amassed (as we are) with countless unbelievers, those who know Jesus as our Good Shepherd, harken to His call, leaving the others behind to follow Him.  

Belonging to Jesus’ Flock

The image of Jesus as The Good Shepherd is one of the most endearing, we have of Him.  He is no “hireling,” some disinterested caretaker, working for wages, who might run away from the flock at the first sign of trouble.  The “sheep” belong to our Blessed Lord, and He is ready to die for them—as He demonstrated for all time on the Cross of Calvary.  

As members of His “flock,” we are heir to the most wonderful promises—never to be lost; never to be “snatched away” from His care; and always to be safe with Him because the Father’s power is in Him—and He will lead them to the pastures of eternal life. 

What a comforting feeling to be known and loved by Jesus!  We are reassured of our membership in His flock if we do three “simple” things:

• We must believe in Him.  We enter the flock by becoming believers, but that is only the beginning.

• We must listen to His voice.  This means we must heed His teachings.

• We must follow Him.  To do so means to do His Word.

Obviously, the relationship is “two-way.”  The sheep have to choose to belong.  Jesus won’t or can’t save people against their will.  But it is wonderfully consoling to realize that if we do sincerely want and try to belong to Him, then He will care for us in life and in death.  We can pin our hopes on His very words: “I give them eternal life…they will never be lost eternally” (John 10:28.)   

Rather than guaranteeing we will have an easy life on earth if we belong to Jesus, those who do are more likely to suffer persecution.  But those who “suffer through” their trials, and accept the opportunity to prove their faith and obedience to the Lord, will share in the glory of His kingdom of Heaven.  

The “flock” is and image of a “community.”  Even on a human level, we have a deep need for community.  Jesus knew this, and this is why He wanted His followers to live in one.  In community we find mutual support, encouragement and companionship.  The privilege of belonging is not something that is offered to a chosen few, but to everyone!  

Facing a World of Challenges

Someone who looks for a position with an organization usually has some idea of the requirements of the job they seek.  If they are prudent, they will do research about the company, learning the most they can about its position in the particular sphere in which it operates.  Then, they carefully craft a resume´, that speaks to how their particular talents and skills will provide service to the firm.  Sometimes they even will look for public reviews, and discover how they are regarded in their industry.  If they are a “public” company, it might entail working through financial analyses offered by such publications as Forbes, or Barrons, to acquire information about their market standing and potential.  

Then, if they are successful, when they are hired, their efforts will focus on becoming the most productive and innovative associate among the many others they encounter.  (That being said, however, it doesn’t shield the conscientious employee from internal challenges from others who may be content with the “status quo.”  A design for greatness will be opposed, sometimes loudly and forcefully by those who are content to “go with the flow.”)  

No amount of preparation, however detailed and precise, will equal that of the founders of the company.  One may never be able to fully embrace the overall vision with which the business came into being.  That is the purview of the “owners” of the enterprise.  Theirs is the unique view of the challenges that must have been overcome, and continue to be, as time goes on.  As such, they have a personal stake in the everyday operation and its eventual success or failure.  This is the true meaning of “investment” that outsiders usually can’t or don’t appreciate.  

Using the analogy of a flock of sheep, which was familiar to people of early Christendom, Christ positioned Himself as the Good Shepherd—the “owner” of the flock…His congregation of believers.  He knew sheepherders faced particular difficulties in managing their charges, and likened that to the persecutions would be experienced by the disciples.  Not only were their forces bent on their utter destruction (like the weather, other shepherds and predators,) but other, perhaps more insidious “covert” undercurrents of dissent and conflict lay ahead and all around them.  

Today’s Christian faces numerous forces determined to undermine and dissuade people of faith from their beliefs, in favor of laissez-faire attitudes toward morality and decorum.  Businesses face competition—from others offering similar goods and services, the vagaries of the market and even saboteurs—and the conscientious associate (or believer) will put themselves in the owners’ (or Christ’s) position if they would be of the most value to the company or the congregation.  

Similar to the “WWJD” approach, it means we must view life’s challenges, and our interactions with others from a divine perspective.  So, whether we are dealing with matters of belief or commerce, our thoughts, words and deeds should be driven by an underlying basis of Christlike focus.  

May God Richly Bless You!

"Gentle Shepherd, there is no other to Whom we can turn Who can help us face face another day; Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us, for we need You to help us find our way."

To view a recording of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/6Spuo-gTxC8Make a Joyful Noise.docx

 

Edited by Father Michael
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